Monday, July 27, 2015

Saint Panteleimon and our Spiritual Health

1. Today, my Christian brethren, our Holy Church celebrates the memory of the great martyr Saint Panteleimon, the healer. It would take a lot of time to speak of the entire life and brilliant miracles of this Saint. I will only tell you a few things, as much as anyone can say in a short sermon.

Saint Panteleimon, my beloved, is identified as a physician. We have saints from every profession of human life: from teachers and judges and cooks and gardeners, no honorable occupation prevents a person from being sanctified. And so our Saint, Holy Panteleimon, was a physician. We have a command within Holy Scripure that specifically says we should honor physicians, because God enlightens physicians to find the medicines of the earth for the sick to be healed. Sirach says: "Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which you may have of him, for the Lord has created him. For of the Most High comes healing, and he shall receive the honor of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord has created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them" (38:1-4). With medical wisdom, therefore, and especially the enlightenment of God, Saint Panteleimon healed many sick people, who could not be treated by other physicians. But what should make a strong impression on us is that the physician Panteleimon practiced his profession without asking for payment or reward. He was an Unmercenary. He would seek out sick people, especially those who were poor, in order to offer treatment free of charge. What great love, what great mercy! And although his first name was Panteleon, later, due to his great love and mercy, they called him Panteleimon, which means "all-merciful".

2. But while, my beloved, the Saint was a physician and not a priest, and he was very busy in his work because everyone ran to him for healing, still he always, all day and in every moment, felt the presence of God and lived according to His holy will. Within him, in his soul and heart, he had love for Christ. Who taught Saint Panteleimon about Christ? He was taught about Him from his spiritual father, the Holy Martyr Hermolaos, whom our Church celebrated yesterday. Saint Panteleimon was very much tied to his spiritual father, and his spiritual father was very much tied with him. And this is how it should be, because according to the Orthodox tradition the regeneration of the soul and its progress is associated with ones spiritual father, with their abba, or elder, as they are called in the ascetic texts. As for how high is the concept of the spiritual father, we read the following in the life of Saint Panteleimon:

When the Saint was brought before the pagan emperor Maximian and he questioned him about his faith and threatened him with tortures, Christ appeared to Saint Panteleimon to strengthen him. But according to the life, Christ appeared in the form of his spiritual father, Saint Hermolaos. And when they threw the Saint into boiling lead and into the sea, the Saint would see his spiritual father beside him in the boiling lead and in the sea.

Let us learn, my Christian brethren, from the life of this Saint what is love, who offered himself with much sacrifice to his hurting brethren, and the link he had with his spiritual father, to whom he owed his solid faith in Christ, for Whom, accompanied by his spiritual father, as we said, he achieved martyrdom.

3. But there is something else I wanted to tell you, my brethren, on the occasion of the celebration of today's feast. As we said, the Saint was a physician. Our pastoral theology is paralleled by the Church Fathers with medical science. See how this is done: God created man healthy, that is, adorned with the virtues. But misled by sin, he fell into sin. In our sacred books we say that by this humanity became sick. The nous became ill, for those who were misled and cut off from God. But God is love, He is PANTELEIMON, and does not want his creatures to be unhealthy, which is what they are when they are cut off from Him, the Source of Life and Health.

For this reason, God made a Hospital, and within this Hospital God placed physicians, who have medicines for healing, to heal the souls of people. This Hospital, my brethren, which we must enter into in order to be healed, because we are all sinners, is the CHURCH. The order and position of physicians belongs to us priests and bishops, who, of course, need to know empirically based on our own experience how the soul can be healed, and they must know the medicines for this therapy for each sickness of the soul.

This is an art, it is a divine science. The saints of our Church know this science well. And they, as people, bore within them the disobedience of Adam. But within the Church, this divine Hospital, they took, with the advice and guidance of their own spiritual physicians, the medicines for their healing and they became healthy. They took their medicine, because they were humble and felt their sinfulness within them, namely their sickness. This is how they acquired stable health, or rather, a stable path towards God. These are our saints, my brethren. Having gone through the stage of treatment, namely their asceticism and struggle for the purification of their souls, now they shine due to their health. Just look at their icons here in the church! Look at the beauty, look at the bright halos and brilliant faces. It is the glory they taste in heaven.

My Christians, the all-merciful Christ invites us to His Hospital, His Holy Church, that we may be healed. Do not say, as many do, "there is nothing wrong with me". We have many cancers within us - by this I mean our sinful passions. We must all take our "medicine", in order to find health of soul and rest in the glory of the Kingdom of God. A sick person who is hurting cannot pleasantly enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds. Therefore, when our soul is sick from the passions of the soul, we will not be able to endure the brilliance and joys of Paradise. These joys are for the pure, for the spiritually healthy.

4. I pray, my beloved, for your health, for your physical and spiritual health. May Saint Panteleimon, whom we celebrate today, help us achieve this health. Lastly, I offer you one prayer, that I found written in a liturgical book. In this prayer, the sinful person calls themselves "Pantlimona", which means "most unfortunate". But he takes courage and finds refuge in the all-merciful Christ, to Whom he confesses his sin and begs for a good end. The prayer says: "Grant me a good end to my life, Christ all-merciful, I the most unfortunate pray; in You I take courage in my heart without doubt, having sinned knowingly and unknowingly."

With many blessing,

† The Metropolitan of Gortynos and Megalopolis Jeremiah

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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