February 9, 2011

Homily One on the Holy Hieromartyr Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina

St. Pankratios of Taormina (Feast Day - February 9)
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios

Among the saints that the Church celebrates today, dear brethren, is the Holy Hieromartyr Pankratios, Bishop of Taormina. Saint Pankratios lived during the years of Christ and the Holy Apostles. He came from Antioch, and when he went to Jerusalem with his parents, received Holy Baptism. Then, after the death of his parents, Saint Pankratios went to the area of the Black Sea, entered a cave and "lived alone in silence". There he met the Apostle Peter in his travels, who took him with him to parts of Cilicia, where he introduced Pankratios to the Apostle Paul, who made him bishop of Taormina, Sicily. There Saint Pankratios did many miracles, cured many diseases, and demolished the idols the people venerated. Many believed in Christ, even prince Boniface himself. But followers of the heretic Montanus killed him.

The hymns of the Church written to honor Saint Pankratios refer to this personality. One of these call him the "honorable stone" that was the foundation of the Church. Another hymn speaks of the fact that Saint Pankratios, by the grace of the All-Holy Spirit, opened ditches in the hearts of people and there sowed the seed and inserted the farmer in heaven, Christ. Another hymn speaks of his establishing in the West, to which he was sent as a bishop to shepherd, the East, having brought with him the sunrise of divine knowledge of Him Who is beyond human thought, Christ, and there tied them with his athleticism and raised it to the everlasting light, where is seen the desired beauty of Christ the Judge.

In the life of Saint Pankratios we see the close relationship between faith, baptism, asceticism, the hierarchy and martyrdom. This means that the Christian life is united and does not divide the Mysteries (Sacraments) from faith, asceticism from the priesthood, and martyrdom.

The apolytikion of the Saint, which was established to be chanted for many hieromartyrs, reveals that all hieromartyrs share a new tradition and life, and mentions that Saint Pankratios was not merely a successor of the Apostles, but was a shareholder of the life of the Apostles. It also emphasizes that he was divinely inspired, because he lived the praxis, namely the purification of the heart from passions, upon which he established theoria, namely the existential experience of God. And because he lived this spiritual life, for this reason he was found worthy of martyrdom, since martyrdom is not a human act and energy, but the fruit and effect of the union of man with God through the Mysteries and asceticism.

We honor the saints and martyrs, but we should see what it was that made them confessors, martyrs and saints. The primary factor is the grace of God, which is received through the Mysteries and flourishes with asceticism. The sanctification of man is the result of synergy, that is, the energies of God and the human reaction to it. God plays a primary role in the salvation of man, but in response to the freedom on the part of man in receiving God's love. If we remove the freedom of man, we fall into Monophysitism; and if we do not see the energies of God, we fall into Nestorianism and Humanism.

Saint Pankratios can be a model for us all, clergy and laity, men and women. He shows what is asceticism in Christ, what is the priesthood, and what is martyrdom. May we have his intercessions.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.