September 17, 2015

Saint Joachim I the Pany, Patriarch of Alexandria (+ 1567)

St. Joachim the Plany (Feast Day - September 17)

Saint Joachim the Pany (Greek for "Excellent" or "Famous"), the first Patriarch of Alexandria after the Turkish conquest of Egypt (1517) when Sultan Selim I (1512-1520) defeated the Mamluks, was born in Athens on August 6th in 1448 and lived as a monk at the Holy Monastery of Sinai and the Lavra of Saint Savvas the Sanctified in Palestine.

He rose to the Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark in August 1487 when he was 38 years old. When Egypt was occupied by Sultan Selim I, Patriarch Joachim received a firman or guarantee securing all Patriarchal privileges, ending the persecutions of the Christians by the previous Arab rulers.

Patriarch Joachim reorganized the Patriarchate with sagacity and pragmatism. He participated in the Synod of Jerusalem (1526), which discussed and solved the so-called Sinaitic Question. In 1529 Patriarch Joachim had a chapel built at Sinai dedicated to the Archangel Michael. Through the instigation of the Synod of Constantinople (1544), he appointed that each subsequent Archbishop of Sinai be ordained by the Patriarch of Jerusalem.

He maintained communications with the Tsarist dynasty of Russia, and in 1556 received much needed financial support for the churches and monasteries of the Patriarchal Throne and the Monastery in Sinai from Tsar Ivan IV, as well as helped in the release of Saint Maximos the Greek who was imprisoned for correcting Russian liturgical books. In a letter to Tsar Ivan IV, Patriarch Joachim wrote: "For that reason, we pray Your Majesty to release Maximos, monk of Mount Athos, on receiving this letter, and to allow him to go wherever he may please, and in particular to Mount Athos, where he was tonsured." In 1558, the Czar sent to Egypt a delegation led by Archdeacon Gennady, who, however, died in Constantinople before he could reach Egypt. From then on, the embassy was headed by a Smolensk merchant Vasily Poznyakov. Poznyakov's delegation visited Alexandria, Cairo, and Sinai, brought the patriarch a fur coat and an icon sent by the Czar, and left an interesting account of his two and half years' travels. Having received vivid pictures of the poverty that afflicted the Patriarchate, the assistance given by the Russians helped in restoring the churches and monasteries and did much to embellish the interiors of churches in Alexandria and Cairo. The wealth of treasures, the icons and the holy vessels, kept in the Patriarchate of Alexandria today and adorning its churches are testimony to the extent of the assistance that the Russians rendered to the Church of Saint Mark.

He strongly resisted the urging of the Venetian Archbishop of Crete Pietro Lando to consent to the union of the Churches and to participate, in 1562, in the Catholic Council of Trent. This attitude strengthened the impression he made on the suffering Orthodox Christians concerning his holiness and his persistence in maintaining the ancestral traditions.

He passed away in deep old age, on September 17th in 1567, at the age of 119, after serving as Patriarch for 80 years.

The sacred Service of Saint Joachim the Pany was composed by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyrillos of Rhodes, and was published in 2009 at the expense of His Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II, in honor of his ever-memorable predecessor Patriarch Petros VII, during whose patriarchate the name of Saint Joachim the Pany entered into the official list of saints of the Church (September 17, 2002).

The honorable skull of Saint Joachim is treasured in the Holy Monastery of Saint Savvas.

Patriarch Joachim sending a delegation to Tsar Ivan IV

A Saint Who Moved Mountains

Chroniclers of the time have preserved stories regarding wondrous signs accomplished by the faith of Saint Joachim. Saint Kosmas the Aitolos said the following:

Since you want me to give you an example so that you will understand the power of the Cross, I will tell you. In Egypt there was a wicked king. He had a Jewish vizier who had become a Turk. He had left one devil and went to another. He went from the Jewish devil to the other one. He knew both Hebrew and Turkish letters.

In Alexandria there was a Patriarch, whose name was Joachim, a holy man, wise and virtuous. When the king heard the Patriarch was a holy man, he came to love him very much. The Jew told the king, "You have much love for the Patriarch." The king responded, "Joachim the Patriarch is a good and just man." The Jew, being a vizier, told the king, "Call, O King, for the Patriarch to come."

Because he knew the Gospels, the Jew said to the Patriarch, "O Patrarch, I would like to dispute with you some things about faith and doctrine." The Patriarch responded, "By your appointment as deputy, O king, I am ready to spill my blood for my faith." And the Patriarch began to dispute with the Jew, in a skillful manner that always shut the mouth of the Jew.

The Jew then said to the Patriarch, "Why are we disputing? I have heard Christ say in the Gospel that whoever has faith the size of a mustard seed would be able to move a mountain from its place and go to another place."

"Indeed, this is what the Gospel says," responded the Patriarch.

Therefore the Jew responded, "If you are worthy, command for the mountain to be lifted up from its place, and I will believe."

The Patriarch requested to grant him three days and three nights. Then the Patriarch came and said to the king, "I am ready to do what you commanded me."

There was a mountain in Egypt three hours away. The Jew said, "O King, command the Patriarch to lift that mountain so we also may believe."

Then the Patriarch burned incense far from the mountain, and doing his Cross three times, he spoke the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and said, "I command you, O mountain, to rise up and come here. And, O the wonder!, immediately the mountain lifted up and was divided in three, as an image of the Holy Trinity, and moving it came. The king shouted out and said, "In the name of God! Help us or we are done for!" The mountain was coming over them. The Patriarch again prayed for the mountain to stop six miles from Egypt, and they named it Dour Dag, which means 'mountain stop once more'.

The Jew did not believe and said to the king, "The Gospel also says that whoever has faith, if need be they could drink poisonous medicine and not die. Therefore command the Patriarch to drink medicine I will prepare, and if he doesn't die, we will believe." This miracle also took place. The Jew prepared medicine with his own hands, which if you only touched to your lips you would die. The Patriarch drank the whole cup and nothing happened to him.

Then the Patriarch said to the king, "Tell him to rinse the cup and drink the rinse." And as soon as the Jew drank it he died in front of everyone!