Prologue of Ohrid


August 27


Poemen was an Egyptian by birth and a great ascetic of Egypt. As a boy, he visited the most renowned spiritual men. He gathered tangible knowledge from them, as a bee gathers honey from flowers. Poemen once begged the elder Paul to take him to St. Paisius. Seeing Poemen, Paisius said to Paul: "This child will save many; the hand of God is on him." In time, Poemen was tonsured a monk, and attracted two of his brothers to the monastic life as well. Once his mother came to see her sons. Pimen did not allow her to enter but asked her through the door: "Do you desire more to see us here, or there, in eternity?" The mother withdrew with joy, saying: "Since I will surely see you there, then I do not desire to see you here." In the monastery where these three brothers dwelled (which was governed by Abba Anoub [Anubis], Poemen's eldest brother), their rule [typikon] was as follows: At night they spent four hours doing manual work, four hours sleeping, and four hours reading the Psalter. During the day, they alternated work and prayer from morning to noon, did their reading from noon until Vespers, and made supper for themselves after Vespers. This was the only meal in twenty-four hours, and it usually consisted of some kind of cabbage. Poemen is said to have commented: "We ate that which was given to us. No one ever said, 'Give me something else,' or 'I do not want that.' In this way, we spent our entire life in silence and peace." Poemen lived a life of asceticism in the fifth century, and died peacefully in old age. *)


Poemen lived a life of asceticism in Rouba, which lay in the wilderness of Palestine, during the reign of Emperor Maurice (582-602 A.D.). He had been a shepherd in his youth. One day his dogs attacked a man and tore him to pieces, but out of mischievousness he did not try to save the man. As a result of this, it was revealed to him that he would be slain by wild beasts when his time was to come. And thus it happened. He was devoured by wild beasts and gave up his soul to his Lord.


As the Bishop of Cordova, Hosius governed the Church in Spain for over sixty years. He was prominent at the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea [325 A.D.], and presided at the local Council in Sardica in 347 A.D. So zealous was he for Orthodoxy that, when he was near death, he issued yet another anathema against the Arian heresy.


Kuksha and Poemen were both monks in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Kuksha successfully preached the Gospel to the Wallachians and baptized them. One day, pagans attacked and slew him and his disciple. Just then, Poemen the Faster was standing in the church in the Monastery of the Caves; and, having a vision of the death of Kuksha, his disciple and companion, he cried out: "Today, our brother Kuksha was slain for the Holy Gospel." Saying this, he himself gave up the spirit. This happened in the year 1113 A.D.

*) Also commemorated under August 27, in the Great Greek Synaxarion, is the Holy Martyr Phanourios. Who this saint was and when he lived is not known. He is greatly venerated on Rhodes and Crete.  In the year 1500, St. Phanourios appeared to people on the island of Rhodes, where he manifested miracles of healing.  There, an old icon of him was found, in which Phanourios is portrayed as a young soldier, holding a cross in his right hand, and a lighted taper in his left.  St. Phanourios is greatly venerated in Egypt.  In Egypt, there exists a tradition that his mother was a grievous sinner whom even he, her son, was unable to correct.  Even so, his filial love for his mother was extraordinarily great.  He prayed more for his mother's salvation than for his own.  When pagans stoned him to death for the sake of Christ, St. Phanourios prayed to God: "For the sake of my sufferings for Thee, Lord, help all of those who pray to Thee for the salvation of Phanourios's sinful mother."  In Egypt, many Christians pray thus: "Save, O Lord, the mother of St. Phanourios, and help me, a sinner." Many receive help through these prayers.

Venerable Poemen was a well of wisdom,
And a great torch of Christ's light.
From the day he put the world of vanity behind him,
No one did he reprimand, no one did he reproach.
Once, in his presence, the brethren quarreled,
But Poemen remained silent. Some reprimanded him:
"How can you hear the quarrel as if nothing is wrong?"
Poemen replied: "I died long ago."
Another asked him: "How can I be saved,
That my mind, after the enemy's calumnies, not wander?"
Said Poemen: "Flies avoid hot water,
And, from a warm soul, devils flee."
Another asked: "What is more trustworthy,
The speech of my brethren or silence?"
"By one or the other, God is glorified.
For the glory of God, choose for yourself."
"How can I defend myself from evil?"
"Evil does not defeat evil.
For the evildoer, do something good,
And that will inflame even his heart.
One's home is not built by destroying another's:
In this, only the third party--the devil--benefits."
"Two wicked passions poison our souls;
Freedom we do not have while they crush us:
Pleasures of the flesh and worldly vanity--
Only a holy soul is free from them."

The great Orthodox ascetics, in their difficult ascent to the Kingdom of God, are like those who laboriously grope their way up a steep mountain, clutching with hands and feet to inch onward, not thinking to look back.  Their labor and detachment is indeed amazing. St. Poemen did not want to see his mother when she came to visit him. Again, a prince wanted to see Poemen but he refused. However, the prince thought of a cunning way to force the elder to meet with him. He arrested Poemen's nephew and said to the mother (Poemen's sister) that he would release her son only if Poemen himself came to speak with him. The sister went into the wilderness, and, knocking at Poemen's door, begged her brother to come out and save her son. But Poemen did not come out. The sister began to scold and curse him. When the prince heard of this, he ordered that a letter be written to Poemen, saying that, if he would ask the prince to release the nephew in writing (since he did not do so orally), the prince would do so. Poemen replied: "O mighty prince, make deep inquiries into the guilt of the young man, and if his guilt is such that he deserves death, let him die, so that by temporal punishment, he will escape the torments in eternity. But, if the guilt does not merit the penalty of death, then punish him according to the law and release him." Reading this just and impartial letter, the prince was greatly astonished. He released the youth, and his respect for Poemen increased two-fold.


To contemplate Saul's total apostasy from the one God (1 Samuel 28-31 [also known as 1 Kings 28-31]):

1. How, when frightened by the Philistines, he [Saul] turned to a pagan sorceress [the witch of Endor] to prophecy for him;

2. How the sorceress, through her sorcery, evoked a spirit who called himself Samuel and who prophesied Saul's death;

3. How Saul and his sons perished at the hands of the Philistines.


About the Day of Christ, as prophecied by Isaiah

"Therefore My people shall know in that day that I am He that does speak: behold, it is I" (Isaiah 52:6).

Brethren, our God is the God of Truth. Though there are spots of darkness on the sun, there is not a spot of untruth on our God. Every word spoken by God, through the prophets, came true. When the Word [Logos] of God became incarnate as Jesus Christ our Lord, then all the prophecies concerning Him--which, for the Jews, had been dark enigmas--were revealed as clearly as the sun. In the Holy Gospel it is said: And the Word was made flesh (John 1:14). This was said of the Pre-eternal Word, the eternal Wisdom and Son of God. In the Word of God made flesh, every word of prophecy was revealed in bodily form. Until the Lord Christ came to visit mankind in the flesh, the scribes and readers of Holy Scripture thought that many visions of the prophets--long unfulfilled--were only the words of men and not the words of God. But God does not let anyone think lowly thoughts about His prophets, which is why He said: My people shall know in that day that I am He that does speak. Therefore, God wanted to give weight to every word of the prophets, and to teach men patience, to await that day--that wondrous day when the manifestation of the Lord on earth in the flesh would clearly announce: Behold, it is I! He who recognized the Lord Jesus as God in the flesh, also recognized Him as the One Who spoke through the prophets.

Behold, it is I! Thus speaks Christ today. I am He Who speaks through all the created universe. I am He Who spoke through the prophets. I am He Who, through lips of flesh, spoke the words of eternal salvation. I am He Who spoke through the apostles, saints and teachers. I am He Who speaks, and will continue to speak, through My Holy Church until the end of time. I am He Who speaks, and I am He about Whom it is spoken.

O Lord, to Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
Switch mode views: