May 18, 2018

Holy Hieromartyr Potamon, Bishop of Heraclea (+ 341)

St. Potamon of Heraclea (Feast Day - May 18)

Saint Potamon was Bishop of Heraclea, or Hieracleopolis, in Egypt. During the reign of Maximinus Daia, when the Christians were being persecuted in 310, he was imprisoned for his Christian faith, and had his eye plucked out and probably, according to Rufinus, the sinews of his ham severed, then condemned to the mines. Released from prison when Christianity became tolerated, he returned to his flock where he was revered as a Confessor.

In 325 Bishop Potamon attended the First Ecumenical Synod in Nicaea, where he was among the Confessors revered for the wounds they bore, even by Emperor Constantine. At this Synod, he exerted great zeal against the Arians. He also accompanied Saint Athanasius to the Synod of Tyre in 335. Saint Epiphanios of Salamis (Panarion, 68) writes the following about his presence in Tyre:

'The blessed Constantine had a zeal for God;... and he commanded that a synod be convened in Phoenicia, in the city of Tyre. He ordered Eusebius of Caesarea and certain others to sit as judges; if anything, however, they had a certain leaning towards the Arians’ vulgar rant. And bishops of the Catholic Church of Egypt were summoned, who were under Athanasius — eminent, distinguished men with illustrious lives in God. Among them was the blessed Potamon the Great, the Bishop of Hieracleopolis and a confessor. And the Melitians were summoned as well, especially Athanasius’ accusers.

The blessed Potamon was a zealot for truth and orthodoxy, a free-spoken man who had never shown partiality. His eye had been put out for the truth during the persecution. When he saw Eusebius sitting on the judge’s bench and Athanasius standing, he was overcome with grief and wept, as honest men will, and shouted at Eusebius, "Are you seated, Eusebius, with Athanasius before you in the dock, when he’s innocent? Who can put up with things like that? Tell me — weren’t you in prison with me during the persecution? I lost an eye for the truth, but you don’t appear to be maimed and weren’t martyred; you stand here alive without a mark on you. How did you get out of jail, if you didn’t promise our persecutors to do the unthinkable — or if you didn’t do it?”

On hearing this Eusebius was roused to indignation. He arose and dismissed the court, saying, “If you’ve come here and answer me like that, your accusers are telling the truth. If you’re playing the tyrant here, you’d much better go on home.”'

When the tyrant Gregory had usurped the patriarchal throne of Saint Athanasius, he, with Philagrius, prefect of Egypt, an apostate to Arianism under Constantius, traveled over all Egypt, tormenting and banishing the Catholics; and Saint Potamon, for his distinguished zeal, was by their order beaten on his back with clubs so long as to be left for dead. However, by the help of medicines, he came to himself, but died shortly after a martyr for the divinity of the Son of God in 341, as Saint Athanasius (History of the Arians, 2.12) relates:

'Potamon, Bishop and Confessor, who had lost an eye in the persecution, they beat with stripes on the neck so cruelly, that he appeared to be dead before they came to an end. In which condition he was cast aside, and hardly after some hours, being carefully attended and fanned, he revived, God granting him his life; but a short time after he died of the sufferings caused by the stripes, and attained in Christ to the glory of a second martyrdom.'