Eutychius The Well-Favored

This year, we are celebrating the life and the teachings of St. Paul the Apostle. Just yesterday (Sunday, June 29th), His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Benedict recited the Nicene Creed together, in the Greek language, using the Orthodox words of the Creed.

They did this in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, during a special announcement of a year-long celebration of St. Paul. We are celebrating this great Apostle, his life and his teachings because we know that St. Paul was the one that God used to write down, for the first time, the teachings of the Holy Orthodox Church. He was the one who gave the commandments of Jesus Christ on how His Church was to be organized. He was the one who taught the Church about bishops, priests and deacons ... and about the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Baptism and Marriage. He was the one who taught the Church about Who God is in the Holy Trinity, and about the Virgin Birth of Jesus the Son of God, His Passion and Crucifixion, His Resurrection from the dead and His ascending into Heaven where He is the Emperor of the Universe.

St. Paul is the first great Teacher of the Church. You should read about him in the Acts of the Apostles, which was written by his friend St. Luke. Wherever he went, he taught that Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who came to rescue us from sin and from death in hell. And in every Church, he made sure that he taught the people everything they needed to know so that they could survive, be brave when the Roman soldiers came and arrested them.

He taught them the most important facts of life. He taught them the secrets of the universe, the things that everyone needs to know and put into practice so that they could have victory over the Devil and his demons, and so that they could have eternal life. He told them that going to Church was more important than anything else they could do. It was more important than school, more important than football, basketball, baseball or soccer or band camp. It was more important than getting a motorcycle or a car. It was more important than having a girlfriend. It was more important than even family.

St. Paul had a lot to teach in a very short time. Most of the time, he was on the run from the police and from his enemies. His enemies would track him down from city to city. His enemies would also hire "hit men" and death-squads to ambush him.

On one occasion, in a Turkish town called Lystra, these "bad guys" attacked St. Paul in a mob. They threw rocks and fragments of broken glass and pottery at the Apostle until he fell down and didn't move. They thought they had finished him off. But when the Christians finally found him, St. Paul got up on his own two feet. He "shook off" the pain, and left the next morning for the next town on his schedule.

He had a lot more places to go, and a lot more bishops and priests and deacons to train and ordain. He had a lot more teaching to do before he had finished his mission in this world.

A few years after this, St. Paul and his friend Luke were on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. On their way, they stopped off at the Turkish town of Ephesus. It was Sunday, and St. Paul celebrated Liturgy at the place where the Church gathered. It was a large room on the third floor of a house. People slept and ate in the upper floors of their houses, because they would often keep animals and supplies on the lower floor. The upper rooms were a lot cooler and a lot less smelly, because they were away from the streets.

So St. Paul, St. Luke and the Christians from Ephesus worshiped God in the Divine Liturgy. After the Eucharist, St. Paul gave the homily, and it was much longer than the ten minute homilies that you are used to. This homily started in the morning, and lasted into the evening, and went on and on even until midnight.

Remember that St. Paul had a lot to say. He also knew that he would never again visit Ephesus, and he would never again see the Ephesian Christians. So he told them what they needed to know as a Church. In his own words, he established them in their knowledge. He told them about the Holy Trinity ... about what Christ did on the Cross and how He invaded Hell and set free the ones who were captive there ... St. Paul told them about how Christ wanted the Church to be run, and how He wanted to be worshiped.

There was a lot to say, and it took a long time. And all this time, there was a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the cool window ledge, listening to St. Paul. He listened, because he wanted to learn the most important things. He listened, because he knew that there was nothing more important in his life. He wanted to remember every word of this great Apostle.

And so he sat still, with great respect. He was perfectly quiet and he kept his eyes squarely on St. Paul. He didn't whisper or fidget. He didn't look at his cellphone or check out his I-Pod. He didn't make jokes or squirm in his seat. And he didn't leave to go to the bathroom downstairs. He didn't play with the candles or the charcoal.

He listened, even though the speech was probably not very exciting. It was not entertaining. There were a lot more interesting things that a young man could do on a nice summer evening such as this one.

But Eutychus wanted to live forever. He wanted to worship the Holy Trinity, and he wanted to serve his Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He wanted to take in every single word of St. Paul.

But it was very late. And he had been sitting on this open window ledge for twelve hours. And the night was warm. And even though he didn't want to, finally, this young man who was the same age as you, fell fast asleep. St. Paul kept speaking. Eutychus kept sleeping ... and as he did so, he began to nod and slump where he was.

All at once, Eutychus fell off the window ledge. But he didn't fall inside. There was no glass or screen in this window, and Eutychus fell outside ... and the problem was that this Upper Room where they were having Liturgy was three stories off the ground. In other words, Eutychus fell about thirty feet to the ground. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you can't survive a thirty foot fall, not when you land lying down. That is why everyone feared the worst when they hurried downstairs and out into the street.

You can imagine the young man's mother crying out, thinking that her son was dead, as she ran toward his motionless body. But St. Paul was not just a great Teacher that night: he was also a Miracle-Worker and Healer. St. Paul the Apostle went down the stairs and into the street. He lifted Eutychus and hugged him tightly, praying to God for help and grace. Eutychus moved and breathed.

St. Paul said, to all the Ephesian Christians who were probably all weeping, "Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him." Eutychus stood up, and went back upstairs with the rest of the Church and with St. Paul, who continued speaking until the morning.

You should know that the name "Eutychus" means "well-favored." You could almost say that Eutychus' name means "lucky," like "Lucky Eutychus." You might say that this makes a lot of sense. He falls thirty feet down to the street from a window, and he survives. That would sound lucky to anyone.

But there is a more important reason why Eutychus is "well-favored." St. John Chrysostom said that Eutychus stayed up late into the night because he was a strong, noble and brave Christian. St. John said that this boy could have looked for entertainment. He could have gone to a late-night party and could have gotten drunk and could have "hung out" with wild girls. He could have done all these things, but he didn't. Instead, he chose the better, "well-favored" way. He chose Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ instead of the world.

And because this young man chose to seek Christ and to enter His Church, when he fell asleep and fell out the window, Jesus Christ reached down and saved Eutychus from death.

If you listen and believe, no matter how hard Church is, Christ will save you, too. If you choose Jesus Christ instead of the world, Christ will reach down and lift you up. That is why Eutychus is called "well-favored." And that is why you can be "well-favored," too. Believe in Jesus Christ and He will save you. Enter His Church, and serve at His Altar, and He will surely lift you up.


(Delivered on 7/01/2008  at the 2008 Diocesan Altarboy Retreat at Christ the Saviour Cathedral)