Whom the Holy Church commemorates on the 27th day of July
N THE REIGN of the impious Maximian, the cruel persecutor of Christians, almost the whole world was covered with the darkness of idolatry. Everywhere there raged a great persecution against those who believed in Christ, and many confessors of the most holy name of Jesus were dying as martyrs. At that time, in the land of Bithynia in the city of Nicomedia, there suffered for Christ the holy great martyr Panteleimon.
This sufferer for Christ, the most glorious of martyrs, was born in Nicomedia. His father, a rich and illustrious man, was called Eustorgius. His mother’s name was Eubule. His father was by faith a pagan, ardently devoted to idolatry; his mother was a Christian who had learnt the holy Faith from her parents and who fervently served Christ. Thus, his father and mother were united bodily but divided spiritually; he offered sacrifices to false gods, while she offered the sacrifice of praise to the true God (Ps 115:17; Heb 13:15). Their child was named Pantoleon, which means in everything a lion, because they thought that he would be like a lion in courage. But later the child was renamed Panteleimon, which means all-merciful, because he healed the sick without fee, gave alms to the poor, and generously distributed his paternal wealth to the needy.
From early childhood his mother educated him in Christian piety, beginning with the knowledge of the one true God living in the heavens, our Lord Jesus Christ, so that he might believe in Him and please Him by good deeds and turn away from heathen polytheism. The child attended to his mother’s instructions, and, as far as his age would allow, embraced them. But what a loss and privation! His mother and guide departed to the Lord while he was still a child. After her death, the child easily followed in the steps of his father’s error; and his father often took him to worship the idols, thus confirming him in pagan impiety.
Later, the child was sent to a grammar school, and when he had successfully passed the whole course of pagan studies, his father sent him to a medical school, entrusting him to a certain famous doctor, Euphrosynus, to be trained in the art of medicine. Having a receptive mind, the child easily learnt all that he was taught and soon excelled his fellow students, and could even bear comparison with his own teacher. In addition, he was courteous, eloquent and handsome, and made an excellent impression.
Even the Emperor Maximian knew of him, as the emperor was residing in Nicomedia at that time and persecuting the Christians. He burnt 20,000 of them in a church on Christmas Day, killed their Bishop Anthimus, and sentenced many others to various kinds of death after inhuman tortures. The doctor Euphrosynus often came to the imperial palaces of the tyrant, either to him personally or to his courtiers, for he was the court physician. When Euphrosynus came to the court, the young Pantoleon used to accompany him as his pupil, and all were amazed at the boy’s beauty and good sense. When the emperor saw him, he asked: “Where does he come from and whose son is he?”
Having received a reply, the emperor ordered him to be put through his medical training as soon as possible, as he wished to have the youth by him always, for he was worthy to stand before the emperor and serve him. By that time, the young man had already reached full maturity.
In those days there lived in Nicomedia an old priest called Hermolaus. Out of fear of the godless heathen, he lived in hiding with a few Christians in a small and insignificant house. As Pantoleon went to and from his medical master, his way led past the house where Hermolaus lived. Through a small window, Hermolaus saw the boy often passing by, and from his face and bearing knew that he was of a good character.
Perceiving in his spirit that the boy would be a chosen vessel of God, Hermolaus once went out to meet the boy and asked him to come into his house for a moment. The meek and obedient boy went into the priest’s house. Seating him beside him, the elder asked him from where he had come and about his whole manner of life. The boy told everything in detail, how his mother had been a Christian and was dead, and about his father who was alive and, according to pagan laws, worshipped many gods. Saint Hermolaus asked him: “But you, good child, to what side and faith would you like to belong, to your father’s or to your mother’s?”
“My mother,” replied the boy, “while she was alive, taught me her faith, and I loved her faith. But my father, being stronger, makes me keep the pagan laws and wants to put me in the imperial palace as a servant of the emperor.” “And what does your teacher teach you?” asked Saint Hermolaus again. “The teaching of Asclepiades, and of Hippocrates and Galen. That is what my father wanted; and my teacher says that if I master their teaching I shall easily be able to cure every kind of illness.”
In these words, Saint Hermolaus found an opportunity for a profitable discourse and began to sow in the boy’s heart, as on good soil, the good seed of the word of God: “Believe me, good youth,” he said, “I will tell you one truth; the teaching and art of Asclepiades, Hippocrates and Galen are nothing and of little help to those who resort to them. Yes, and the gods which the Emperor Maximian and your father and other pagans worship are false, and nothing but a masquerade and a hoax for the feeble-minded.
“However, there is one true and almighty God—Jesus Christ. If you will believe in Him, you will heal every disease simply by the invocation of His most pure name. For He gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, raised the dead, and with one word, freed people from possession by the demons, whom the heathen worship. Even His clothes gave healing. For a woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years, as soon as she touched the hem of His garment, was healed at once.
“But who can tell in detail all His wonderful acts? Just as it is impossible to count the sand of the sea, the stars of heaven, and the drops of water, so it is impossible to count the wonders and measure the greatness of God. He is a strong Helper to His servants, comforts the sorrowful, and heals the sick. He delivers from misfortunes and frees from the evils of the enemy without waiting to be asked, but anticipates the prayers and even the movement of the heart. He gives the power to do all this to those who love Him, and He bestows on them the gift to work still greater miracles. Finally, He gives them everlasting life in the eternal glory of the heavenly kingdom.”
Pantoleon received all this teaching of Saint Hermolaus as true and took it into his heart. He joyfully meditated upon it and said to the holy elder: “I frequently heard this from my mother and often saw how she prayed and invoked that God of Whom you have been telling me.”
From that day, Pantoleon came to the old priest every day, and enjoying his inspired talks, grew strong in the knowledge of the true God. When he returned from his teacher Euphrosynus, he never went home without first visiting the elder and receiving his soul-saving instructions.
Once on his return journey from his teacher, he went a little out of his way and chanced to find the body of a dead child which had been bitten by an enormous snake, and the snake itself lying near the poisoned child. At the sight of this, Pantoleon was at first frightened and stepped back a little, but then he thought to himself, “Now the time has come to test and be sure whether all that the old priest Hermolaus has said is true or not.” Looking up to heaven, he said: “Lord Jesus Christ, although I am unworthy to call upon Thee, yet if Thou wishest me to become Thy servant, show Thy power and cause that in Thy name this child may live.”
At once the child rose up alive as if from sleep. Then Pantoleon fully believed in Christ. He turned his bodily and spiritual eyes towards heaven and blessed God with joy and tears for having called him out of darkness into the light of His knowledge. Quickly, he went to Saint Hermolaus the priest, fell at his feet, and asked for baptism. He told him what had happened: how the dead child had come to life by the power of the name of Jesus Christ but that the snake had died.
Then, Saint Hermolaus went with him to see the dead snake, and when he had seen it, he thanked God for the miracle through which He had brought Pantoleon to the knowledge of Him. When he returned home, he baptized Pantoleon in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Then, he celebrated the Liturgy in his inner room and communicated him with the Divine Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ.
After his baptism, Pantoleon stayed with the priest Hermolaus for seven days, imbibing as from a fountain of living water the divine words communicated to him by the lips of the priest and by the grace of Christ. On the eighth day he went home, and his father asked him: “Where have you been, my son, for so many days? I have been anxious about you.”
“I have been with the teacher at the emperor’s court,” the Saint replied. “We treated a sick man whom the emperor loves very much, and we did not leave him for seven days until we had restored him to health.”
So said the Saint, and he told no lie. For in the form of a parable, he spoke the truth allegorically. In his mind, he referred to Saint Hermolaus as the teacher; by the royal palace, he meant that interior peace in which the Divine Mystery is accomplished; and by the sick man, he meant his own soul, which the Heavenly King loved, and which for seven days was given spiritual treatment.
When he came the next morning to Euphrosynus, the latter asked him: “Where have you been for so many days?” “My father, who had bought some property, sent me to receive it; and I took some time to examine carefully everything that is there, because it was bought for a great price.”
Here again he spoke allegorically of Holy Baptism which he had received, and of the other Mysteries of the Christian Faith which he had learnt and which are all of great price, exceeding all riches—for they were obtained by the Blood of Christ. When he heard this, Euphrosynus stopped his questions, and blessed Pantoleon was filled with the grace of God, bearing within him the treasure of holy faith. He was very concerned as to how to bring his father out of the darkness of idolatry and lead him to the light of the knowledge of Christ. Conversing with him wisely every day by parables and questions, he said to him:
“Father! Why do the gods who are fashioned standing remain standing just as they were at first and never sit? And why do those made sitting continue to sit till today and never stand?” “Your question is not quite clear to me,” replied his father, “and I do not know what to answer to it.”
By constantly putting questions of this kind to his father, the Saint caused him to lose faith in his gods and begin to understand the falsehood and error of idolatry. His father formerly used to offer large numbers of sacrifices to the idols every day, but now he stopped worshipping them and began to despise them.
Seeing this, Pantoleon rejoiced that at least he had aroused doubt in his father regarding the idols, even if he had not yet completely succeeded in turning him away from them. Pantoleon often wished to smash his father’s idols, of which there were many in his house, but he restrained himself, partly so as not to anger his father—whom according to the commandments of God we must honour—and partly because he was waiting for the time when his father would know the true God and would want to destroy them with his own hands.
At that time, a blind man was brought to Pantoleon who asked for healing in this way: “I beg you, spare me who am blind and deprived of the precious light. All the doctors of this city have treated me, and I have received no benefit from them whatsoever, but instead, I have lost the last specks of light which I could see, together with all my property. For I have spent everything to pay them, and instead of healing I have received only harm and loss of time.”
The Saint replied: “If you have spent all your money on those doctors from whom you received no benefit, how will you remunerate me if you receive healing and are able to see?” “All the little that I have left,” cried the blind man, “I shall readily give to you.”
“The gift of sight,” said the Saint, “which reveals the light to you, will be given to you by the Father of lights, the true God, through me, His unworthy servant. And so, give what you have promised not to me, but distribute it among the poor.”
Hearing this, Eustorgius, Pantoleon’s father, said to him: “My son, do not rashly undertake a thing which you cannot do, or you will make a fool of yourself. In actual fact, what more can you do than the doctors more experienced than you who treated him but could not cure him?”
“Not one of those doctors,” retorted the Saint, “knows the means that I know, for there is a tremendous difference between them and my teacher who revealed his means to me.”
Thinking that he was speaking about his teacher Euphrosynus, his father remarked: “I have heard that your teacher also treated this blind man and could do nothing.”
“Wait a little, my father,” replied Pantoleon, “and you will see the power of my treatment.” With these words he touched the eyes of the blind man with his fingers, saying: “In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ Who enlightens the blind, receive your sight.”
At once, the eyes of the blind man were opened and he began to see. And at that moment, Pantoleon’s father Eustorgius, as well as the man who had recovered his sight, believed in Christ. Both were baptized by the holy priest Hermolaus, and they were filled with great spiritual joy at the power and grace of Christ.
Then Eustorgius began to smash all the idols in his house, and his son Pantoleon helped him. Having broken all the idols to pieces, they threw the remains into a deep ditch and covered them with earth. Eustorgius lived only a short time after this and then passed on to the Lord. Having thus become the heir to the extremely rich paternal estates, Pantoleon at once gave his men and women slaves their freedom and generously remunerated them.
He gave his property away to the needy: to beggars, to the poor, to widows and orphans. He went round to the prisons and visited all who were suffering in chains, comforting them with medical treatment and gifts of those things of which they were in need. Thus, he was a physician not only of wounds but also of human misery and poverty. All received from him generous help; the poor were enriched by his generosity, and in curing them he was helped by the grace of God.
He was given the gift of healing from on high, and he healed every kind of disease free of charge—not so much by means of medicines as by invoking the name of Jesus Christ. Then Pantoleon truly became Panteleimon, that is, all-merciful, and by name and in deed he showed mercy to all. He did not let anyone go away from him without alms or consolation. For to those who were in need he gave assistance and treated the sick without payment. The whole city brought their sick to him and left all the other doctors because they received from no one such quick and perfect healing as from Panteleimon, who successfully treated everyone and accepted payment from no one.
The name of the merciful physician became known to all, and the other doctors were condemned and mocked. As a result, there arose on the part of the doctors no little jealousy and enmity in regard to the Saint. It had already begun at the time when the blind man regained his sight, but it reached a peak in the following manner.
Once, when the formerly blind man was walking in the city, the doctors saw him and said to themselves: “Is that not the man who was blind and sought healing from us, and whom we could not cure? But how is it that he now sees? Who healed him and opened his eyes, and by what means?”
They asked the man how he had regained his sight, and he did not conceal that his doctor had been Panteleimon. “A great disciple of a great master!” said they, knowing him to be the pupil of Euphrosynus.
However, they knew not that the power of Christ acted through Panteleimon, and unwittingly, they confessed the truth that Panteleimon was a great disciple of a great Master, Jesus Christ. Though they insincerely praised the Saint with their lips, at the same time, out of envy, they planned evil in their hearts and watched the Saint, trying to find some accusation against him in order to kill him. Noticing that he went to the prisons and healed the wounds of disciples suffering for Christ, they informed Maximian, the tyrant:
“Emperor! The youth whom you ordered to study medical science and wished to have by you in your palace is spurning your obvious kindness to him, going around the prisons treating the disciples of Christ who blaspheme our gods, and turning others to the same impious philosophy. If you do not kill him quickly, he will cause you great disturbance because you will see how many, thanks to his seductive teaching, will be perverted from the gods. Truly, the medical art by which Pantoleon heals, he ascribes not to Aesculapius or to any other of the gods, but to a certain Christ; and all whom he heals believe in Him.”
Thus spoke the slanderers, and they begged the emperor to order the blind man who had been healed by Pantoleon to be summoned as exact evidence to confirm the justice of their words. The emperor at once ordered that the blind man who had regained his sight be searched out. When he was brought, he asked him: “Tell me, O man, how did Pantoleon heal your eyes?”
“He called upon the name of Christ,” the man replied, “and touched my eyes, and I regained my sight immediately.” “And do you think,” asked the emperor, “that Christ healed you, or did the gods?”
“Emperor!” he replied, “these doctors which you see around you did their best to heal me over a long period of time; they took all that I had and not only failed to relieve me in the least but also deprived me of the little sight that I had, finally leaving me blind. Panteleimon, by a single invocation of the name of Christ, made me see. And now, O Emperor, judge and decide for yourself who the best and real doctor is: Aesculapius and the other gods, who over a long period of time were invoked and did not help at all, or Christ, Who was invoked only once by Panteleimon alone and instantly gave me healing.”
Not knowing what to answer, the emperor—as is the way with all tyrants—began to induce him to impiety: “Do not talk nonsense, O man, and do not mention Christ. It is evident that the gods have given you the ability to see the light.”
Without heeding the emperor’s power nor fearing the tyrant’s threat, the healed man replied to Maximian more boldly than did the blind man of the Gospel when he was once cross-examined by the Pharisees (John 9:27): “You are talking nonsense yourself, O Emperor, when you call your blind gods givers of sight; and you are like them in not wanting to see the truth.”
The emperor was filled with anger and ordered him to be beheaded immediately. So the head of the good confessor of the name of Jesus Christ was cut off, and he departed in order to see, face to face in the unwaning heavenly Light, Him Whom he had confessed on earth after receiving bodily sight. Saint Panteleimon bought his body from the murderers and buried it near the body of his father.
After this, the emperor sent for Pantoleon. As the soldiers led the Saint to the emperor, he sang the words of the psalm of David: O God, turn not Thine ear from my praise: for the mouth of the sinner and the mouth of the deceiver is opened against me, and the rest of the psalm (Ps 108). Thus, with his body he stood before an earthly king, but with his spirit, before the King of Heaven.
Looking at him without any anger, the Emperor Maximian began to gently persuade him thus: “It is not good things that I have heard about you, Pantoleon. They tell me that you criticize and derogate Aesculapius and the other gods, while you glorify Christ, Who died an evil death; and you hope in Him, and Him alone you call God. You are not unaware, I think, of what great attention I have paid you and what great kindness I have shown you in that you are received at my court and that I have ordered your master Euphrosynus to teach you the art of medicine swiftly so that you may be always by me. But you have scorned all this and turned to my enemies. Yet, I do not wish to believe what they say of you, because people are accustomed to speak much falsehood. Therefore, I have sent for you that you may tell the truth about yourself, exposing the calumny of your detractors in the presence of all, and duly offer sacrifice to the great gods.”
“We must show our faith more by deeds than by words, O Emperor,” the Saint replied, “because truth is known more from deeds than from words. And so believe the stories about me, that I deny Aesculapius and your other gods and glorify Christ, because from His deeds I have learnt that He is the one true God. Listen briefly to the deeds of Christ: He created the heavens and established the earth, raised the dead, restored sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, and with one word raised the paralyzed from their beds. What the gods whom you worship have done in a like manner, I do not know. Can they create?
“If you would like to know the almighty power of Christ, you will indeed see its action immediately. Order some man to be brought here who is mortally ill, for whom the doctors have lost hope. Let your priests come and invoke their gods, and I will invoke my God. Whichever of the gods heals the sick man, let him be acknowledged as the one true God, and let the rest be rejected.”
The emperor liked this suggestion of the Saint, and he at once ordered a sick man to be found. They brought before the emperor a man who had lain paralyzed upon his bed for many years, who could not move a single limb and was like some insensible tree. Then came the priests who served the idols and who were experienced in the art of medicine, and they offered the Saint that he should first invoke his Christ. But the Saint retorted:
“If I invoke my God, and my God heals this paralytic, who will your gods heal? But you first invoke your gods, and if they heal the sick man, what need will there be to invoke my God?”
And so the priests began to invoke their gods; one invoked Aesculapius, another Zeus, a third Diana, others invoked other devils, and neither voice nor any other sign of attention was to be noted. For a long time, they offered their godless prayers without any success. Then seeing their futile efforts, the Saint laughed. Noticing that he was laughing, the emperor said to Pantoleon: “You, Pantoleon, make this man well—if you can—by invoking your God.”
“Let the priests go away,” said the Saint; and so they did. Then, going up to the bed, the Saint raised his eyes to heaven and said the following prayer:
“O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to Thee. Turn not Thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble: incline Thine ear to me. Answer me speedily in the day when I call upon Thee (Ps 101:2-3), and manifest Thine almighty power before those who do not know Thee, for all things are possible for Thee, O King of Powers!”
Having said this prayer, the Saint took the paralytic by the hand, saying: “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, rise and be well!” At once the paralytic arose, feeling strength in his whole body, and he rejoiced. Then taking up his bed, he carried it to his house.
Seeing this miracle, many of the bystanders believed in Christ. But the priests who served the idols gnashed their teeth at the servant of Christ and said to the emperor: “If he remains alive, the offering of sacrifice to the gods will be destroyed, and we shall be derided by the Christians. Kill him, O Emperor, as quickly as possible.”
Then the emperor said to Pantoleon: “Offer sacrifice to the gods, Pantoleon, and do not die for nothing. You know how many people have been killed because they denied our gods and repudiated our order. Surely you know how cruelly the elder Anthimus was tortured?”
“All who have died for Christ,” replied the Saint, “have not perished, but have found for themselves eternal life. And if Anthimus, who was an old man and weak bodily, could bear cruel tortures for our Lord, how much more must I, who am young and strong in body, endure fearlessly all the tortures to which you subject me? For I shall regard life as empty if I do not die for Christ. And if I die, I shall count that as gain” (cf. Phil 1:21).
The emperor then ordered that the Martyr be hung naked on the tree of torture and that his body be scraped with iron hooks while his ribs be seared with burning candles. Enduring all these sufferings, he gazed toward heaven and said: “O Lord Jesus Christ! Support me at this hour; grant me patience, so that I may bear tortures to the end.”
And the Lord appeared to him in the form of the priest Hermolaus and said: “Fear not! I am with thee.”
At once, the hands of the torturers weakened as if they were withered, so that the weapons of torture fell from them and the candles were extinguished. Seeing this, the emperor ordered the Martyr to be taken from the tree and said to him:
“Wherein lies the power of your magic, that even the servants were exhausted and the candles were extinguished?” “My magic is Christ,” replied the Martyr. “His almighty power acts upon all things.”
“And what will you do,” asked the emperor, “should I order yet more violent tortures?” “In greater tortures,” replied the Martyr, “my Christ will manifest greater power and will bestow upon me greater patience that you may be brought to shame. And by bearing greater tortures for Him, I shall receive from Him greater rewards.”
Then the tormentor ordered that lead be melted in a huge cauldron and the Martyr be thrown into it. When the lead was melted and the Martyr lifted into the cauldron, he raised his eyes toward heaven and prayed:
“O God, hear my cry when I pray to Thee: deliver my soul from fear of the enemy. Protect me from the swarm of evildoers, and from the crowd of those whose work is iniquity” (Ps 63:2-3).
As he prayed, the Lord again appeared to him in the form of Hermolaus. Taking him by the hand, He went with him into the cauldron; and at once the fire was extinguished and the lead became cold, while the Martyr sang the words of the psalm:
“I cried unto God and the Lord heard me. In the evening and morning and at noonday I will pray and declare my needs, and He will hear my voice” (Ps 54:17-18).
The bystanders were amazed at the miracles, but the emperor cried: “What may be attempted next if the fire is put out and the lead cooled? To what torture shall I deliver this magician? Since he cannot bewitch the whole sea, let him be cast into the depths of the sea, and he will immediately perish.”
The tormentor ordered this to be done. So the servants seized the Martyr and led him to the sea. There they put him into a boat and tied a large stone to his neck. When they had sailed far out from the shore, they threw him into the sea, while they themselves returned to the land.
When the Saint was cast into the sea, again Christ appeared as on the first occasion in the form of Hermolaus. The stone tied to the Martyr’s neck became as light as a leaf so that Panteleimon was held on the surface of the sea by it without sinking, and he walked on the water as on dry land, guided by the hand of Christ, as was once the Apostle Peter. He stepped onto the shore, praising and glorifying God, and stood before the emperor. The emperor was left speechless by this miracle, and then cried: “What is the power of your witchcraft, Pantoleon, that you subject even the sea to it?”
“Even the sea,” explained the Saint, “obeys my Master and does His will.” “And so you rule the sea?” asked the emperor. “Not I,” replied the Martyr, “but Christ, the Creator and Master of every creature, visible and invisible. He is Lord of heaven and earth, and equally of the sea: For His way is in the sea and His paths in many waters” (Ps 76:20).
Thereafter, the tyrant ordered a circus to be prepared outside the walls so as to deliver the Martyr to be eaten by wild beasts. The entire city gathered for this sight, wishing to see how a handsome young man, suffering innocently, would be torn by the wild beasts. Here, too, the emperor made his appearance; leading the Martyr, he pointed with his finger to the animals and said:
“They are prepared for you! So, obey me; be heedful of your youth, spare the beauty of your body and offer sacrifice to the gods—otherwise you will die a cruel death, torn by the teeth of wild beasts.”
Notwithstanding, the Saint expressed a desire to be torn by the wild beasts rather than submit to such wicked advice, and thus he was thrown to the animals. Again, the Lord appeared to him as the priest Hermolaus, closing the mouths of the beasts, making them as gentle as lambs, so that they crept up to the Saint and licked his feet. He stroked them with his hand, as they crowded one another trying to be touched by him. When the people saw this, they were amazed and shouted: “Great is the God of the Christians! Let the innocent and righteous youth be set free!”
The emperor, filled with anger, sent the soldiers with drawn swords against those who were glorifying Christ as God. Thus, many of the people who believed in Christ were killed. Then the emperor ordered all the wild beasts to be slaughtered. Seeing this, the Martyr cried: “Glory to Thee, O Christ God, that not only people but even wild animals die for Thee!”
Grieved and angry, the emperor cast the Martyr into prison and withdrew from this place of public spectacle. Those who had been killed were taken and buried by their own people, but the wild beasts were left as prey for dogs and carnivorous birds. However, a great miracle took place—those wild animals lay for many days untouched not only by dogs but even by birds; and what is more, their carcasses did not stink. When the emperor heard of this, he ordered the carcasses to be thrown into a deep pit and covered with earth.
For the Martyr, the tyrant ordered a frightful wheel to be made, fixed with sharp spikes. However, when the Saint was fastened to it, and the wheel turned, by the action of some invisible power it suddenly flew to pieces, mortally wounding many standing nearby, although the Martyr came away from the wheel whole and unharmed. Great fear came upon all at the sight of these miracles by which God was glorified in the person of His Saint. The emperor was astounded and asked the Martyr: “Who taught you to perform such great enchantments?”
“It is not magic,” said the Martyr, “but true Christian piety that I was taught by a holy man, the priest Hermolaus.” “And where is your teacher Hermolaus?” asked the emperor. “We should like to see him.”
Now the Saint perceived in his spirit that the time drew near when Hermolaus should receive the crown of martyrdom, and he answered the emperor: “If you order me, I shall bring him.” Therefore, the Saint, escorted by three guards, was sent to summon the priest Hermolaus.
When the Martyr came to the house where the priest lived, the elder asked him: “My son, why have you come?” “My teacher and my father, the emperor has sent me after you.”
“You have arrived in time to call me,” said the elder, “because the hour of my passion and death has come. Last night, the Lord appeared to me and said: ‘Hermolaus! You will have to suffer much for Me, like My servant Panteleimon.’”
With these words the elder joyfully went with the Martyr and stood before the emperor. The emperor only asked him his name. The Saint told him his name and did not hide his faith from him, saying loudly that he was a Christian. The emperor then asked him: “Is there anyone else with you of the same faith?”
“I have two fellow servants, true slaves of Christ, Hermippus and Hermocrates,” replied the elder. Then the emperor ordered them to be sent for, and he said to the three servants of Christ: “Is it you who have turned Pantoleon from our gods?”
“Christ our God,” they retorted, “calls to Himself those whom He considers worthy and leads them out of the darkness of idolatry into the light of His knowledge.”
“Now stop your lying words,” said the emperor, “and turn Pantoleon back to the gods; then your first fault will be forgiven you, and you will receive such honours as become my closest friends at court.”
“How can we do that,” the saints asked firmly, “when we ourselves are ready to die with him for Christ our God? Neither we nor he will deny Christ, still less shall we offer sacrifices to deaf and empty idols.”
So saying, they all turned their thoughts to God and began to pray, lifting their eyes toward heaven. From above, the Saviour appeared to them, and immediately an earthquake shook the entire palace.
“You see how the gods are angry with you,” cried the emperor, “they are shaking the earth!” “You have said the truth,” agreed the saints, “that owing to your gods the earth was shaken; for they have fallen from their places to the ground and have been smashed, cast down by the power of our God Who is angry with you!”
While they were speaking, a messenger came running to the emperor from the temple with the news that all their idols had fallen to the ground and had been smashed to dust. But the senseless emperor, seeing in all this not the power of God but Christian sorcery, cried: “Truly, unless we kill these magicians quickly, the whole city shall perish on account of them.”
He ordered Panteleimon to be taken to prison, while Hermolaus and his two friends, after being subjected to many tortures, were sentenced to be beheaded by the sword. Thereupon, the three holy martyrs, Hermolaus, Hermippus and Hermocrates, having fulfilled their martyr’s confession, stood together before the Holy Trinity in heavenly glory.
Afterwards, the emperor ordered Saint Panteleimon to be brought before him and addressed him with these words:
“I have turned many from Christ to our gods; you alone do not wish to obey me. Your teacher Hermolaus with his two friends have already worshipped the gods and offered sacrifice to them, and I have honoured them with distinguished rank in my court. Now you do likewise, and you shall receive the same honour as they.”
But knowing in his spirit that the saints had met their end, the Martyr asked the emperor: “Order them to come here so that I may see them in your presence.” “They are not here now,” lied the emperor, “for I have sent them away to another city where they will receive great riches.”
“Against your will you have spoken the truth,” the Saint explained to him, “for you have ordered them away from here by sentencing them to death. Indeed they have departed to the heavenly city of Christ to receive wealth which is impossible for the eye to see” (cf. 1 Cor 2:9).
Realizing that it was impossible to deflect the Martyr from his faith, the emperor ordered him to be beaten cruelly. After he had been severely wounded, he was sentenced to death—his head to be severed with the sword and his body burnt. The soldiers took him out of the city to be beheaded.
As he was going to his death, the Saint sang the psalm of David: “Often have they fought against me from my youth, yet have not prevailed against me. The sinners plowed on my back,” and so on, to the end of the psalm (Ps 128).
When the soldiers had led the Martyr some distance from the city, they came to the place where it was pleasing to the Lord that His servant should meet his end. They bound Panteleimon to an olive tree and the executioner struck the Saint on the neck with sword. However, the iron bent like wax, and the Saint did not receive the blow—for he had not yet completed his prayer.
The soldiers cried out in horror: “Great is the God of the Christians!” Immediately, they fell at the Saint’s feet, pleading: “We beg you, servant of God, pray for us that our sins which we have committed against you by the emperor’s order may be forgiven.”
While the Saint prayed, a voice was heard from heaven, speaking to him and confirming his change of name. Instead of Pantoleon, the Lord called him Panteleimon, and manifestly communicated to him the grace to have mercy on all who resort to him amidst all troubles and sorrows. Thereafter, the Lord called him to heaven.
Filled with joy, the Saint instructed the soldiers to cut off his head. However, they would not because they were afraid. Then the Saint said to them: “If you do not do what I have told you, you will not receive mercy from my Christ.”
Then the soldiers came and first kissed his whole body. Afterward, one of them was instructed to behead him, and in place of blood, there flowed out milk. Straightaway, the olive tree was covered with fruit from the root to the top. Witnessing this, many of the people who were present at the execution believed in Christ.
When the emperor was informed of these miracles, he ordered that the olive tree immediately be cut into pieces and burnt with the Saint’s body. After the fire had gone out, the faithful took the Martyr’s body from the ashes, quite unharmed by the fire, and buried it with honour on the land adjacent to the scholar Adamantius.
Laurence, Bassus, and Probian, who were servants in the Martyr’s house, and who, following him at a distance, witnessed all his sufferings and heard the voice that came to him from heaven, recorded the story of his life and martyrdom. They delivered it to the holy churches in memory of the Saint, for the benefit of those who read and hear it,
to the glory of Christ our God, glorified
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and unto
the ages of ages.