Our holy father, the martyr Paramon, was not a Christian; but he was a well-respected man in the region where he lived. He encountered one day a group of 370 Christians whom the governor of the region has arrested, bound, and brought to the temple of Poseidon. There they were threatened with death unless they offered sacrifice to the idol – something that none of them would do. When Paramon learned what was taking place, he denounced the wickedness of the governor and continued on his way. The governor sent his men after Paramon. He was arrested; tortured by being stripped and beaten, by having a thorn jabbed through his tongue, and then by being stabbed all over. Paramon endured it all with prayer, and gave his soul to God, being baptized in his own blood. The 370 Christians were then beheaded, giving their souls to God as martyrs in the year of our Lord 250.
Most of us will never be arrested because of our faith. Most of us will never be tortured in an effort to make us renounce our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Most of us will never become martyrs, as did our holy father Paramon and the 370 faithful we hear of today. But there are some things we should note in the life of these saints, by which we also may be instructed, if we will hear the teaching and follow it each day.
The first thing to note is that Paramon was not a Christian at the time he suffered – at least, not in a way that we would recognize. This should serve as a warning to us not to judge others, nor to condemn others simply because they have not been baptized, and do not openly proclaim the Lord Jesus as their own Savior and Lord. God knows His own; and He will provide for them the necessary faith when time and circumstance require. We should give thanks for those who seek to do good to others, whose lives are Christian, even if their faith is not known to us. Of course, if we have the opportunity to do so, we should tell them of our Lord, and invite them to become Orthodox Christians.
This leads to the second point. What was it that brought about Paramon’s martyrdom? Was it not the example of the 370 who were willing to die rather than turn away from their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and offer a sacrifice to an idol? This tells us that the quality of our lives can be a powerful testimony to others. Does the way in which you live tell others that you are a faithful follower of the Lord, and that you will not turn aside from that path? Or do our lives say that we are indistinguishable from those of the world around us – that we pay tribute to worldly concerns and fleshly desires, just as the nonbelievers do. If you won’t even say a prayer in silence and cross yourself in public, as we do at mealtimes, what message does that send? If we abuse others in word or in deed; if we gossip; if we consider ourselves to be better and more deserving of others, what message do we send? And if we do not live as Christians, where will those who today stand in the role our holy father Paramon once held see the power of faith, and so be inspired to do as he did?
May God grant us grace and strength to walk in His ways without turning aside, so that we may also bear witness to Him. Holy father Paramon, pray to God for us. Amen.