"In this sign conquer!"
(Vision at the Milvian Bridge)
We usually recall these words when thinking of the vision that St. Constantine the Great saw prior to entering into battle. This vision inspired him to have the Cross painted on the shields of his soldiers. Their victory placed Constantine as the sole Emperor of the Roman Empire. But, what happened to the soldiers that witnessed this event? This month, we call to mind the life of St. Artemios the Great Martyr.
Artemios was one of Constantine’s generals. When he saw the Cross he pledged himself to Jesus Christ and was baptized. With the Empire now united, Artemios was charged with the responsibility of taking the relics of St. Andrew and St. Luke to Constantinople. He carried out his orders with joy and was honored to be able to carry the sacred relics of these saints. Recognized as an able military leader, Artemios became the Governor and Ambassador of the Emperor in Egypt. He held these positions for a number of years and protected the Eastern region of the Empire.
The politics and intrigue that surrounded the Imperial Court in Constantinople led to the rise of Julian the Apostate as Emperor. He desired that the Empire turn from its Christian direction and return to paganism. When Julian declared war on the Persians, he summoned Artemios and his army to meet him in Antioch. Artemios was obedient to the command and joined the Emperor. While in Antioch, Artemios witnessed two priests being persecuted by order of the Emperor Julian. Outraged, Artemios went to the Emperor and said: "Why are you so ruthlessly torturing these innocent and dedicated men, and why are you putting pressure on them to turn back from the Orthodox Faith?" Artemios’ intercession saved them from death and they were exiled to another land. As for Artemios, however, the Emperor stripped him of his military rank, had him beaten, and imprisoned. While in prison, he endured a number of tortures and was finally beheaded in the year 362.
How many of us would risk our jobs, our positions, our financial resources to defend someone wrongfully being treated? This is the example of St. Artemios’ life. He knew what the consequences of his actions would be when he supported the two priests being tortured because of the Emperor’s command. Nevertheless, it was his Christian Orthodox duty to stand up for what was right, no matter what the cost might be to himself. St. Artemios had converted from a pagan lifestyle to become a soldier for Christ. He was a good and faithful steward who used his Time, Talents, and Treasure on many occasions to glorify God. The time came, however, when he had to be completely truthful and ask himself how far he would go in expressing his faith. By reviewing his life we know his answer, but what about our response? Are we willing to risk our possessions or status in the community in order to defend someone being wronged? Take a good and honest look at your Stewardship commitment to God and His Church and answer those questions yourself. The witness we are called to fulfill is one that requires our full and complete support through truthful and faithful Stewardship. Our every effort in contributing our Time, Talent, and Treasure to achieve this may not bring the type of death that the martyrs suffered, but will most assuredly bring life eternal!
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.