The Photo above is obviously not of St. Marinus, but of St. Benjamin of Petrograd, who was on trial by the Bolsheviks for “Anti Revolutionary Activities” in 1922. Both of these Saints, however, choose their faith over the sway of worldly thinking.
I want to begin with a reflection from the lives of the Saints. In the 3rd century, there was an incredibly well-respected soldier named Marinus (August 7/20). He was known throughout the army as one who was full of courage and valor, so much so, that in the middle of his career he was offered a promotion to Centurion of his own regiment.
Just as we have in our military system today, it was required of those being promoted to take a new oath to the empire. During Marinus’s time, that oath required those being promoted to invoke the name of Pagan Gods and to take part in various Pagan rituals.
For Marinus, who himself was a secret Christian, this was impossible to do! During his promotion ceremony, he flat out refused to offer worship to the various idols placed before him. The commander who was giving the oath was shocked by this reaction, and gave Marinus a very serious ultimatum: “I will give you three hours to think this through. Either face this ritual and serve the empire or face execution!”
Marinus, full of sorrow, left the court and happened to cross paths with a Bishop Theotekne, who saw what had taken place. The Bishop led the soldier into a nearby Church, walked up to the altar table, and pointed first at the Gospel Book and then at the saber handing from Marinus’s Belt.
“Choose O courageous man, one of these two.” Bishop Theotekne said. “Either wear the sword and serve the earthly king temporarily, and after death, be lost eternally; or become a soldier of the Heavenly King and lay down your life for His Holy name written in this Book, and reign with Him in eternal life.”
This image was so powerful for Marinus, that he returned back to the commander, and professed His faith in the eternal King, before being executed and taking up his abode in the Kingdom.
The lives of the Saints are an absolute TREASURE for us in the Orthodox Church that we don’t often take advantage of in our spiritual life. St. Paisios, who is one of my favorite saints of all time, once wrote about how reading and learning from the lives of the Saints is like taking our “Spiritual Vitamins”! When we want to build up our immune system to fight diseases, we take vitamins and eat healthy things. We have to do this exact same thing in our spiritual lives as well! In reading the lives of the Saints, we learn from their examples! We have conversations with them through their writings and journals. These are the things that strengthen our immune system against the world, so that we can gain a healthy spiritual understanding of our existence and our purpose in this life.
St. Marinus’s example offers us some spiritual vitamins in bringing to mind the question: “Where do I place my faith in the importance of my life?”
This past week, we celebrated the Great Feast of Holy Transfiguration. The Church and Priests were adorned in white and we sang joyfully to God saying:
“You were transfigured upon Mt. Tabor, O Jesus, and a shining cloud! Spread out like a tent, You covered the Apostles with Your glory! Their gaze fell to the ground, because they could not bear to look upon the brightness of the unapproachable glory of Thy face, O Savior Christ…our God Who is without beginning! You Who has shone upon them with Your Light, give light now to our souls!”
We sang the hymns. We placed our lips and venerated the beautiful icons. We partook in eating various fruits and grapes, meant to remind us of the PEAK of our life…that we are all climbing towards: The transformation and Union with God that we all can undergo as Christians if we continue to walk the path towards Christ.
To those that were present, and to those that were absent for a cause worthy of a blessing, this was a feast of joy, and a full showing of our faith. To those that were absent…we turn to that difficult question that St. Marinus had placed before Him: ”Where do I place my faith in the importance of my life?”
This isn’t meant to be a guilt trip for us, but rather a “reality check”. When we take a moment to examine our lives, this is a question that comes up every single day! Many of us belong to very vibrant and strong parish communities, many of whom know the answer to this question. It is always a great joy to hear the Deacon come out and say: “The doors the doors in wisdom let us attend!”, and then to hear the ENTIRE CHURCH singing the Creed together: “I believe in one God…” we sing!
A few minutes later, the Eucharist comes out of the altar. The very Body and Blood of God Himself comes into our midst, and we sing: “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord! God is the Lord and has revealed Himself to us!”
We say all of these things over and over with our mouths, but how often do we allow these to prayers to change and transfigure the way we see the world and the way we live our lives?
Abba Isaac of the dessert fathers used to say: “Wisdom that is not based on righteous activity, is a deposit of disgrace.”
We have been so blessed here in our little Church in Fenton, just as others have been so blessed to be a part of the One Holy Orthodox Church. God has given us all this incredible vineyard which continues to grow and continues to bare good fruit! These words are a warning to us to never get complacent in our spiritual lives, but rather continue to strive towards our own personal Transfiguration, by placing our Faith where it belongs: At the Top of the Mountain and Illumined by the Light of Christ.