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St. Matthew and Repentance

In today's Synaxarion, we heard about the former tax-collector Matthew, who became a prominent evangelist of heathen peoples. Among those people he preached the Gospel to was a man named Fulvian, who was an Ethiopian prince.


St. Matthew's preaching could not have come at a better time in Fulvian's life, for his wife and son were possessed by demons. St. Matthew cast out those demons and Fulvian rejoiced. After a time however, he was influenced to fight against our Saint because of pride and the immense following Christ's obedient Apostle was gathering about him. He persecuted St. Matthew and attempted to kill him by fire. This did not work, and even in the midst of such a miracle, Fulvian was not convinced; in fact he was brought to wrath.

Fulvian tried without success to get ahold of St. Matthew again in order to burn him alive, but this time St. Matthew offered his soul up to God and though his body remained unharmed, he went on to the heavenly Kingdom. Fulvian was not finished, however, and he had the Saint's body put into a lead coffin and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. He promised that if Matthew appeared to him again from the depths (which he, of course, as Fulvian and anyone with no faith had certainty of, never could) he would become a Christian. By the grace of God and by a miraculous vision of St. Matthew to the current bishop of the area St. Matthew's coffin was found floating on the ocean and brought before the prince Fulvian.

Fulvian repented fully of his evils and became a Christian, receiving baptism after being catechized by the aforementioned bishop and being named after the holy Apostle Matthew. St. Matthew appeared in a vision to the bishop Platon and told him that the newly baptized Christian Matthew was also going to become a priest and a bishop. As God works in wondrous ways, the repentance of the former prince was so great and grace-filled that he did indeed become a priest of the Church, his son a deacon, and soon after took the place of Platon as the local bishop. Bishop Matthew died in peace and is known as Saint Fulvian-Matthew, whose wondrous memory is also celebrated today.

If we have eyes to see, we can witness in St. Fulvian's life before conversion as a reflection of our lives in the Church. We believe, then we don't. We come close to God, then we run away. At one moment nothing can shake our faith and then in the blink of an eye every little thing angers us to the point of hatred or disdain towards holy things. But God knows better than we do, and in His time, His plans will properly unfold. I will speak more of this at the end of this post.

In letter #162 of Nikolai Velomirovic's "Missionary Letters" he writes back to a person who has embraced the Faith, but keeps on falling away and struggling with being a believer against all the pressures of this world.


Letter #162

TO A BEGINNER IN THE FAITH - ABOUT RETURNING TO THE FAITH


As one returning home from a great distance, so you feel now returning from the cold lands of unbelief to the warm hearth of the faith of your ancestors. The difficulties which you meet along the way are not unknown to the Church. The Church has enough experience to know what happens to people who depart from the faith and also what happens when they return. In the former case, demons drive them forward, and in the latter, they pull them back, using all possible tricks. So it is with you. They cast despair upon you, then they sweeten the path of backsliding- the path you were on until now and which leads to perdition.


Then they convince your former companions to mock you. Then they remind you of the famous unbelievers who were "glorious among men" even as such. You must wage warfare with invisible enemies. And you will surely defeat them, but only if you do not lose from sight the image of Jesus Christ, the greatest Benefactor of the world. He is the only perfectly normal man who has lived on earth in the entire course of human history. Walk towards Him, pray to Him, behold Him. Behold Him, how He is born in the cave for your sake. Behold Him, how He struggles and humbles Himself for your sake. Behold Him, how He heals bodily illnesses, symbols of your spiritual illnesses. Behold Him crucified on the cross for your sake. Behold Him, how He now watches over you from His heavenly glory - He, the resurrected and ascended One. Meet His gaze everywhere. A purifying shame will overcome your soul, a shame that until now you have been far from Him and against Him. And then shout to the demon who is lying to you and distracting you - what have you done for me?


You say how you read the Holy Scripture with joy and how other books have become boring and disgusting to you. You cannot even pick them up. This is how it usually is with the spiritually hungry. They cannot easily have their fill of the word of God after the sick gorging on the words of men. But you say that prayer is just not coming along yet. It will, have no doubt. When love for the One who loves you flares up in your heart, you will yearn to find every possible way of communicating with Him. And you will grab a hold of the prayer as well. For now, just try one short prayer. For example "Holy God", "All Holy Trinity", "Our Father” or "Virgin Theotokos". Repeat this prayer five times a day.

Set this as your rule and whether you like it or not, do not abandon that rule. Reading the Holy Scripture gives light. Prayer adds warmth. Add almsgiving to all this, no matter what the amount of it is and for whom it is. Almsgiving works as some spiritual moisture which along with the light of the Scripture and the warmth of prayer causes the soul to grow, expand, deepen and heighten, and to bring forth good fruit. Thus, your soul will return into a healthy, normal state and it will be like a good tree. And as the Unerring One said, "Every good tree brings forth good fruit."


Peace and joy from Christ to you.


My friends, life goes by very fast, this we all know well. But in that short period so many wonderful things can happen to us. We are sinners, but God is merciful and He awaits our repentance. All we have to do is make a beginning and God will help. Faith in God is so very connected with desire. When we desire something, even if we may not be all that motivated, we make sure we stick to it and get things done so that we can acquire that thing. We may only have to make little steps, but my brothers and sisters, a step by step along the road is the only way to get to our destination. All it takes is a spark, and so long as the soul is willing, like dry tinder, a bright flame will start; what a flame that will be!

May God grant us a beautiful and deep repentance, through the prayers of Ss. Matthew and Fulvian. Amen.

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