Posted by: anna | March 4, 2010

St Odran

Today (19 February) we commemorate St Odran (pronounced Oran), martyr, chariot-driver to St Patrick (ca 451). From Baring-Gould:
[Irish Martyrologies of Tamlach and Donegal ; another Odran on October 27th. Authorities :— The Life of S. Patrick, by Jocelyn, the Tripartite Life, and others.]

There was a noble named Faigle, who bore a bitter hatred against S. Patrick and the Christian faith, and who resolved to murder the apostle. Now Odran, the chariot-driver, heard of his threats, and fearing for his master’s life, one day, as they passed near the castle of Foilge, he said to S. Patrick, ” Master, for long have I driven thee. For this once let me ride in the chariot, and do thou run beside the horse, and urge it on.”

Then Patrick consented, and changed places with Odran. Shortly after Failge rushed out upon them from an ambush, and thrust his spear through Odran, deeming him to be the apostle. Then Patrick raising his eyes, saw angels bearing the soul of his faithful servant to the mansions of eternal bliss.


Troparion of St Odran tone 5
No task was too humble or too dangerous for thee,/ O Martyr Odran,/ for in thy station as a servant/ thou didst render the ultimate service/ giving thy life for thy master and Ireland’s Enlightener./ Pray that we may have the courage to hold nothing back,/ that at the last Christ our God will not withhold His mercy from us.

Kontakion of St Odran tone 3
We salute thee, O Martyr Odran,/ ever seeking to follow thee in service to Christ’s holy Church/ and praying for grace to shun the imperfect way of Ananias and Sophia,/ that we may give all we have in selfless devotion/ to Him Who holds all creation in His hands.

Ananias and Sophia? How do they come into the story? Well, this turns out to be a bit of Acts I do’t ever remember hearing before (beginning of Acts 5, to be precise, and this is the NRSV from the Unbound Bible site) featuring Ananias and Saphira:

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

Here is one commentary on the passage. The context of this story is the end of chapter 4, where members of the early Christian community are selling their land and property and bringing the proceeds to be used for the communal good. The interpretation is that Ananias and Saphira pretend to be bringing the full price of their land to the community, and are thus hypocrites. It seems to me that their weakness (in the story) is a lack of trust and commitment; their self-interested deception shows that while they want to make a show of participating in the community, they do not really believe this new way of life is going to work, and are not willing to put in the work and sacrifices that others are, in case it is wasted and they lose their investment and are worse off than before. They are willing to skate along on the back of others’ labour for as long as it suits them. Ooh dear, does this sound familiar… And they fall down dead on the spot! without gaining any benefit from either their communal contribution or the money they kept back for themselves. What a contrast with Odran, who gave his life, the only thing he had – which is everything – to save someone else. How’s that for caring for another person and believing in that person’s work. There is more to say about this but I’ll start a new post.
Holy St Odran, pray to God for us.

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