ST. HARALAMBOS - February 10th

By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan

On February 10th we honor one of the most beloved Saints of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. His name is Haralambos. In English, the translation for the name Haralambos used by most Orthodox Christians is "Harry". Haralambos lived in the 2nd century in a small town called Magnesia in Asia Minor. He became a Priest at a very early age and served his community with great zeal.

What has prompted the Orthodox Christians throughout the world to display such love and affection for St. Haralambos? Why has he been so very close to the hearts of all of us for over 1700 years? Perhaps it is because of the fact that no other Priest in the history of Christianity suffered so much in one lifetime for his religious convictions.

In the city of Magnesia, the governor of the province, Loukianos, inflicted great pain upon St. Haralambos because he refused to worship the idols of the Empire. The saintly Priest was first tied to a post in the public square and ridiculed by the pagans. Soldiers of the governor slashed the body of St. Haralambos with heavy cutting irons. St. Haralambos in spite of the terrible agony refused to deny Christ and accept their pagan gods.

After being tortured, Haralambos was dragged by his beard through the streets of Magnesia by soldiers on horseback. Many additional forms of torture were used to force Haralambos to give up his faith, yet he would not. During the ensuing months, St. Haralambos miraculously survived all forms of torture. Eventually the people called him "the man they cannot kill". People spoke of many miracles attributed to St. Haralambos during his imprisonment.

Thousands came to the jail to seek his blessing. Hundreds of afflicted souls came to be healed of their sicknesses. Haralambos became known also as the miracle-worker. He caused the lame to walk and the blind to see. Some thought he was the Resurrected Christ who had returned to earth. St. Haralambos proclaimed to all that he was not the Messiah but he was only the instrument of the Lord's Divine Grace.

The Roman Emperor, Servius, was enraged by the actions of Haralambos and ordered the Saint to be brought to the capital of the Empire that was then located in the ancient city of Antioch (192 A.D.) In the city of Antioch, Haralambos was led about the city with a horse bridle in his mouth. This was done to ridicule both him and the Christian faith, which he continued to uphold.

The soldiers of the Emperor nailed Haralambos to a cross with over 100 large spikes that pierced the skin of the pious Saint. Other forms of torture were administered, and yet Haralambos did not relent or die. In his great anger, the Emperor ordered Haralambos beheaded!

As the two executioners raised their swords to kill the Saint, suddenly a voice was heard from heaven saying, "Well done My faithful servant, enter into the kingdom of Heaven." At that very moment, St. Haralambos passed away without a single blow being struck. The executioners were dumbfounded. They knelt before the body of the Saint and asked God for forgiveness.

The Emperor became even more enraged, and ordered the two would-be executioners of Haralambos beheaded. Their names were Porphirios and Baptos, whose feast is celebrated also on February 10th. Thus the beloved Saint Haralambos truly had become "the man they couldn't kill," for he was taken by God Himself into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Often burdens that come upon us seem too great for us to bear. Many times, I've felt in such despair that I did not think I could go on. When I do, I find comfort in reading about the lives of the Saints. Never have I been physically tortured like St. Haralambos was. Yet, in my human weakness, I distress at the trials that come my way.

When I think there's not another ounce of fight left in me, I read about the horrible things that some of the Saints endured, just because they were Christians.

Today we heard about the life of St. Haralambos. This holy Priest of the Orthodox Faith was horribly tortured, yet through it all, he continued to do the work of the Lord with zeal. From his jail cell, he healed people.

When Satan tried to puff him up by suggesting to people that he was the Messiah, he dispelled the heretical talk by proclaiming that he was only an instrument of the Lord's Divine Grace. Any true instrument of the Lord Jesus Christ will give the credit for any good work to the Lord, because the Priest is only a bridge to heaven, and the grace that is dispensed from heaven through the earthly bridge is from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

St. Haralambos fought the same fight we fight today. His battle was a more fierce and bloody one than we fight. He suffered from spikes and chains, we suffer from temptations and mental cruelty.

One thing was certain the Lord was looking down from heaven upon the suffering of His holy Priest and servant, St. Haralambos, and acknowledged St. Haralambos with His Holy Voice from Heaven before his persecutors. The Lord spared St. Haralambos from death at the hands of his captors, and at the same time declared that every life is in God's Hands by taking him to heaven before his captors could kill him.

This miraculous event converted the two executioners, who immediately suffered martyrdom for the church of Christ. We should take comfort in the knowledge that our lives are in the Almighty Hands of the Lord, and that He knows our limits, and he also knows our captors. He is acquainted with our grief, and although it seems that our woes will overtake us our captors will not be able to destroy our souls, because our souls are the property of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have counseled many people throughout my life in the Priesthood. I have witnessed sorrow, suffering, and great despair, sometimes I'm at a loss to find the words of comfort for their distress. One fact remains, and this is a fact that St. Haralambos witnessed in person.

Our suffering is only temporary and our pain will vanish! While it seems that we cannot go on another minute, another hour, or another day, we must never forget that our soul belongs to the Lord, and nothing that any mortal man can do to us can destroy our soul. By holding this truth in our hearts, we can gain the immortal strength that St. Haralambos possessed.

No matter what I am made to suffer, if I lose everything I own, if I lose my mortal life, then I have lost nothing, but I have gained everything! For as long as I have Jesus Christ, I have eternal life, and no weapon can ever prevail against me!