Homily for the feast of the Great-martyr Panteleimon
In ancient times, when referring to martyrs, they were called “witnesses,”
in accordance with what the Lord Jesus Christ told the apostles about their
future service: “You shall be My witnesses everywhere.” In truth, what
testimony can be greater than when a person is ready to seal it with his
blood and life, as did the holy martyrs. Those around them could not but
wonder at the strength exhibited by the martyrs who, with all possible
benefits spread before them, turned away from them and chose torture and
agonizing death instead. They were aided by a special sort of force, and
their hearts were touched by genuine truth.
Great-martyr Panteleimon For example, look at the great-martyr Panteleimon
– a wealthy, prominent, and hand-some young man, before whom an entire life
was spread out, and the way was open to the best possible circumstances
from a human point of view. And yet what did he choose? An agonizing death.
We know that prior to his baptism he was not called Panteleimon, which was
the name he received at baptism, but was called Pantoleon. This Greek name
consisted of two words that meant “strong in all things.” The name
characterized his strong and forceful nature. However, when he was
illuminated by the light of baptism through the offices of the holy
martyric presbyter Hermolaus and became a Christian, he was given another
name – that of Panteleimon, which means all-merciful or merciful to all.
And we know how this holy youth spread healing and all kind of spiritual
help around him. But when he was called upon to bear witness to his faith
in Christ, he went out to suffer terrible tortures, rejoicing that in this
manner he would affirm his loyalty to the One Whom he had come to love with
his entire pure heart.
The situation is different in our times. No one threatens us with bloody
torture or agonizing death. Yet, on the other hand, our times are such that
in order to be a Christian always and in all things, and to act like a
Christian in all ways, one also needs a fair amount of spiritual force, for
the further we progress, the deeper and deeper and faster and faster does
the world roll down the slope into an abyss of materialism and insanity…
And the Christian who lives in the nightmare of our times and still wishes
to truly be a Christian must naturally have strength of spirit similar to
the strength possessed by the ancient martyrs. Saint Panteleimon is
precisely one of such witnesses, who stood face-to-face before the pagans
and testified to the light of Christ’s truth, to its unfading radiance, to
its all-conquering power, for these martyrs truly confirmed the apostolic
words: “Such is the victory which conquered the world – our faith!” Amen.
St Panteleimon the All-Merciful Memory celebrated August 9
St Panteleimon was born about 284 AD in the city of Nicodemia. His father,
Evstorgios, was an idolater while his mother, Evoulis, was a devout
Christian. She raised her son, whose real name was Pantoleonta, in the
Christian way of life. She passed away while her son was still young.
Initially Pantoleonta was educated in his native tongue and then in Greek.
His father sent him to study under the famous physician, Evfrosinos.
Quickly he surpassed the other students. He was handsome, soft spoken,
humble and all who spoke with him felt true happiness and peace. Because of
these virtues, he became well known in Nicodemia. One day he went with
Evfrosinos to the palace and it was here that the ruler, Maximian, first
saw him. He instructed Evfrosinos to educate Pantoleonta to the utmost so
that he could be appointed royal physician.
At that time, St Ermolaos, the head of the Church in Nicodemia, lived in a
house with other Christians. He watched Pantoleonta every day as he went to
his studies and finally asked him about his religion. Pantoleonta told him
that while his mother was alive he had been a Christian, but now his father
had made him follow the pagans. Ermolaos told him that if he believed with
all his heart in the true God he would be able to cure anyone with His
help. Pantoleonta acknowledged everything he was told and from that time
on, he went to Ermolaos for counsel and began to accept Christ with all his
Time passed, and one day, with the grace of God, Pantoleonta saved a child
from certain death after being bitten by a viper. He needed no further
proof that Christ was the true God. Ermolaos baptised Pantoleonta, gave him
Holy Communion, and instructed him in the Sacraments of the Holy Church. He
remained for seven days with this holy man, and during this time he became
completely acquainted with the teachings and practices of the Church.
Soon, Pantoleonta was working towards his father's conversion to
Christianity. This was finally achieved when he saw his son cure a man of
his blindness. By the grace of God, the man regained his sight, not only
physically, but also spiritually, for before this time he was an idolater.
Pantoleonta took the man and his father to St Ermolaos who baptised them.
Pantoleonta distributed his wealth among the poor and then proceeded to
cure all who came to him. The only payment the St would ask was that the
healed person believe that Jesus Christ was their true healer. The other
physicians became very envious and wanting to betray the Saint to the
Emperor, a group of them went to Maximian and told him that the doctor that
he himself had educated was healing Christians and that the idolaters were
converting to Christianity. As proof, the blind man who was cured was
brought before the Emperor, who tried to convince him that the gods had
cured him and not Christ. But it was futile. Maximian realised that
everything the doctors had told him was true. He ordered that the man be
beheaded. The Saint secretly took the man's body and buried it in a
Pantoleonta was ordered to appear before the Emperor, who described the
charges that were brought before him and ordered Pantoleonta to sacrifice
to the gods. The Saint refused. The false-priests and doctors begged the
Emperor to execute him so that Christianity would not gain in popularity
among the people. Unable to change his beliefs, Maximian ordered that the
Saint be tortured. First they tied him to a board and tore his skin with
iron claws. Then, the soldiers burned him with their torches. The Saint
prayed to God to give him strength to withstand the torture. Next the Saint
was taken and placed in a kettle but the tar remained cool around him. The
Emperor considered the miracles to be magic tricks performed by
Pantoleonta. Continuing with his efforts he had a boulder tied to the Saint
and thrown into the sea. The boulder became light and the Saint floated on
the water. Maximian still refused to recognise the power of the true God.
Next the Saint was placed in the stadium but the wild beasts peacefully
walked towards him and licked his feet. The crowd cheered and together
praised God and Pantoleonta. Maximian was enraged and had all the animals
butchered. The miracle served to honour the Saint and to show others the
way of righteousness.
The Saint was submitted to even more tortures. He was tied to a wheel and
then rolled down a hill. The purpose was to tear the Saint's Body to
pieces. Instead, it rolled over several idolaters and killed them. The
Saint again suffered no harm.
Pantoleonta decided to bring St Ermolaos to the people, since his words
could convert even more pagans to Christianity. Ermolaos and two other men,
Ermocratis and Ermippon, were brought before the Emperor who tried to
convince them that they believed in a false God. Unable to make them
renounce their faith they were tortured and finally beheaded. The bodies
were secretly taken by some Christians and buried with honour.
The defeated Emperor passed final sentence on the Saint. He was to he
beheaded and his body was to he cremated. The Saint was taken and tied to
an olive tree. As the soldier raised his sword to behead the Saint, the
sword melted as if it were made of wax. The soldiers fell to their knees
and admitted their beliefs in Christ. The Saint prayed for them and forgave
them for their sins. A voice came from heaven, saying to Pantoleonta that
all he had asked for had been granted and that from this time on he would
he known not as Pantoleonta, but as Panteleimon (All-merciful). He forced
the soldiers to behead him so that he could receive the crown of martyrdom.
After kissing the Saint, the soldiers beheaded him. St Panteleimon gave his
life for Christ on 27 July 304 AD. It is said that the olive tree to which
he was tied, immediately bloomed and brought forth fruit. Hearing of this,
the Emperor ordered that the tree be cut down and that the body be burned.
The soldiers, however, did not return to the palace. They and other
Christians, took the holy body and buried it. The body was anointed with
myrrh and buried outside of the city in the Place of the Scholar
St John of Damascus informs us that the remains were transported to
Constantinople, however, in the 12th century they were removed by the
Crusaders. St Panteleimon is often asked by faithful Christians to aid them
in times of sickness. He is believed to take special interest in those who
are crippled. He is considered equal to the Benevolent Saints Cosmas and
Damianos. by Christina Dedoussis From: http://www.greekorthodox.net.au