ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH. ON THE DAY OF COMMEMORATION OF THE HOLY GREAT-MARTYR AND HEALER PANTELEIMON
Today we commemorate the Holy Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon. When we think of St. Panteleimon, pray to him, we take him as a healer who must cure all the diseases upon our request. According to us, he must study, satisfy and fulfill all the cases. Some other options are just beyond our Orthodox comprehension.
And now I would like to cast my mind back to Holy Mount Athos and its Russian St. Panteleimon monastery where one hieromonk Anthimos lived, within my memory at the beginning of the 2000-s he was still alive. He was not old, middle-aged, and it was this hieromonk who most of the time brought out the head of St. Panteleimon for pilgrims to veneration. He was the one who was closest to the holy relics. And then in the 2000-s he developed cancer, burned out very fast and died. In this regard for many people who don’t see the big picture raises the question: why? Why didn’t Holy Great-Martyr and Healer Panteleimon help? He, whom we ask for recovery, ask most categorically, hoping that by simply reading the Akathist, we would have the Healer’s assistance. And, suddenly, this man, who carried the wonder-working head of the saint in his hands all the time dies of cancer very fast, just burns out. Due to that some people, I mean the people who don’t have a profound insight, who don’t think about subtle matters, come to a kind of disappointment which grows with some of them to a big question to God and the Healer. “How did it happen? You are a Healer, aren’t you? Where were you when we prayed to you?” It happened not once, I assure you. All Orthodox people who died must have prayed to St. Panteleimon. Some suits were granted and miracles happened and some seemed to be left unheard by the Healer and God Himself and people had to pass away. But we can’t make claims on God. We could have, if He wouldn’t have died Himself and passed through the gates of death in great pain and with a great burden. If Our Lord didn’t pass through it, we could tell Him: “How can You, how do you allow this?”
When Elder Sophrony Sakharov was a young man during World War I he saw a lot of sorrow, tragedies, and deaths. As the result of witnessing the death of both soldiers and civilians he came to a protest against God. “O Lord, I, a sinner, feel sorry for the entire world, I can’t sleep worrying about all those deaths of innocent people, of children who seem to deserve no punishment. And what about You?” At that moment Christ appeared before him hanging on the cross with His hands and feet pierced and a wound at His side and asked him a very simple question: “Was it you who got crucified for them? You feel sorry, you just feel sorry, while I am on the cross, I have been here for 2000 years and never step down. I don’t leave the cross not because of My philosophy, but due to your sins, while you can’t even keep vigil with Me, just like there at Gethsemane”. As at Gethsemane he told his disciples: “What! Could you not watch with Me for one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Mt. 26:40-41). This is the point, every one of us should pass through the gates of death. There is no other way. Of course, there are special cases, like the one of St. John the Theologian, nevertheless, we all must go through the gates of death. We should die for this world. We have been carrying our sinful nature since the times of Adam and Eve, for more than seven thousand years already, and we pass it on to our children and grand-children. This process must be stopped and our sinful nature dies and resurrects one day.