July 27: Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Healer

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St Panteleimon was born about 284 AD in the city of Nicodemia. His father, Efstorgios, was an idolater while his mother, Evouli, was a devout Christian. She raised her son, whose real name was Pantoleon, in the Christian way of life. She passed away while her son was still young.

His father sent him to study under the famous physician, Efrosinos. 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 Efrosinos to the palace and it was here that the ruler, Maximian, first saw him. He instructed Efrosinos to educate Pantoleon to the utmost so that he could be appointed royal physician.

ag--Panteleimon

Ermolaos, a presbyter of the Church in Nicodemia, watched Pantoleon every day as he went to his studies and finally asked him about his religion. Pantoleon 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. Pantoleon acknowledged everything he was told and from that time on, he went to Ermolaos for counsel and began to accept Christ with all his heart.

Time passed, and one day, with the grace of God, Pantoleon 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 Pantoleon, 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, Pantoleon 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 Ermolaos who baptised them.

Pantoleon distributed his wealth among the poor and then proceeded to cure all who came to him. The only payment the Saint 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 Christian place.

Pantoleon was ordered to appear before the Emperor, who described the charges that were brought before him and ordered Pantoleon 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 Pantoleon. 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 Pantoleon. 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.

Pantoleon 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 be beheaded and his body was to be 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 Pantoleon that all he had asked for had been granted and that from this time on he would he known not as Pantoleon, 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 Adamantinos.

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.