July 27, 2009

The Role of Saint Panteleimon in the Life of Saint Nicholas Planas

Saint Panteleimon the Great Martyr and Unmercenary (Feast Day - July 27)

Saint Panteleimon is one of Orthodoxy's most beloved Saints and in our modern times has become the companion and protector of many of our contemporary saints. Below are given some details from the life of Saint Nicholas Planas. Other contemporary saints in which Saint Panteleimon plays an important role are the blessed Elder Paisios the Athonite and the recently reposed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi.

On March 2, 1885 St. Nicholas Planas was ordained a priest. He always served at three churches: Saint Panteleimon's near Ilissus, Saint John the Hunter's and Prophet Elisseus' behind the Old Barracks.

His first assignment was as a parish priest at Saint Panteleimon's in Neos Kosmos, Athens. When he arrived the church was totally abandoned and overgrown with weeds, and shepherds would go and pasture their flocks there. Papa-Nicholas got the weeds out of the church and was the first to serve there.

Saint Panteleimon's parish consisted of -- thirteen families! During his term as parish priest, another priest without a parish visited him and asked to concelebrate in the Liturgy, and he, good and simple as he was, accepted him wholeheartedly. However, this priest made an agreement with the then church wardens of Saint Panteleimon's and they fired Papa-Nicholas and sent him to the Church of Saint John ("the Hunter," as they called the church in those days) on Vouliagmeni Road. The parish of this church consisted of -- eight families! And the priest's salary was a piece of meat from the lamb of Meat-fare Sunday or Christmas. That didn't bother Papa-Nicholas at all; he thought fasting was the corner-stone of virtue. It was enough that he had a church so that he could serve the Liturgy.

His dismissal from the Church of Saint Panteleimon caused him great spiritual sorrow. One night, as he left Saint John's to go home, he was weeping on the road. The place was deserted at that hour. Suddenly, he saw on the road a fine young man who said to him, "Why do you weep, my Father?"

"I weep, my child, because they chased me out of Saint Panteleimon's."

"Don't be grieved, my Father. I am always with you."

Papa-Nicholas said, "Who are you, my child?"

"I," he said, "am Panteleimon, who lives at Neos Kosmos." And immediately he disappeared from in front of him.

He himself described this vision word for word to a daughter of his synodia.

Every year, on the feast of St. Panteleimon, he would go to the Saint's church in Neo Kosmo and do a vigil. One year, as he himself related, he was sick and had a fever. His relative did not allow him to go for his customary vigil. But because of the love which Father Nicholas had for the Saint, he went anyway.

"That night," he himself said, "after the vigil, exhausted, I leaned on the edge of the Holy Table. In the delirium of the fever I saw the Saint in front of me, young and vigorous, holding a small glass full of medicine, and he told me, 'Drink it, my Father, to become well.' I took it from the hand and drank it and became completely well. The fever left me! For a whole week I had the sweetness in my throat. I thought it was a sin and ungrateful not to mention it. I came out through the Royal Gate and said, 'My children, I was very sick tonight, and at this moment Saint Panteliemon gave me medicine and I drank and became well.' Everyone believed it and knelt down, glorifying the Saint."

In the year 1923, one of his spiritual children who was exceptionally beloved by the Elder - a gentleman full of health and vigor - suffered a rupture of the appendix, and lived only eight days more. During those few days, Father Nicholas brought heaven down to earth with his unceasing and heartfelt prayer that his beloved child might live! One night when he came home, he said, grief-stricken, to his family, "Elias is going to die; Saint John and Saint Panteleimon told me." And truly, his beloved spiritual child departed - his child whom he would embrace every time he met him.

Three months passed before the sister of the deceased was able - because of her inexpressible grief - to ask exactly how he had seen the vision. He told her then, "At the time when I was serving Liturgy, I saw across from me, behind the Holy Table, Saint John and Saint Panteleimon, and they said to me, 'We conveyed your request to our Master, Christ, who told us that he would die.'"

"A higher command", they told him.

We bowed our heads, somewhat comforted.