On 1 November, the Church commemorates Saint Martyr Varus of Egypt. His life teaches us the power of unwavering faith. With it, we can withstand the gravest sorrows. He shows that our life in this world is only a fleeting moment of transition to eternity and that worldly honours and comforts are worthless compared to our everlasting salvation.
On icons, Saint Varus appears as a brave warrior in lustrous armour. He is a victorious commander, popular among the rank and file soldiers for his valour, bravery and talent. He is deeply respected among the rulers of Rome. The Emperor himself takes it as a great honour to welcome him in his palace.
With his deserts and spectacular feats, he could have earned himself an honourable place among the heroes of Rome. Yet he was a believer in Christ, and he knew well that worldly fame and glory are worthless in eternity, and the only way to have eternal salvation is by accumulating riches in heaven. In the years of bitter persecution of Christians, he did not hide his beliefs. Voluntarily, he suffered unimaginable torments. He withstood them to the end and gratefully accepted the fate of a Christian martyr, preferring it to a place of honour in the pantheon of Roman heroes.
Yet even after his departure, Saint Varus continued to reassure the tormented and the desperate, reminding them about the eternal joy and comfort waiting for them in their life to come. The pious widow Cleopatra who had assumed the care of Saint Varus' remains, had a terrible loss. Her son died from an illness at a young age. With great love and dedication, she had been raising him for a brilliant career in the army. Her worldly life lost all meaning, her hopes received a crushing blow. She brought her son's lifeless body to Saint Varus' grave in the desperate hope that he would revive him.
Saint Varus came to her in a dream. He told the grieving mother that he would resurrect the boy if she held the glory that he would win in the empire's wars to be more valuable than his eternal life in heaven. For his part, the boy assured his mother that nothing would make him go back to the world of sorrow. Cleopatra found closure. Praying for her son all the time, she gave away her estate to the poor and served at a church. Seven years later, she reunited with her son in haven.
In this part of the world, the faithful remember Saint Varus for his prayerful intercession for the unbaptised. They invoke his name in prayers for small children, unbaptised kin and stillborn infants. As we read the Canon of Saint Varus at Saint Elisabeth Convent, our sisters pray privately for people of other faiths and unbelievers. In every person, there is an image of God, and we all have a shared purpose - to grow in His likeness.
As we read the Creed at every liturgy, we express our hope for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. It gives us the strength to overcome our worst losses and pains, and to live through our most bitter sorrows. Yet so many people in our age of reason and enlightenment find it hard to embrace this hope with their hearts and souls. Habitually, we look to science for some confirmation but hear only silence. No one person who has departed to eternity can return to tell us about it. Even people who have had encountered eternity but returned to life cannot find the words to talk about it.
And so, like the righteous Cleopatra, we turn to Saint Varus for his assistance. We ask him to help us grow in our faith, build our confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
O Martyr Varus, you received the crown of martyrdom and now rejoice with the angels. Pray for our souls unceasingly!
In 1923, the future martyr was only 26 years old. Seeing the unfolding persecution of the Church, he was ordained priest with the words, "We need to protect the faith". Priest Valerian Novitsky was arrested and executed in 1930.
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