Τρίτη, 10 Απριλίου 2012

Saint Rupert (Robert) of Salzburg, Apostle to Bavaria and Austria



March 27th is the feast of St Rupert, a most holy and blessed man. This feast commemorates the day of his repose, which brings spiritual joy to devout minds and refreshes hearts throughout the entire year. As the Scriptures say, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." He who passes into the angels' joy is made worthy of men's remembrance: as the Scriptures say, "A wise son is the glory of the father," and how great is his glory, who redeemed so many barbarian nations through the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus through the Gospel!
When Childebert the king of the Franks was in the second year of his reign, the Bishop of Worms was the Holy Confessor Rupert, who was born into the ranks of the Frankish nobility, but was far more noble in faith and piety. He was gentle and chaste, simple and prudent, devout in praise of God, full of the Holy Spirit. He was also circumspect in his decisions and righteous in his judgment. He possessed great spiritual discernment, and his good deeds formed his flock into true images of Christ, for he inspired them not only with his words, but by the example of his works. He often kept vigil, weakened himself with fasting, and adorned his works with compassion. He gave away his riches that the poor might not go hungry, believing himself to be one who should clothe the naked and help the destitute.
When the great fame of this most venerable man had spread to the ends of the world, powerful men, not only in that region but from other nations, poured in to hear his most holy teaching. Some with many sorrows came to receive consolation through his holy words, and other churchmen came to learn the purity of true Orthodoxy from him. Many were freed from the snares of the ancient enemy by his loving spiritual advice, and were able to set out on the path to salvation. But unbelievers, who were numerous in the vicinity of Worms, not understanding his holiness, exiled him from the city in a most shameful manner. They caused him terrible suffering and beat him with rods. At that time Theodo, the Duke of Bavaria, hearing about the miracles which this most holy man had performed and of his blessedness, desired to meet him. With firm resolve he dispatched his most trusted men to summon him to his court and to enquire of him how long might he consent to visit the regions of Bavaria, and could he instruct him in the way of life-giving faith? The blessed bishop, having received such a sincere and heartfelt request knew that it came from Divine dispensation and thanked the Merciful One, because "those who sat in the darkness and the shadow of death" longed to know the author of life, Jesus Christ.
As a result of this he sent his own priests, as if they were rays of faith, to return with the ambassadors of the Duke, and he himself after a short time undertook the journey to Bavaria. When the Duke heard the news that the blessed one was on his way he was overcome with great joy, and he and a large retinue hastened to meet St Rupert, overtaking the saint in the city of Regensburg. Although exhausted and hungry from his long journey, St Rupert, right away began to reveal to the Duke the mystery of the heavens and instructed him in the Orthodox faith. He convinced the Duke to renounce the worship of idols, and baptized him in the name of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity. The nobles and the simple people were also baptized with the noble duke, praising Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, who considered them worthy to be called wondrously into His light from their darkness through His confessor, the most blessed Rupert. By his holy words their darkened hearts were enlightened and the souls of the unbaptized thirsted for the fountain of life.
When the saint had revealed Divine Truth by having baptized the Duke and his people, Theodo came to understand the mystery of saving baptism. He begged the holy Rupert to carry the light of Orthodoxy to others and the saint, fulfilling his desire, boarded a ship and sailed down the River Danube. Through the towns, villas, and forts, he declared the gospel of Christ in a great voice. To the ends of Noricum, into the lower parts of Pannonia, he brought the light of the teachings of Christ which illumines all. Having returned by land, he entered Lauriacum (torch on the River Enns), in whose water he baptized many, freeing them from the worship of idols. In the name of Jesus Christ he healed many who had been oppressed by various illnesses and passions. After he left Lauriacum he saw the spiritual darkness of the tribes in that region; he boldly undertook to smash images and to proclaim everywhere the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as His most holy incarnation. He brought them to believe that He truly is both God and man, truly begotten of the Father before all ages. He taught them that Christ is the Word of God conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of mankind.
Having accepted the episcopacy after being entreated to do so by the Duke and his people, he went to the placid waters of Lake Wallersee, where a church had been built in honour of the chief apostle Peter. He moved from there to the Juvavian (Salzach) River, the site of the city of Juvavia, which had been erected in ancient, tumultuous times. At one time it had had great importance among Bavarian cities, but by the time St Rupert arrived it had become overgrown with trees and weeds and only a few people lived among the ruins. The servant of God considered this a suitable place for his episcopal cathedral, because being situated high in the mountains, it was far from the tumult and distractions of crowds. He went before the duke, and spoke to him with great enthusiasm about his plan to build a basilica there in honour of the blessed Peter, Chief of the Apostles. He was granted the vast sums needed to build the splendid church by the generosity of Theodo. When the church was finished he ordained priests, and commanded them to celebrate the daily offices in canonical order. The saint of God then wished to enlarge his holdings in the vicinity of the cathedral, so he petitioned the Duke for yet another donation, and with the funds donated to him he purchased the estate known as Piding for thousands of solidi, a great sum of money at the time. Thus, by the will of God and the bequests of kings, noblemen, and the faithful, the centre of spiritual life for the kingdom began to grow.
Here is an account of a wondrous event in the life of St Rupert. Some very reliable men came to the blessed hierarch and told him of an amazing phenomenon which had taken place when they had gone into an unnamed wilderness area now called Bongotobum (Pongau). Three or four times they had seen heavenly lights shining like bright lamps in the sky and they had also experienced a wonderful fragrance in the same place. The pious bishop sent the priest Domingus to Bongotobum because of the reports which he received concerning these lights. It was his desire that the priest would verify the authenticity of these wonders by erecting in that location a wooden cross which the holy one had made and blessed with his own hands. When Domingus arrived, he at once began the First Hour with the monks who had come with him. They saw a bright heavenly light which descended from the sky and lit up the entire region with the brightness of the sun. Domingus saw this vision on three nights in a row, and experienced the wondrous fragrance as well. He erected the blessed cross in that place, and it was miraculously transported to a spot above the dwelling of St Rupert, confirming the truthfulness of what had been reported to him! St Rupert took word of the miraculous occurrence to Theodo and then he himself went into the wilderness to the very spot, and seeing that it was suitable for habitation, began to cut down aged oaks and brought in building materials that he might build a church with dwellings for a monastic community..
At about the same time, Theodo fell into ill health, and felt the end of his life approaching. He called to his bedside his son Theodobert, appointing him the Duke of Noricum, admonishing him to be obedient to St Rupert and to aid him in his holy work as well as to firmly establish and support the Juvavian church with love, honour, and dignity. He also adjured him to protect and exalt it. When he had instructed his son in all good things and had given him his final testament, he ended his earthly life and fell asleep in the Lord. After the repose of his God-fearing father, Duke Theodobert along with his nobles remained followers of St Rupert because of his great sanctity. Having travelled to see the saint in his far hermitage, the duke honoured him with pious affection and went to pray in the church which the saint had built there. The duke donated three parcels of land in honour of St Maximilian and gave property on all sides of the forest, as well as an estate in the Alps. He gave gifts to support the monastery and the hieromonks whom the most blessed Rupert had ordained for the Service of God.
When this had been accomplished, the man of God saw that the most noble man of Bavaria had submitted himself to the yoke of Christ and had left worldly concerns to the lesser men of his kingdom. St Rupert then accompanied the duke back to his homeland and then returned with twelve of his closest spiritual children (among whom were Kuniald and St Gisilarius, both priests and both holy men). His niece, St Ermentrude, a virgin dedicated to Christ also accompanied them to the city of Juvavia. There in the main fortress of the city he built a monastery in honour of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Saviour and His Most Pure Mother, the Ever-Virgin Mary. He placed as abbess in that monastery St Ermentrude, that she might serve the King of Heaven. With the generous support of Duke Theodobert, who gave many gifts to the nuns, he established a monastery which had all its spiritual and physical needs well taken care of.
When all this had been accomplished, the blessed man became eager to complete the missionary efforts he had begun with the help of Christ. Accompanied by clergy and monastics, he resolved to visit his followers in the Norican kingdom. Having left the city of Juvavia he visited people on whom the light of faith had not yet shown, and he sowed the wheat of faith amid tares. The deception of the devil fled from the hearts of these barbarian tribes, and Rupert sowed in its place faith, love, mercy, and humility, for through these Christ, the giver and source of all good, is able to take up residence in the human heart. He travelled to all the ends of Bavaria, and converted the people to faith in Christ, and strengthened those who had remained steadily faithful. Having sent out several priests and men of God who brought the Divine Mysteries to the people, he became anxious to return to Juvavia. Because he had the gift from God of knowing the future, he knew that the day of his repose was at hand. He revealed this to his disciples, who were filled with sorrow and anguish. Because of this, there was much weeping and great mourning when he took leave of his newly enlightened Christian flock.
Filled with certainty and faith in Christ, St Rupert commended the city, the Norican people, and all who had been received into holy Orthodoxy to the Most High and All-Knowing God. He chose Vitale, a holy man whom the people themselves had accepted, as his successor. When the forty days of Great Lent had passed, Bishop Rupert became very ill and was exhausted by a high fever. When the most holy day of the Resurrection of Our Saviour Jesus dawned, he celebrated the solemn Liturgy, and was fortified for his final journey with the precious Body and Blood of Christ. He comforted his priests, monastics and flock with a beautiful sermon filled with much love. Then, surrounded by his weeping spiritual children he breathed his last and returned his most pure soul to God. A host of angels were sent by Christ and the saints in the heavens who bore his holy soul with melodious voices to eternal happiness. Thus the faithful servant of God rested in peace. He whose life was praiseworthy and blameless was in death equally blessed. Thus it is written: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." Shortly after his repose many miracles were attributed to him, for God was gracious through the relics of His saint and manifested His tender mercy. By the prayers of the friend of God, St Rupert, the faithful were comforted and the Church adorned through innumerable miracles. Indeed the Blessed God, One in three Persons, lives and reigns; to Him be all praise and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen

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