Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on the Miracle of St. Euphemia
Today, my brethren, the Church honors the holy Great Martyr Euphemia. Her memory of course is honored in September. One is astonished at how she struggled against Diocletian, against the idolaters. One is astonished at how she was martyred. Her struggles do not end there, however. Years later, she made another struggle and again was victorious. She worked a great wonder, and that is what we honor today.
My beloved, 170 years passed from the martyrdom of St. Euphemia. The persecutions had largely ceased. The Church however was then found in a dogmatic struggle, which led to the recording of her teaching. The great issue which the faithful were facing during that period was the teaching on the God-man person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church preached that Christ is God and man. But many, and even today, do not want to understand this. They receive Christ like a poet, like a philosopher, like a community-organizer, like a rebel. They lift Him up very high, but they do not want to confess that Christ is God. This therefore exactly is the dogma of the Godhead of Christ which the Church preaches, and is the rock of scandal around which our Holy Fathers fought great battles.
Against this dogma appeared three great beasts, three great heretics, who wanted to shake this truth. The first was Arias, who did not accept the Godhead of Christ and said, that there was a time when Christ did not exist, and that Christ was not God. Afterwards appeared another heretic, Nestorius, did not accept the union of the Godhead and humanity, and sharply divided the humanity and the Godhead. And later appeared Eutyches, who was an archimandrite and an abbot of a monastery. He preached that the divine nature of Christ swallowed up the human, that within Christ there was only the Godhead, and that the Body of Christ was different from our own. This was a blasphemy, which diminished the God-man person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am tiring you a bit, but you will see that the new heresies as well which are appearing now with great conquests in the world, if we analyze them, we will see that within them is Arias, Nestorius and Eutyches, and every ancient heretic.
Against the heresy of Eutyches the Fathers struggled. In Chalcedon, where there was the magnificent Church of St. Euphemia, during the reign of Pulcheria the Empress, the Fourth Ecumenical Council gathered. There gathered 630 Holy Fathers, whose memory we honor every year during the month of July on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. There was recorded the dogma of the two natures of Jesus Christ. There, the Fathers put forward the healthy teaching and condemned the phronema of delusion. What did they say? I will give you an example, which St. Cyril of Alexandra offered, who was one of the defenders of Orthodox dogma.
If one takes a piece of iron and places it in the furnace, you will see that it becomes totally red. But even though the iron is united with the flames, it does not cease to be iron. The black has simply become red. And the fire, however, even though it is united with the iron, and cannot be separated from it, despite this, it does not cease to be fire. In this way somewhat, my beloved, is the person of Christ. The iron is the human nature, the fire is the Godhead. The two are united, and thus Christ appeared as the God-man. The natural is united with the spirit, the man is mystically united with God.
My brethren, I do not wish to tire you with dogmatic homilies. It would be good for the preacher to speak about dogmas, in order to analyze the Symbol of our Father. But unfortunately, our Christians desire easy foods, and they have need of the alphabet of our faith.
I will return to our topic therefore and say: In Chalcedon there were two groups. The one was of St. Cyril the Patriarch of Alexandria together with the Orthodox, and the other with the heretic Eutyches. The very faithful and simple people could not understand these meanings. They were confused and their faith was endangered. Then, the difference of this faith was solved by St. Euphemia. How?
In that place was preserved the Holy Relic of St. Euphemia. 170 years it rested in her Church in Chalcedon. The two groups, therefore, agreed to write their teachings into two books, one with the ideas of the Orthodox and the other of the heretics. The two books were placed within the reliquary which held her Holy Relic, upon her holy chest. Then, they proceeded to prayer and vigil for three days and nights together with all of the people of Chalcedon with fasting. They entreated St. Euphemia to respond. Clerics of the two groups guarded the Holy Relic as well. And when the third day came, they opened the reliquary, and then they saw the wonder. The book of the heretics was below the Saint's feet, and the book of the Orthodox was in her hands upon her chest, above the Saint's heart! Thus, wondrously, she showed that the faith of the Orthodox is true.
But what thing is this? What are you saying now? Those things are only from books...
Books? Here it is written. The apolytikion of the Saint says: "You greatly gladdened the Orthodox, and deposed those of evil faith, and with this wonder you confirmed what the Fathers of the Fourth Synod dogmatized well", you sealed what the Holy Fathers said with wisdom.
Thus this miracle confirms our Holy Church and this is described in the Saint's apolytikion. I do not know what will occur. At least I will never become a modern preacher and theologian. I will continue to believe and I will not teach anything other than that which our Holy Church teaches. If you do not believe and do not receive the teaching of the Church, I will keep the things of our homeland together with all of the faithful and we will believe the lives of the Saints, their miracles, their Holy Relics, and [take refuge] in the shadows of the Saints and in their memories.
I will say two more words and close. Unfortunately, this heresy of monophysitism (thus it is named the heresy of Eutyches which the Church condemns to this day), has not been abandoned totally. A relic of this great heresy which shook the ship of the Church exists to this day. And there are around 15 million Armenians, Abyssinians, and Copts of Egypt [i.e. the Oriental orthodox]. They have even their own patriarchates. They not receive the decisions of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod and why were they cut off from the Church. All of the rest until the Fourth Ecumenical Council...they accept, and they also are a martyred nation. Among these there is one difference only. They agree with everything until then, but from then on they cease. And to this day, they do not wish to accept the Fourth and the other Ecumenical Synods. Behold our disagreement.
Therefore, this day brings to our mind the Copts of Egypt, the Armenians and the Abyssinians. And I will greatly entreat today, that it is the memory of St. Euphemia, who wondrously confirmed the Fourth Ecumenical Synod, that we all might pray that the Saint might work another great wonder, that they all might return to Orthodoxy and agree on the tome of the Orthodox dogma, that they might come to agree with our Holy Church, in a manner that they might not be separated from their noble nations--for they are truly noble nations--and that we might pray to God "on behalf of the union of all". It is our holy duty, to try to bring these nations, who fled due to the heresy of Eutyches, to return to the bosom of our Holy and Great Mother Church.
(+) Bishop Avgoustinos.