You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory. II Timothy 2: 1-10 (Epistle from Feastday of St. Haralambos)
On February 10, we celebrate the Feast of St. Haralambos, and as often happens when the feastday of a saint falls on a Sunday, the Epistle lesson of the saint is read, while the Gospel of the Sunday is retained.
Saint Haralambos (sometimes spelled Charalambos) lived from 89-202. He is one of our earliest saints. He was a priest who had for many years preached the Gospel in Asia Minor (present day Turkey). When word of his preaching reached Roman authorities, he was arrested and brought to trial. He was ordered to make sacrifices to idols. He refused, confessing his faith in Christ. The result of this was a series of tortures, despite his advanced years.
First his skin was scraped off of his body. He thanked his torturers. When people saw his steadfastness in the face of torture, several people confessed faith in Christ and were in turn martyred. When one of the Roman authorities went to personally torture Haralambos, his forearms were cut off. When the governor spat in the face of Haralambos, his head became stuck as if it were backwards. Both of these men asked for forgiveness, were healed by Haralambos and became Christians.
Haralambos was dragged through the city by his beard. Imagine someone now over 100 years old subjected to this torture. When he was eventually condemned to be beheaded, he gave up his soul to God just as the sword was striking his neck. Many miracles have been attributed to him.
The Epistle read on his feastday encapsulates some of his witness for Christ. Saint Paul writes in his Second Epistle to Timothy, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Indeed the life of a soldier is not easy, and the life of a soldier of Christ is not easy either. While there are certainly aspects of joy in the Christian life, there are also times of suffering. While St. Haralambos suffered numerous physical tortures, there are many Christians who will suffer in other ways. They will lose friends, feel constantly tempted by the devil, will be plagued with doubts, and will wonder why Christianity is so hard.
In 2 Timothy 2:6, Saint Paul writes “It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” In other words, the devout Christian who suffers greatest for Christ will receive the first share of God’s mercies. He concludes the passage by telling us that we must “endure everything” so that we “also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.” (6:10)
The life of St. Haralambos makes me think of how people, as they get older, have the idea that life gets easier, that the trials of younger years are over. Saint Haralambos suffered his worst tortures and trials when he was 100 years old. And many faithful people suffer severe medical maladies. It is a reminder to us to remain faithful to the end. I often find myself encouraging people, as they get older and start to have medical struggles, to be patient and endure to the end.
The life of St. Haralambos is a reminder to all of us to be patient no matter what comes our way in life. It’s hard to imagine being patient to the end when we struggle with patience throughout life. Just look at how we drive, how we wait in line and how we struggle to forgive those who have wronged us. Indeed patience is a virtue, not just in old age. It is something that should be a virtue at any age.
A pillar unshakable are you in Christ’s holy Church, and, as your own name denotes, an ever radiant lamp, all-blessed Haralambos, shining throughout the whole world b your feats as a martyr, driving away the darkness of the worship of idols. With confidence, therefore, pray to Christ, entreating Him to save our souls. (Apolytikion, Feast of St. Haralambos, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Be patient today, whatever trial comes your way!