July 22, 2023

Saint Menelaos as a Model for our Lives

St. Menelaos (Feast Day - July 22)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint Menelaos was born in the city of Précigné in France at the beginning of the 8th century AD. He came from an aristocratic and famous family. When he became a man, his parents pressured him to get married, however, his great love for God, which was manifested from his childhood, led him on the path of complete dedication to Him. After a fervent prayer, he settled himself, together with two of his friends, who also had the same desire, in the ancient and well-known, but in ruins at that time, Monastery of Saint Menas. The three of them lived in asceticism for quite some time, until a monk who passed by recommended them to be under the guidance of an experienced spiritual father, so that they could escape the traps of the devil and progress spiritually. They accepted and submitted to the Elder who pointed this out, and he was Saint Eudos.

Later, Saint Menelaos, with the blessing of his Elder, returned to the old ruined Monastery from which he started and renovated it. His fame did not take long to spread and many monks gathered around him, whom he guided with much prudence and wisdom. In fact, at that time his mother also visited him, together with her sister and the woman whom they once proposed to him to marry. All three expressed to him their desire to become nuns and he accepted them with joy, enrolled them in a women's monastery and took over their spiritual guidance.

His end was peaceful.

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

First, the learning of any art or science presupposes the existence of a teacher, that is, a craftsman or a scientist, because without the guidance of a teacher the student cannot be introduced to knowledge and progress. The exact same thing happens in the spiritual life, which is the "art of arts and science of sciences". In other words, in order to be able to progress spiritually and to be initiated into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, one must submit to a spiritual father, who, of course, must be experienced. Because, if he is not experienced, then there is the danger that both of them will go astray and find themselves far from their original destination, that is, to fall into the "pit" of error and be eternally lost, according to the word of Christ Himself, Who said: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?"

Of course, it is the Grace of God that illuminates the spiritual father in his serious and responsible work, which is indeed a mystery, but he himself should be able to receive the illumination of Divine Grace. This means that he must have a pure heart and an illuminated nous, or at least be in this path towards purification and illumination, and strive to achieve his personal sanctification. But even if he follows the revelatory teaching of the Church, as it is expressed by the Prophets, the Apostles and the holy Fathers, among whom, as emphasized by His Eminence the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou Mr. Hierotheos, there is unity.

Within the Church, everything is Theanthropic, since it is done with the energy of God and the synergy of man. God is the One who activates the salvation of man and man cooperates with God. So, when there is this cooperation, then, as Saint Paisios of Athonite said, man has two wings with which he can fly to the heavens. One of these wings is the energy of God and the other is the cooperation of man, which consists in his struggle to live according to the will of God, so that with His Grace he can overcome his passions, which rise like a wall between him and God and they hinder the communion between them.

Second, man's struggle for his rebirth is not opposed to his struggle for the renovation and dignity of the places of worship of the Triune God, rather the former favors the latter. In other words, the reborn in Christ, i.e. the saints, but also those who strive to place themselves on the path of sanctification, they take care of the renovation and the dignity of the Holy Temples and Holy Monasteries. After all, if someone loves the place where he lives and takes care of it, how much more should he respect, love and take care of the places that are dedicated to the worship of the Triune God. This practically means that for the construction of Holy Churches and Holy Monasteries, materials that can withstand time, earthquakes and generally all weather conditions should be used. And for their decoration, it is necessary to place utensils and objects that are compatible with the space, and that withstand time.

Also, it is important that the old Holy Temples and the old Holy Monasteries are renovated, where, of course, this is possible, and not demolished with ease, because in these places lived people who with their prayer, and more generally with their way of life, made them a holy place, but the Divine Liturgy was also performed there repeatedly. Therefore, these sanctified places must be approached with a lot of reverence, love and respect.

Remarkable is the fact that the Holy Temple of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is a model of Holy Temples, being a jewel and an architectural masterpiece, which was built with excellent building materials, mainly with love and passion, and remains standing through the centuries in spite of time, strong earthquakes, adverse weather conditions, treaties and historical circumstances.

The architectural and cultural monuments and especially the places of worship of the Triune God must be approached with a lot of reverence, but also respect for those who labored for their erection, many times in fact, in difficult periods and unfavorable conditions.

The struggle for spiritual rebirth increases love for God and people, as well as respect for places of worship of the Triune God, but also in general for cultural and architectural monuments, which highlight the tradition of a place and promote its culture.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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