Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Righteous Job

The righteous Job is an uncertain biblical person and according to this, he bears also an uncertain name, which seems not to be Jewish. Some scholars think that it may signify “opposite”. The saint has gained his popularity from the omonime biblical book, being a symbol of saintness and patience.
Job is also quoted in the Book of Ezechiel (14, 14-20) together with Noah and  Daniel, as a very saint man. Also the book of Ecclesiast (49, 9) mentions that he has always followed the paths of the righteousness, and the book of Tobias  (11, 12-15), also suggests that Job suffered a  lot and his story is notorious. The Epistle of Jacob (5, 11) mentions also the patience of Job, recommended to be followed by the Christians.

The Story about St. Job

The very life of Job is known exclusively from the poetical Old-Testament book which bears his name. From the first verse there is known that he lived in a land named Hus (or Uz), identified somewhere in northen Arabia, not far away from Palestine, eastern from the river of Jordan and the Dead Sea. He was a “pure and righteous man who feared God and turned away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions included13 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; in addition he had a very great household. Thus he was the greatest of all the people in the east” (Job 1,1-3). This prologue makes us thinking to the richness but also the righteousness of Abraham. The following verses of the book record indirectly that he was not a Jew, because he was offering sacrifices to God in another matter as the mozaic tradition. There is also told to us that his sons and daughters were faithful and philantropists as their father.
Job lost suddenly all that he had, after a dialogue between the devil and God, who tried the faith of this righteous. So in a short time all his sons and daughters died, because a house has fallen down on them, the cattle were killed by “a fire from God” but Job himself reacts incredibly: “then Job got up and tore his robe. He shaved his head, and then he threw himself down with his face to the ground. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!” (1,20-21) Shortly after, “Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and he afflicted Job with a malignant ulcer from the sole of his feet to the top of his head” (2,7), but the righteous man still didn’t loose his calm, despite of his wife’s urge to curse God and to die. He just stand on a pile of garbage, where he was found by three of his friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, who met together to come to show sympathy for him and to console him.
Job has a long dialogue with his “friends” (chapters 3 to 41), on the theme of the theodicee, that is the origin of the pain in the world, putting questions about the God’s justice, sense of living, happiness and unhapinness.
Job begins to lament himself, curses the day of his own birth and asks himself why the life is given to the human beings, if they are meant to suffer. Of course, he doesn’t know that all his unhappiness is provoked by Satan, who was allowed by God to do whatever he wants, unless to take his life.
After lamenting, only 7 days later the three friends begin to speak with Job. Eliphaz is the first one who reproaches that his bad destiny is maybe provoked by his unrighteousness (chapters 4/5; 15; 22), and the other two friends, Bildad (chapter 8; 18; 25) and Zophar (chapter 11; 20) are also harsh with him, but Job defends himself everytime, showing that their accusations are without substance: he didn’t make any harm, from which he is accused. The accusations of his friends follow the traditional theology of the Old Israel, according to which God is good and righteous, he rewards the good deeds and punishes the bad ones. If Job was punished so harsh, that maybe because of a great (maybe a hidden) sin. The repeated dialogue between Job and his friends finishes, when the friends spend all their arguments, and Job still believes he is righteous: “So these three men refused to answer Job further, because he was righteous in his3 own eyes” (32,1). The position of Job is a very interesting one: he accepts the justice of God, though he doesnt’t understand it. But he dares to oppose this unright faith and makes use not of the virtue of humility, but of another one, called in Greek “parrhesia”, that is boldliness.
The attitude of Job is totally shocking for his interlocutors, who simply aren’t able to criticize him anymore. That is hard to believe that he convinced them of his righteousness, simply they refused to speak with him, thinking that they cannot change a thing in him. Then, a person, until that moment not mentioned, “because he was younger”, Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite became angry “on Job for justifying himself rather than God” (32,2) but also angry on the three friends. His four discourses show to Job that the justice of God is beyond the human knowledge and the divine wisdom mustn’t respond to the human questions. Elihu seems to be a kind of precursor of God’s himself speech.
Finally God himself reveals from a storm to Job and show his wisdom and power. He advices Job only to be humble, because he cannot change a thing in the whole world, if there’s not allowed from God. Finally job repents for his atitude towards God. His friends also offer sacrifices, in order to be forgiven by God, because of their false judgement.
The life of Job after this event is resumed in only a few verses (42, 11-17). He becomes rich again, receives from his wife seven sons and three daughters and he is able to see his nephews until the fourth generation, shortly he lived other 170 years and was even richer and full of virtues than before.
The judaic apocrypha called the Testament of Job describes more about his death, but the christian tradition received from all these stories the example of virtue and human faith for God. Several Churchfathers, like Clement of Rome (1st Letter to the Corinthians), Cyprian, Tertullian and others remind about him as an example of virtue to follow.

The veneration of the Righteous Job

The modern scholars tend to believe that Job is simply the main character of a poetical book. There’s hard to say if they are right. But the biblical mentions from the prophets and late writers of the Old and New Testament cited at the beginning of this article makes me to believe that Job was more than a simple person in a beautiful tale.
 The Spanish pilgrim Sylvia Aetheria (or Egeria), who traveled in Palestine, Edessa and Constantinople at the ending of the 4th century wrote in her journal about his stop at the grave of St. Job. According to her, in that time there was already a church built, somewhere in Carneas, at the borders between the Roman provinces of Arabia and Idumeea. Apparently the bishop of this town received a monk who told him about a dream. Following it, they carved in the land and found a cave, inside of which they found the grave of Job. So they have built a church on that place.
There are at least two other locations that claim to be the place of Job’s burial places, such as  Urfa (formerly Edessa) in southeastern Turkey or Jabal Qara near Salalah in southern Oman.
Tomb of Job in Oman
Additionally, the Druze community also maintains a tomb for the Prophet Job in the El-Chouf mountain district in Lebanon.
The Tomb of Job in Lebanon

Saint Job is venerated in the Western Church, and there are several churches built in his honour in Venice, Bologna and some hospitals and hospices from Belgium. The Roman Martyrology remembers him on 10th May. In the Eastern tradition, he is celebrated on 27 April in Ethiopia, 29 august in the Coptic Church, 22 May in the Church of Jerusalem and in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on August 30.  The Greek-speaking Churches (byzantine rite) celenrates him on 6 May. He is commemorated also as a patriarch by the Lutheran Church on May 9.

Troparion of the Saint

“Seeing the richness of the virtues of Job, the enemy of the righteous plotted to steal them; yet though he broke down the tower of his body, he could not steal the treasure of his spirit; for he who, having stripped me naked, took me captive found the soul of the blameless one fully armed. Wherefore, anticipating my need before the end, O Savior, deliver me from the deceiver and save me!’

Saint Irene the Martyr

There are some more saints with the name Irene in the calendar. One of them was the Emperess of Constantinople, the widow of Leon the 6th, who helped with the organization of the seventhe ecumenical council in Nicaea, where there was established the canonicity of the veneration of the icons, saints, relics and remains from the saint people.
Another saint Irene was a virgin saint who died as a martyr in a town somewhere at the eastern borders of the Roman Empire, maybe even in Persia, in the , beginning of the.... century.
There is no report about this saint martyr until the byzantine Menologion of Basil II (10th century), which consisted into the abbreviated lives of the saints from the whole year, but this story we will follow here.


Saint Irene was the daughter of a local leader called Licinius (not to be confused with the persecutor emperor Licinius who ruled 308 to 324 together with emperor Constantine). Because of her beauty, her father locked her in a tower, together with some servants. She was converted to the Christian faith by St. Timothy, the disciple of St. Paul, and this fact situates her probably at the end of the 1st century-the beginning of the 2nd. Irene came into a conflict with her father after she destroyed the stone gods of her father, who became very angry and wanted to kill her. He ordered to his servants to bind her in order to be trampled by the wild horses, but instead one horse bit him and he died. After Irene’s prayer, he resurrected and repented. The menologies states that both Licinius and his wife converted, together with a very big group of saints (about 3000). After that, the new governor called Ampelianus tried to convince her to renounce to the Christian faith and finally decapitated her. There is no more information about her life or her martyrdom in this Synaxarium.
Another Vita, found in some western manuscripts gives us more information. The Codex Ottoboniano 22 is the most extended one. Here we find out that she lived in a town called Magedo, probably in Persia where her father was governor, and her name before her conversion was Penelope. In this story Ampellianus was the name of her tutor and teacher, who was teaching her for about 6 years, when she had a vision. In the tower where they were enclosed it came a dove bringing an olive branch and putting it on the table, after that an eagle, bringing a crown made of flowers, and finally a raven, who put a snake on the table. Ampellianus interpreted these signs as follows: the dove represents the ascetic purity, and the olive branch is the seal of baptism. The eagle symbolizes the victory, and raven who brought the snake meant trouble and suffering.
After this came St. Timothy and baptized her, and the story follows the paths already known. After the conversion, her father and her mother converted and baptized themselves, but also renounced of their social status and lived in that tower. Instead of Licinius came as governor a man called Sedechia, who obliged Irene to bring sacrifices to the local gods, and after her refusal, she was thrown in a den (cueva) with snakes, from which she survived. The synaxarium follows the precedent one and reminds about a second mass conversion, after this miracle (this time about 8 thousand persons). Irene survived to Sedechia, who was replaced by Sappor, his son, also a persecutor. She suffered during his rule, but she didn’t stop preaching the Gospel in some other towns, namely Magedon, her home, Callinicon, Constantina and Mesembria, as the medieval eastern manuscripts also add to the story. In every of these towns she suffered tortures, but she miraculously survived, converting again and again many people to the Christian faith, apparently because of the miracles occured with her. In Callinicon she suffered because of a governor called Numenau. Shortly after she was brought again in a trial in front of Sappor (this time, apparently he was already emperor), who oderered her killing in Mesembria. In a Romanian Synaxarium there is written that she was killed by Sappor and shortly she resurrected. This strange miracle convinced even the emperor to accept the Christanity. Strangely, shortly after that she lied down into a coffin and before dying again, she asked her tutor Ampellianus to close her inside. After four days he opened the coffin, but her body was no longer inside. Traditionally the story of her life was noted by Ampellianus.

Some problems about the strange biography

The hagiographic motive of the disappearance of the body occurs often together with the saints who made many miracles. I will note here that also the body of St. Virgin Mary wasn’t anymore in the coffin, when St. Thomas came from India and wanted to see her for a one last time. The same situation occurs to St. Symeon from Emessa, the fool for Christ (7th century), and to St. Andrew from Constantinople, also fool for Christ (10/11th century). This strange disappearance of the body may be a sign of the saintness, so that God took them also with their body in Paradise, though that is only a personal conclusion.

A very strange change occurs in the slavic live of the saint. Megedo is changed into “Macedonia”: so the saint lived not in the far East, but in the Balcanic peninsula. In that condition, Licinus is the same with the emperor Licinius from the 3rd century. Moreover, Mesembria already mentioned earlier as a town where she preached is the modern Bulgarian town of Nessebar, at the shore of the Black Sea. The problem of her conversion by St. Timothy (1/2 century BC) stands against her father’s reign at the end of the 3rd century. Also the king Sappor (Shappur) of Persia reigned between 240 and 272, placing the saint much later than the mission of St. Timothy, the disciple of St. Paul the Apostle.
These historical incompatibilities stand for a moderate interpretation of St. Irene’s life. I would believe the first short variant of the life as the most credible, in which there’s no mention about any vision and also nothing about the later persecutors of St. Irene.
The temptation of saying that the entire story is a legend, maybe a personification of the Peace (Greek: Irene) is very big, but I won’t go that far to think that all is an invention. 

Saint Irene from Lecce

In the western tradition there is one more story totally unrelated with the precedent. According to that, Irene, also the daughter of Licinius, was celebrated in Lecce (Italy) on 5th of may. Her cult has a special popularity in this town.
Altar in St. Irene Church in Lecce

Celebration of St. Irene

Already since 5th century there were two churches dedicated to St. Irene in Constantinople, one in Pera, rebuilt by Emperor Marcian approximately in 450, and the second in Sykae, restored by Justinian in the 6th century, after the Nike rebellion. This one was surely built not in the honor of St. Irene, but in of the Irene (Peace), in the same manner as the Cathedral of St. Sophia was built not for a saint with his name, but for the Wisdom (Sophia) of God. The Church of St. Irene from Sykae exists until today.
In the first mentioned byzantine synaxarium the celebration of St. Irene is made on 4th May, although the later manuscripts moved her feast on the 5th. In the West St. Irene is celebrated on 5th May.
St. Irene was the patron saint of Lecce until 1656, when she was replaced by St. Oronzo (Orontius of Lecce, martyr from the 1st century), through the attribution of healing the plague in this region of the southern Italy.
St. Irene Church in Istanbul

Troparion (hymn) of the Saint

“Christ our God has called thee Irene, for thou grantest peace to those who hasten to thy church with hymns. Thou dost intercede for all before the Light-creating Trinity. Together we celebrate thy memory as we magnify God who has glorified thee!”