aka St. Pimen
the Great of Egypt
Wednesday September 9, 2020 / August 27, 2020
14th Week after Pentecost. Tone four.
Fast. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)
Venerable Poemen the Great (450). New Hieromartyrs Priests Michael Voskresensky and Stephen Nemkov, and those with them, of Nizhni-Novgorod (1918). New Hieromartyrs Paul, priest (1918). New Hieromartyrs John, John priest and Hieromartyr Methodius (1937). New Hieromartyr Aleksander, priest (1939). New Hieromartyr Vladimir, priest (1940). St. Demetrius confessor, priest (1952). Venerables Pimen, Kuksha, and Nicon of the Kiev Caves (1114). St. Hosius (Osia) the Confessor, bishop of Cordova (4th c.). St. Liberius, pope of Rome (366). Venerable Poemen of Palestine (605). Martyr Anthusa. Venerable Sabbas of Benephali. Great-martyr Phanurius the Newly Appeared of Rhodes (Greek).
The Scripture Readings
The Monk Pimen the Great
Commemorated on August 27
The Monk Pimen the Great was born in about the year 340 in Egypt. With his two brothers, Anubias and Paisias, he went into one of the Egyptian monasteries, and all three accepted monastic tonsure. The brothers were such strict ascetics, that when their mother came to the monastery to see her children, they did not come out to her from their cells. The mother stood there for a long time and wept. Then the Monk Pimen said to her through the closed door of the cell: “If thou bearest with the temporal parting from us now, then in the future life wilt thou see us, since we do hope upon God the Lover-of-Mankind!”. The mother was humbled and returned home.
Fame about the deeds and virtues of the Monk Pimen spread throughout all the land. One time the governor of the district wanted to see him. The Monk Pimen, shunning fame, reasoned thus: “If dignitaries begin coming to me with respect, then also many of the people will start coming to me and disturb my quiet, and I shalt be deprived of the grace of humility, which I have found only with the help of God”. And so he relayed a refusal to the messenger. For many of the monks, the Monk Pimen was a spiritual guide and instructor. And they wrote down his answers to serve to the edification of others besides themselves. A certain monk asked: “Ought one to veil over with silence the sin of a transgressing brother, if perchance one see him?” The elder answered: “If we reproach the sins of brothers, then God will reproach our sins, and if thou seest a brother sinning, believe not thine eyes and know, that thine own sin is like a wood-beam, but the sin of thy brother is like a wood-splinter, and then thou wilt not come into distress and temptation”. Another monk turned to the saint, saying: “I have grievously sinned and I want to spend three years at repentance. Is such a length of time sufficient?” The elder answered: “That is a long time”. The monk continued to ask, how long a period of repentance did the saint reckon necessary for him – a year or forty days? The elder answered: “I think, that if a man repenteth from the depths of his heart and posits a firm intent to return no more to the sin, then God would accept also a three-day repentance”. To the question, as to how to be rid of persistent evil thoughts, the saint answered: “If a man has on one side of him fire, and on the other side a vessel with water, then if he starts burning from the fire, he takes water from the vessel and extinguishes the fire. Like to this are the evil thoughts, suggested by the enemy of our salvation, which like a spark can enkindle sinful desires within man. It is necessary to put out these sparks with the water, which is prayer and the yearning of the soul for God”.
The Monk Pimen was strict at fasting and did not partake of food for the space of a week or more. But others he advised to eat every day, only but without eating one’s fill. For a certain monk, permitting himself to partake of food only on the seventh day but being angry with a brother, the saint said: “Thou wouldst learn to fast over six days, yet cannot abstain from anger for even a single day”. To the question, which is better – to speak or be silent, the elder said: “Whoso doth speak on account of God, doeth well, and whoso is silent on account of God – that one doth act well”. And moreover: “It may be, that a man seems to be silent, but if his heart doth judge others, then always is he speaking. But there are also those, who all the day long speak with their tongue, but within themself they do keep silence, since they judge no one”.
The saint said: “For a man it is necessary to observe three primary rules: to fear God, to pray often and to do good for people”. “Malice in turn never wipes out malice. If someone doeth thee bad, do them good, and thine good will conquer their bad”. One time, when the monk with his students arrived at an Egyptian wilderness-monastery (since he had the habit to go about from place to place, so as to shun glory from men), it became known to him, that the elder living there was annoyed at his arrival and also was jealous of him. In order to overcome the malice of the hermit, the saint set off to him with his brethren, taking along with them food as a present. The elder refused to come out to them. Thereupon the Monk Pimen said: “We shall not depart from here, until we are granted to see and pay respect to the holy elder”, – and he remained standing in the bright heat at the door of the cell. Seeing such perseverance and lack of malice on the part of the Monk Pimen, the elder received him graciously and said: “It is right what I have heard about you, but I see in you the good deeds and an hundred times even moreso”. Thus did the Monk Pimen know how to extinguish malice and provide good example to others. He possessed such great humility, that often with a sigh he said: “I shalt be cast down to that place, whither was cast down Satan!”
One time there came to the saint a monk from afar, to get his guidance. He began to speak about sublime matters difficult to grasp. The saint turned away from him and was silent. To the bewildered monk they explained, that the saint did not like to speak about lofty matters. Then the monk began to ask him about the struggle with passions of soul. The saint turned to him with a joyful face: “Here now thou well hath spoken, and I mustneeds answer”, – and for a long while he provided instruction, as to how one ought to struggle with the passions and conquer them.
The Monk Pimen died at age 110, in about the year 450. Soon after his death he was acknowledged as a saint pleasing to God and received the title “the Great” – as a sign of his great humility, modesty, uprightness and self-denying service to God.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.
HYMN OF PRAISE
VENERABLE POEMEN [PIMEN] THE GREAT OF PALESTINE
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.