Monkmartyr Pachomius of Mt Athos

The holy New Martyr Pachomius was from Little Russia, and was captured by Moslem Tatars who made him a slave. He was taken to Usaki, near the ancient city of Philadelphia in Asia Minor, where he was sold to a Moslem tanner.

While teaching Pachomius his occupation, the tanner also tried to instruct the young man in the Islamic religion and convert him. Although Pachomius was eager to learn his new master’s trade, he had no desire to become a Moslem. Since he would not deny Christ, he was sometimes beaten and denied food.

This faithful warrior of Christ lived for twenty-seven years as a slave, working for his master in the tannery. The tanner was so pleased by the work of his servant that he offered to give him his own daughter in marriage and make him his heir, even though the righteous one would not convert to Islam. Since he would have to become a Moslem in order to marry the tanner’s daughter and to inherit anything from him, Pachomius declined the offer. Impressed by the principled stand of his servant, he freed him and told him that he could go wherever he wished.

St Pachomius became ill just before he was to leave his master. Some Moslems spread the rumor that he had already denied Christ and accepted their religion. Due to his illness they did not circumcise him, but dressed him in green clothing such as Moslems wear. Christians were not permitted to wear green. When he recovered Pachomius traveled to Smyrna and became a merchant.

After some time had passed, the saint discarded his Moslem clothes and went to St Paul’s Monastery on Mount Athos. There he met Hieromonk Joseph, confessed the secrets of his heart to him, and told him he wished to become a monk. He lived with Elder Joseph for the next twelve years living the monastic life, and acquiring the virtues.

After hearing of St Acacius of Kavsokalyvia (April 12), he transferred to that monastery and became a disciple of Elder Acacius. For six years he devoted himself to the life of unceasing prayer, and became the very type and paradigm of a virtuous monk.

Day by day, the desire to become a martyr for Christ grew within him, because he feared that he might have spoken a careless word and denied the Lord when he was sick and not in his right mind. St Acacius tried to persuade him not to follow this course, because he thought that this desire might have arisen from Pachomius’s pride.

St Acacius did not want to let Pachomius go, and so he decided to test his resolve. For the next year, he imposed various rules and obediences on him, and both of them prayed that God would make His will known to them. They also consulted the most virtuous Fathers on the Holy Mountain, who all agreed that Pachomius should be blessed to leave the monastery and to seek martyrdom. He removed his monastic garb and dressed in the clothes of an ordinary Christian. He did this so that his actions would not lead to reprisals against the Athonite monasteries.

Accompanied by Elder Joseph, Pachomius returned to Usaki, the site of his supposed denial of Christ. Elder Joseph stayed at an inn, while Pachomius went to the home of his former master, and then walked through the marketplace, hoping to be recognized. It did not take long for him to be arrested and brought before the kadi. He was charged with accepting Islam, and then returning to the Christian faith, a “crime” which was punishable by death. His accusers pointed to the saint’s Christian clothing as evidence. “Behold what sort of garments he is wearing,” they shouted.

The kadi told Pachomius that he was not allowed to wear Christian garb, because he had previously denied Christ. He urged Pachomius to go back to being a Moslem, or to be put to death. With resolute courage, St Pachomius replied that he abhorred their religion, and that he would never deny the Savior. Furthermore, he declared that he was quite willing to endure any torture, and to die for Christ many times over, if such a thing were possible.

The holy one was thrown into prison, where he was deprived of food, sleep, and also of any sort of comfort. During this time he was sustained only by his trust in the Lord. After three days, he was sentenced to death. The martyr rejoiced, and told the kadi to carry out the sentence without delay.

Bound and dragged to the place of execution, St Pachomius was cursed and spat upon by some of the Turks in the crowd, while others urged him to return to Islam. As the holy athlete of Christ knelt for his beheading, even the executioner entreated him to save himself accepting the Moslem religion. St Pachomius remained firm in his resolve, and told the executioner to do as he was ordered without delay. The victorious martyr was beheaded on May 7, 1730 (which happened to be the Feast of the Ascension), thereby receiving an incorruptible crown from Christ.

The body of St Pachomius remained exposed to the elements for three days, and then the Orthodox were granted permission to bury him. After the burial, the executioner was possessed by demons, and ran through the city, shouting and foaming at the mouth. He died a few days afterward.

Elder Joseph left the inn where he was hiding, and went to the place where the saint’s body was. He spoke to St Pachomius as if he were still alive. “My dear Pachomius”, he said, “you have achieved what you desired. Intercede with the Lord for me, and for all who call upon you.”

Father Joseph was troubled at the thought of trying to leave the area without being captured. St Pachomius appeared to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid, O Elder, for no harm shall come to you.” Trusting in the words of the saint, he left the city and went back to the Holy Mountain without any trouble.

A local Christian woman, who had been suffering from severe headaches for many years, prayed to St Pachomius and asked for his help. She placed some of his blood on her head, and she was healed. She wrote to the monks on Mount Athos, asking them to paint an icon of the martyr for her. Since they had known him when he lived there, they remembered how he looked, and were able to paint the icon. The woman received the icon, and reverently honored the memory of St Pachomius every year on the anniversary of his martyrdom.

Later, his holy relics were taken to the Monastery of St John on the island of Patmos. On January 26, 1953 the Monastery of St John gave a piece of the relics of St Pachomius to the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos, where the saint had lived for a time.

Through the prayers of the holy New Martyr Pachomius, may we also be accounted worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.