Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Great Martyr Panteleimon


+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

Today is the Feast of the Great Martyr and Healer St. Panteleimon. This blessed saint was born in the year 284 in the city of Nicomedia. He was the product of the marriage of a pagan father to a Christian mother, and was originally named Pantoleon (“in all things a lion”). His mother, St. Eubula, provided what early childhood training in the Christian faith she could, but died when he was still very young. Thus he was raised as a pagan by his father, Eustorgius, a prominent and illustrious man. He was trained in medicine and became such a fine student that he came to the attention of the emperor Maximian, who desired to appoint him as the royal physician after he finished his schooling.

In those days before the Edict of Milan, Christianity was still illegal and was actively persecuted. Perhaps because of his mother’s memory together with his own great heart, young Pantoleon had tremendous compassion for the suffering Christians, and secretly sought-out and met with some of them who lived in hiding in the city. One of these was St. Hermolaos, a survivor of the massacre of 20,000 Christians in Nicomedia in the year 303. This godly priest spoke boldly to Pantoleon of the Savior Jesus Christ, describing Him as the Great Physician and the Healer of souls and of bodies. Pantoleon was deeply moved and began to visit St. Hermolaos daily, who catechized him in the faith.

One day, while on his way to visit the priest, he came upon the body of a dead child lying in the street. Nearby was the huge and venomous snake which had killed the child. Pantoleon began to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ to raise the child and to destroy the serpent. At once the child opened its eyes and arose, while the serpent immediately died. After witnessing this miracle, Pantoleon firmly resolved to become a follower of Christ no matter the cost to himself personally.

St. Hermolaos baptized Pantoleon, giving him the new name of Panteleimon (“all-merciful”) because of the great mercy he had so often demonstrated in providing medical care for all the sick without charge. The newly-illumined and baptized saint then went to his father Eustorgius to convert him to the Christian faith. When his father saw Panteleimon restore sight to a blind man by invoking the name of Jesus Christ, he believed and was baptized by St. Hermolaos, as was the man whose sight was restored.

Following this, St. Panteleimon dedicated his life to the suffering, the sick, and the needy. He treated all those who came to him without charge, healing them in the name of Jesus Christ. He visited those held captive in prison. These were usually Christians, and he healed them of their wounds. In a short time, reports of the charitable physician spread throughout the city. Forsaking the other doctors, the inhabitants began to turn only to St. Panteleimon.

Out of envy, these other physicians—pagans all—reported to the emperor Maximian that Panteleimon was healing the Christian prisoners. Unwilling to believe these reports, the emperor instructed the saint to dispel the accusations by offering sacrifices to the pagan gods. Instead, Panteleimon boldly confirmed the reports, confessed himself to be a Christian, and even offered a challenge to the emperor. He proposed that the pagan physicians bring forth a hopeless patient that they could not heal, in order that he might be healed in the name of the Christian God alone. The emperor accepted the challenge and ordered the physicians to make it so. They brought to him a man who had been paralyzed for many years and who could not be helped by all their medicines and pagan gods. Before the very eyes of Maximian, the saint healed the paralyzed man simply by calling on the name of Jesus Christ.

Far from being moved to faith by this miracle, the wicked emperor immediately had the healed man put to death, and handed Panteleimon over to fierce torture.

The Lord appeared to the saint and strengthened him before his sufferings. They suspended the Great Martyr Panteleimon from a tree and scraped him with iron hooks, then burned him with fire. They stretched him on the rack, threw him into a cauldron of boiling tar, and cast him into the sea with a stone around his neck. Throughout these tortures the martyr remained unhurt, and denounced the emperor. At this time the priest Hermolaos was brought before the court and, confessing his faith in Christ, he was beheaded.

The emperor ordered Panteleimon to be brought to the circus to be devoured by wild beasts. The animals, however, came up to him and licked his feet. The spectators began to shout, "Great is the God of the Christians!" The enraged Maximian ordered the soldiers to stab with the sword anyone who glorified Christ, and to cut off the head of the Great Martyr Panteleimon. They led the saint to the place of execution and tied him to an olive tree. While the martyr prayed, one of the soldiers struck him on the neck with a sword, but the sword broke apart like wax and inflicted no wound. The saint completed his prayer, and a Voice was heard from Heaven, calling the passion-bearer by his new name and summoning him to the heavenly Kingdom.
Hearing the Voice, the soldiers fell down on their knees before the holy martyr and begged forgiveness. They refused to continue with the execution, but St. Panteleimon told them to fulfill the emperor's command, because otherwise they would have no share with him in the future life. The soldiers tearfully took their leave of the saint with a kiss.

When the saint was beheaded, the olive tree to which he was tied became covered with fruit. Many who were present at the execution believed in Christ. The saint's body was thrown into a fire, but remained unharmed, and was taken out and buried by the Christians. St. Panteleimon's servants Lawrence, Bassos and Probus witnessed his execution and heard the Voice from Heaven. They recorded the life, sufferings, and death of the saint for posterity. The Great Martyr Panteleimon was 21 years old at the time of his repose in the year 305.

Portions of the holy relics of the saint were eventually distributed throughout the entire Christian world. His venerable head is now located at the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.

St. Panteleimon is venerated in the Orthodox Church as a mighty saint, and as the protector of soldiers. Why soldiers? Because those in combat tend to receive more wounds than ordinary people, and require a compassionate healer who is willing to go where he is most needed. But St. Panteleimon is a healer of spiritual soldiers as well. Christians waging the unseen war often call upon this great saint for the healing of their deepest spiritual wounds.

Here is yet another great friend and helper the all-merciful and compassionate God has granted to the Christian faithful. Seeking the help of such friends, we can become much more oriented toward our heavenly communion, even as they aid us in our travails here on earth.

Holy and Great Martyr Panteleimon, pray for us!

+To the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I am indebted to saintpanteleimon.org for major portions of this saint’s life story

2 Comments:

At 7/30/2008 11:16 AM , Blogger Munkee said...

St. Panteleimon, by your prayers grant comfort and healing to our dear Father in Christ, Michael.

 
At 8/14/2008 4:37 AM , Blogger Gail Hyatt said...

Fr. Michael. I found you on Twitter, but you are not an active Twitterer I see. Perhaps you might revisit this. (I am @gailhyatt)
I am an Orthodox Christian - converted in 1984. My husband is a deacon and CEO of an Evangelical Christian publishing co. Glad to find your blog. To God be the glory.

 

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