The night of All Hallowes is also the day of commemoration of the holy
martyr Varus (Uar in Russian). It seems appropriate that his feast falls on
I wonder if you would think it worthwhile for the comfort of the faithful
who have relatives who died outside the Church to bring to their attention
the devotion to Saint Varus and the Prayer which can be said to him. The
information below was sent to the "Orthodoxia" list by Archpriest Alban
Barter of Wales.http://platon.ee.duth.gr/data/maillist-archives/orthodoxia/1998js/msg00123.html
A much fuller Life of Saint Varus,
from the Menologion of St Dmitry of Rostov
on the Holy Cross Hermitage websitehttp://holycross-hermitage.com/pages/Orthodox_Life/martyr_varus.htm
One often hears converts to Orthodoxy express their sorrow that there is,
understandably, no Orthodox service that the priest can serve on behalf of
their beloved relatives and friends who have departed this life outside the
Church. They feel the inadequancy of their own prayers, and look without
much hope for guidance and help. Owing to the widespread apostasy in Russia
under the Communists, this feeling is now very common there amongst those
who have remained faithful. In response to this, an age-old tradition,
fallen into disuse, has been revived. There is someone in Heaven whose
prayers are very strong, wanting and willing to help in such cases - the 4th
century martyr St Varus.
A booklet has been printed in Russia containing his life and a special
service to him, with a prayer for his help. Icons are being made and are
very much in demand.
How did this tradition begin? St Varus was an officer in the Roman army in
Egypt, a secret Christian, who frequently visited a group of imprisoned
Christians, supplying their every need. He greatly admired their courage,
feeling he would never himself have the strength to bear torture. However,
through the prayers of these Christians, he finally gained courage and
offered himself as a sacrifice along with them.
He was cut to pieces with knives and thrown onto a dung heap, from where a
Christian woman, Cleopatra, took his body secretly. Her husband was also an
officer in the Roman army and had recently been killed. She was granted
permission to take his body back to her home in Palestine. Instead, wishing
to honour the martyr, she took the body of the holy martyr Varus, buried his
relics in her family vault, and built a church there dedicated to him.
Gradually he became known throughout the region as a great healer and
Cleopatra herself prayed there frequently with great devotion, especially
for her only son, John, who had just gone into the army. To her great
grief, the young man died shortly afterwards (some versions record that her
son died as a child on the very day that the martyrdom of Varus was blessed)
and she went to the tomb, bitterly complaining that the saint had not
answered her prayers. That night the saint appeared to her in a dream,
together with her son, both of them radiant with glory. "You asked me to
beg God to grant John whatever was most pleasing to Him and beneficial for
you both. He has taken him into His heavenly army, where he serves with
great joy. How can you complain? Would you rather keep him for the army of
an earthly king? Your prayers to me are always remembered. Moreover I have
prayed for all your relatives, buried with me in the vault, that although
they died outside the Church, all their sins would be forgiven, and God has
heard my prayers."
Cleopatra's joy was unbounded, and she passed on the good news to everyone.
From that revelation in her vision, the custom grew up of begging St Varus'
prayers for deceased relatives and friends, whatever their faith. Isn't
that good news for all of us converts?
Here is the special prayer to Saint Varus:
O Holy, wondrous Martyr Varus, who, burning with zeal for the Heavenly King,
didst confess Him before thy torturers and didst greatly suffer for Him!
Now the Church doth venerate thee, as one glorified with the glory of heaven
by Christ the Lord, Who granted thee the abundant grace to approach Him
boldly. And now, standing before Him together with the Angels, rejoicing on
high, beholding the Most Holy Trinity clearly, and enjoying the Uncreated
Light, remember the suffering of our relatives who have died outside the
Faith, and accept our pleas, and as thou didst intercede for the unbelieving
ancestors of Cleopatra and didst free them from eternal suffering, remember
those who have died unbaptized and have been buried in an ungodly manner,
and pray earnestly that they may be delivered from eternal darkness, that we
may all, with one mouth and one heart, praise the Most Merciful Creator unto
the ages of ages.
Saint Varus is celebrated on 19th October/1st November.