January 21, 2023

Saint Zosimos of Syracuse as a Model for our Lives

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Zosimos came from Sicily. When exactly he lived is not recorded in the Synaxaria. What we know is that his parents were pious and raised him "in the education and admonition of the Lord." And also, because they had an estate near a Holy Monastery called Saint Lucia and they took him to this Monastery from a young age, little Zosimos had the blessing of associating with those monks, who, as evidenced by the way of life they inspired in him, had the right faith and were pious and service-loving monks. The abbot made sure that Zosimos learned letters and especially theological letters. Then he became a monk in this Holy Monastery and after the death of its Abbot he was elected Abbot. Later, when the Bishop of Syracuse reposed, God through the Church made him the Bishop of Syracuse. He sacrificially loved the rational sheep of Christ's flock and spent his life in shepherding them.

He passed away peacefully at the age of 50.

His life and his conduct give us the occasion to emphasize the following:

First, a person's ethos and his way of life and conduct are first formed in his family environment, but then the person is also influenced by his school and social environment, as well as by his association with all those with whom he comes into contact from his childhood. And when a child develops and grows up in an environment where faith is lived, selfless love is manifested and there are healthy examples, then he is positively influenced in his life and filled with love. And in the course of his life, he simply offers this love. On the contrary, when a child develops and grows up in an environment with many and varied problems, in which faith in God, love for fellow man is absent, or even violence and indifference to his progress and success prevails, then he will have as as a result of this childhood having indifference to other people or even hatred, which can, perhaps, even reach the point of murder. And there are, unfortunately, many examples.

In other words, parents who are members of the Church and strive to have "true faith", that is, to live according to God's will, are the first healthy examples for their children. And when they then take care to connect them with people who have an Orthodox mindset and strive to live as God wants, in the Orthodox Parishes or in the Orthodox Monasteries, then from these people the children taste the selfless love, which, as Saint Paisios the Athonite said, has nobility and philotimo. And, as is natural, in the future they will in turn offer this love to their fellow human beings and to society in general. After all, what one accepts in one's life is what they offer, either care, kindness and love, or rejection, indifference and hatred.

However, in order to be helped in life by those who are interested in him and really want to help him, he must also want it, because he has freedom. Otherwise, if he does not want to, then he cannot be helped either by God or by people, because, as Saint Sophrony the Hagiorite says, "It is not always possible to help people, because of the behavior of those whom we would like to help", who do not want any interference in their lives and "deny the gifts from above". However, the well-intentioned always benefit from their association with holy people, and that is why they progress in their lives - ecclesiastically, spiritually, familially, socially.

Secondly, there are people who argue that one of the biggest problems of our time, maybe even the biggest, is the financial problem. Certainly, no one doubts that even in our days there are people who face serious shortages of money and material goods. However, they cannot ignore the fact that there are others who have solved their financial problem and yet are not happy and satisfied with their lives, with the result that they are led to anti-social acts or even to suicide. And this happens because they have an inner void and feel that their life has no meaning. Therefore, what is mainly missing in our days from people, and especially from young people, is the inner fullness and the meaning for life. And when one feels that his life has no meaning, then he is led to anti-social behaviors, with the result that he, his family, and his social environment suffer as well.

Finding the meaning of life, as Saint Sophrony the Hagiorite emphasizes, is not a discovery of man, but a revelation of God. And it is an important problem, the solution of which removes confusion and turmoil from the human soul and promotes peace within it. He writes: "One of the most important problems is to discover the authentic meaning of our appearance in this world. With this discovery, or rather the revelation, one obtains the inner peace that is not shaken by any of the vagaries of our daily life". And then he says that "the most torturous thing of all is the loss of meaning, when our troubled spirit sees nothing but the absurdity that crushes our existence. This terrible absurdity breeds in us unrestrained protest and the desire to destroy everything".

This is how the aggressive acts against others, unfortunately also against innocent children, are explained, as well as the vandalism and the destruction of the property of strangers by young people, who should be at the forefront of creative works that promote science, the economy and culture, and not in works of destruction.

The Church offers inner fulfillment and meaning of life. It is enough for one to want to live according to the will of God, in order to accept this "revelation", through which "inner peace is obtained, which is not shaken by any of the anxieties of our daily life".

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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