St. Porphyrios The Mimic

By: The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan

The word "mimic" means to ridicule by imitation. St. Porphyrios, who is honored on November 4th is called Porphyrios the Mimic. He was born during the reign of Julian the Apostate. Apostate is a title usually given to Christians that fall away from the faith. The Emperor Julian accepted Christianity but then later rejected it in favor of paganism.

Julian did his best to discourage his subjects from accepting the Christian doctrines. Porphyrios was a clown who amused his audiences by performing all types of foolishness. He was a jester, a comedian and a mimic. He was famous as a performer throughout the empire, and was asked to show his various humorous talents at many official state functions. He was invited to participate in the annual birthday celebration of Emperor Julian the Apostate. Porphyrios was summoned to the Emperor's court and was told to base his official birthday performance on the "folly" of the Christian faith.

Porphyrios planned an excellent performance for the occasion. He was not a Christian nor did he have any personal respect for the Christian faith. It was his intention to participate in a "mock" ceremony of the Christian Baptism. He engaged the services of several other pagan actors to assist him. The Emperor's court was filled with pagan officials who gathered to honor the Emperor's birthday. At the given time, Porphyrios entered with his collaborators. Each person was dressed in the robes of Christian clergy. One was attired as a Bishop, and the others as priests. These fellow actors were not actually ordained clergymen and they had only one purpose in mind, to mimic the Christian faith. Porphyrios made his entrance dressed in the attire of a prospective catechumen (one who is about to receive the Sacrament of Baptism). The false clergy began the Christian Sacrament of Baptism, interjecting humorous and degrading phrases, which brought resounding laughter from the Emperor and the officials present. As Porphyrios was "baptized" in the water he shouted sarcastically, "The Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, Porphyrios is baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Everyone was happy over the performance; and as Porphyrios was being dressed in the white garments of "salvation" in accordance with the Christian Tradition, Porphyrios was suddenly overcome with a strange sensation. An Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and he stood transfixed and in shock! The Angel spoke to him and told him that he was now truly "A servant of the Lord Jesus Christ." The Angel scolded him for his mockery of the Christian Faith, but informed him that the Lord had forgiven him. Porphyrios fell to his knees and accepted Christ in his heart. He rose and addressed his audience concerning his conversation. The Emperor Julian was furious with Porphyrios over this strange turn of events. Julian ordered his soldiers to behead Porphyrios, thus Porphyrios the Mimic gave his life for Christ that famous evening on November 4th, in the year of our Lord 361 A.D.

I chose to honor this Saint Porphyrios, because of the powerful message we can receive from the account of his miraculous conversion to Christianity, and the wonderful testimony to the power of the Sacrament of Baptism.

St. Porphyrios was Baptized by Pagan actors, yet, Jesus Christ chose to honor the Baptism and use this mockery of the Sacrament to convert St. Porphyrios to Christianity.

If Jesus Christ honors the Baptism of St. Porphyrios as life giving, can you possibly imagine what wonderful benefits this Sacrament provides when performed by a Priest ordained according to Apostolic orders?

To be baptized is to become a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, a worker in the spiritual harvest. St. Porphyrios learned this from the Angel of the Lord, then quickly suffered a martyr's death after his confession of faith. St. John Chrysostom says in his famous (Easter) Pascha sermon: "If any have arrived at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay; for the Master is gracious and received the last, even as the first. He gives rest to him who arrives at the eleventh hour, as well as to him who has labored from the first. He is merciful to the one who delays, and nourishes the first. He gives also to the one, and to the other, He is gracious. He accepts the works, as He greets the endeavor. He honors the deed, and the intent He commends. Let all of you then enter the joy of the Lord. The first and second enjoy your reward. You rich and poor, rejoice together. You temperate and you heedless, honor the day. You who fasted, and you who did not, rejoice today. The Table is richly laden. All of you fare sumptuously on it. The calf is a fatted one; let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith. All of you enjoy the riches of His goodness."

St. Porphyrios truly fell into the category of someone arriving at the eleventh hour, yet within a very short period of time rose to Sainthood. Like the dying thief on the cross, St. Porphyrios' salvation was swift and sure, the harvest of the fruit of his Christian labors was instant. Jesus Christ chose to put to shame the foolish mockery of the pagans by forgiving St. Porphyrios for his sinful actions and accepting the fake Baptism as genuine.

Many times I have told people, there's power in the Name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When the Name of God is invoked, the power of God is called upon. This is why we should never take the name of the Lord in vain, for invoking His Holy name without a cause is disrespectful. St. Porphyrios received chastisement from the Angel of the Lord for the mock Baptism and invoking the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

When we call upon the Name of the Lord, we should be ready for a dialogue with Him. He knows our needs before we ever relay them to Him. Often, I have suggested to people that need comfort from stress, grief, and other hardships to invoke the Name of Jesus Christ to dispel the problem.

Monastics in the Eastern Orthodox Church have for centuries used the powerful Name of Jesus Christ to overcome temptations, purge their sins, and pray for the world. St. Paul charged all of us to "Pray Constantly", and there is no better prayer to accomplish great spiritual rewards than the "Jesus Prayer".

"Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner". This simple prayer is repeated hundreds of thousands of times each day in Eastern Orthodox Monasteries throughout the world. There's a spoken tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church that says, "Every time a Christian says the Jesus Prayer, Jesus Christ responds in Heaven with: 'My child, your sins are forgiven!'"

In the Scriptures, there is an example of a woman with an issue of blood that reached out and touched just the hem of Christ's garment and was healed. Power flowed from Jesus Christ even though she only touched the hem of His garment. Every time we say the Jesus Prayer, we're reaching out to touch the hem of Christ's garment. We should reach out with the same faith that the woman with the issue of blood did.

Every Sunday we use a shortened version of the Jesus Prayer many times in the Divine Liturgy. Every time you sing, Lord, have mercy, you are praying to the Lord, you are reaching out to touch the hem of His garment. The Priest has chanted the petition of need, the people then reach out to the Lord and while thinking about the need ask for the Lord's mercy. By thinking this way we can live the Divine Liturgy, it becomes part of our spiritual life. It's not simply something that we do the same way every Sunday, but a wonderful, indispensable tool for reaching out to God and praying for the entire world. Every word of the Divine Liturgy, the petitions, responses, prayers, and hymns are there to provide you with a way to join with the Heavenly Host in worship of the Holy Trinity and to invoke the Holy name of God with one mouth and one heart.

If the merciful, Lord, Jesus Christ gave validity to the Baptism of St. Porphyrios, imagine how wonderful the real Christian Baptism Service is to Him. Imagine how pleased He is to receive our prayers during the Divine Liturgy and other services. I invite you to strive to become one with the Divine Liturgy, listen to, then live the Liturgy. There's a reason why the Divine Liturgy is such an integral part of our Eastern Orthodox Christian worship, it's because it embodies our faith, it celebrates the power of the Name of our God, it mystically joins the faithful believers, and nourishes our spirit in a union with our Holy Creator by reaching out to touch the hem of His garment and receive healing grace from our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As the conversion of St. Porphyrios indicates, there's power in our Sacraments, there's redemption in the Name of the Holy Trinity, this Holy, healing power of God should be respected, honored, and valued and acquiring it should be considered the ultimate goal of your Christian life.