Saturday, August 12, 2017

Holy Abba Palamon, Spiritual Father of Saint Pachomios the Great

St. Palamon the Anchorite (Feast Day - August 12)

Verses

Palamon gave his soul into the hands of God,
And was not taken by the hands of the soul-destroyer.

Abba Palamon was fervent in his asceticism and worship. He persevered, all the days of his life, in daily and nightly prayers, and watching all night in ascetic worship. Saint Pachomios, the father of monastic communal life, otherwise known as cenobitic monasticism, was the disciple of this Saint. When Pachomios rejected paganism and adopted Christianity, he wished to live a life of asceticism and worship, so the priest of his hometown directed him to go to the great hermit Abba Palamon. Pachomios handed the care for the poor and the needy in his town to another elder monk, and went to Abba Palamon. When he arrived, he knocked on the door of his cell. The old man looked from an aperture and asked him, "Who are you O brother? And what do you want?" Pachomios answered hastily, "I, O blessed father, am looking for Christ God Whom you do worship, and I beg your fatherhood to accept me and to make me a monk." Abba Palamon told him, "O my son, monasticism is not an unrestricted labor, and a man does not come into it as he pleases, for many had adopted it not knowing its hardships, and when they adopted it they could not endure it, and you have heard about it without knowing its contention."

Pachomios replied, "Do not turn down my request, and my desire, and do not put off the flame of my zeal. Accept me, be patient with me, and examine me, and afterward do whatever you see fit with me." The old man told him, "Go, O my son, test yourself alone for a period of time, then come back to me for I am willing to labor with you as much as my weakness allows so you might know your own self. The monastic piety needs toughness and asceticism, and I will teach you first its extent. Then you go and examine yourself if you could endure the matter or not. My intent in that, God knows, is for the sake of your teaching and discipline and not for any other reason. When we, O my beloved son, knew the vanity and trickery of this world, we came to this distant place, and carried on our shoulders the cross of our Christ, not the wooden rod, but the overcoming of the flesh, subduing its lusts, and wasting its power. We spent the night praying and glorifying God. Often we vigil from sunset till the morning praying and working much with our hands, making either ropes, braid palm fibers, weave palm leaves or hair to resist sleep and to have what our bodies need and to feed the poor as the apostle said, 'remember the needy.' We entirely do not know the eating of oil, cooked food or drinking liquors. We fast till the evening of the summer days, and two days at a time during the winter then we break the fast by eating only bread and salt. We keep away the boredom by remembering death, and how close it is. We refute every pride and exaltation and guard ourselves from evil thoughts by humility and piety. By this ascetic striving that is accomplished by the grace of God, we offer our souls a living sacrifice, acceptable to God, not only once but many times. For according to the striving and how much we exert ourselves in it, we realize spiritual gifts, remembering the saying of the Lord, 'Those overcame themselves, seize the Kingdom of Heaven.'"

When Pachomios heard from Abba Palamon these sayings that he never heard before, he was more assured by the Spirit, and was encouraged on facing the hardships and enduring the pains. He replied saying, "I am confident in the Lord Christ first, and by the support of your prayers second, that I would be able to fulfill all the precepts, and persevere with you till death."

Pachomios then kneeled before him and kissed his hand. The old man preached to him and instructed him about the importance of mortifying the flesh, humility and contrition of the heart. He told him, "If you kept what I told you, did not go back, or vacillate between two opinions, we will rejoice with you." Then he told him, "Do you think my son that by all what I mentioned to you from asceticism, praying, watching and fasting we ask for the glory of men, no my son, it is not like that. We lead you to the works of salvation so we would be blameless, for it is written every apparent thing is brought to light, and we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of heaven. Now go back to your abode so you might examine yourself and test for few days, for what you are asking is not an easy task."

Pachomios answered him saying, "I have examined myself in everything, and I hope with the Grace of God and your holy prayers, that your heart would be pleased toward me." The old man answered, "Good."

Abba Palamon accepted him with joy, then left him for ten days testing him in prayer, watching and fasting. Three months later and after he tested his patience, endurance, striving and will, he prayed over him, clipped off his hair, and put on him the garb of the monks.

They persevered together in asceticism and prayer as they worked in their spare times in weaving hair and knitting clothes to gain their bare necessities, and what they spared they gave to the needy. Whenever they were vigilant and sleep overcame them, they went out of their cells and moved sand from one place to another to exhaust their bodies and remove the sleep away from them. The old man went on teaching the young man and encouraging him saying, "Be courageous O Pachomios, let your devotion to God always be inflamed with the fire of love, and stand before Him, in fear, humility, and perseverance in praying and kneeling without boredom. Be watchful lest the tempter examine you and give you grief."

One day someone knocked on the door of Palamon and Pachomios to visit them, and he spent the night with them. Pride and self-reliance had overcome that person. While they were talking about the words of God and before them was a fire, for it was winter, the guest told them, "Whoever of you has strong faith in God, let him rise up, stand on these blazing embers, and recite the prayer which the Lord had taught to His disciples." When the old man Palamon heard this, he admonished him saying, "Cursed is the defiled devil who planted this thought in your heart. So stop talking." The guest did not head to the words of the old man and said, "I, I would." He rose up and stood on the blazing coal while saying the Lord's prayer slowly. Then he stepped out of the fire which did not touch his body with any harm, and went to his abode with arrogance. Pachomios told Abba Palamon, "God knows that I marveled about this brother who stood on the embers and his feet did not burn." The old man replied saying, "Do not be amazed for there is no doubt that this is from the work of the devil. The Lord had allowed his feet not to be burned, as it is written, to the crooked, God sends crooked ways. Believe me O my son, if you know the torment that is prepared for him, you will be weeping for his wretchedness."

The devil came to this man in the form of a woman and enticed him to allow her to enter his cell. Because of the pride and the blindness of his perception, he did not realize the danger that surrounded him. Lust filled his heart toward her, and immediately the devil struck and threw him on the ground and he remained as a dead man for a day. When he regained his conscious and his faculties, he went to Abba Palamon weeping and remorseful for what he had done. He asked for their help and prayers for the devil had captivated him by his own free will. While he was talking to them, the old man and his disciple were weeping, and the evil spirit suddenly came over him. He went to the mountain, and he lost his mind. He was astray for a period of time, then he threw himself in a fire which burned him. When the old man knew that, he was grieved. His disciple asked him, "How did God allow this to happen to him after he confessed and asked for repentance with tears and remorse." The Abba answered, "God with His foreknowledge knew that the repentance of this brother was not sincere, so He allowed him to reap what he did."

While Pachomios was still staying with his teacher Abba Palamon, one day he was wandering in the wilderness, and he came to the village of Tabennisi. When he was praying, the angel of the Lord appeared and told him, "O Pachomios, with the order of the Lord, build a monastery in the spot that your are standing on. Hence many will come to you seeking monasticism." He returned to the old man Palamon and told him what the angel had told him, and his intention of fulfilling the will of God. Abba Palamon was sad for the departure of his disciple and said, "How could you leave me after seven years you spent with me in obedience and submission and I am an old man. I see that it is easier on me to accompany you than you leaving me."

They moved south until they came to Tabennisi, and started to build a monastery. That was around the year 322, and Pachomios was thirty years old. When they finished building the monastery, Abba Palamon told his disciple Pachomios, "My beloved son, I long to return to my cell and the place of my solitude. I had known that God had appointed you to establish this monastery, which will grow and be filled with God-pleasing monks. You shall receive power and long-suffering to manage them. As of myself, I have became old, weak, and the time of my departure has drawn near. So I see that my solitary life is best for me. Nevertheless, I ask from your kindness that you do not deprive me from seeing you from now and then. I shall come to visit you as the few days left for me allow." They were separated after they prayed with each other, and they visited each other.

Not long after this, Saint Palamon fell sick. He was persuaded by some brothers to see a doctor. The doctor found that he was simply exhausted from his fasting and advised him to take more appropriate food. The Saint obeyed this for a few days without feeling any improvement. He then spoke to the brothers, "Do not think that healing and strength come from perishable foods. No, they come from our Lord. If the martyrs of Christ preserved in their faith to death, enduring the separation of their limbs, or being beheaded or burnt to death, is it not fitting that I should be weakened by a little sickness?" With this he went back to his mortifications. When Pachomius heard about the sickness of Palamon, he came to him and ministered to him till his death in 323. Thus Abba Pachomios received the blessings of his teacher, shrouded and buried him, then he returned to Tabennisi.

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