My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True Lord, God, and Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 7th of August, the Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
our Venerable Father POEMEN (PIMEN), THE MUCH-AILING,
OF THE KIEV CAVES.
Saint Poemen (Pimen), the much-ailing, entereds this world as a sickly child. All of his life endured illness, but his spirit was healthy and robust. He looked upon his physical ailments as a preventive of illness of the soul. When he fell very sick and was near death, his parents brought him to the Kiev Caves Monastery. The concerned parents sought the prayers of the holy fathers at the Caves. But in secret, their son did not wish to be made well. The young man perceived that should he receive healing, his parents would take him away from the monastery. So, simultaneously, as the fathers prayed for his health, the sufferer asked the Lord to permit his sickness to abide that he might remain at the Caves and receive the tonsure.
God heard his prayer one night, while all in the monastery were sleeping. Angels, taking the form of the hegumen (Abbot) and the brothers, came to the youth, while he was alone in the infirmary. They carried with them candles, a Gospel, a hair shirt, koukouli, and everything else necessary to perform the tonsure. The asked the youth if he wished to become a monk. He agreed wholeheartedly. They, therefore, proceeded and performed the entire service as it is written in the Typikon. With the clipping of his hair, they placed it inside the tomb of Saint Theodosios, one of the founders of the Kyivan Cave Monastery.
Now the sleeping members of the brotherhood were roused by the sweet chanting. They followed the melodious sound to where the sickly young man was left. They entered his chamber to find him quite alone, but a lingering otherworldly fragrance pervaded the air. They saw him garbed as a monk and bearing a candle. The surprised brethren asked, “Who tonsured you this night?” The newly tonsured monk, named Poemen by the Angels, answered. “Why, you did, O my fathers, with the Abbot! You gave me this candle, saying that it must not be extinguished for forty days and nights.” The fathers went out and investigated, asking all the brethren who was responsible for this deed. No one knew anything. All had been resting. The church was locked. The sacristan who had the key was sleeping. He produced the key and said that no one was in church. The fathers then took the key and entered the church. The clipped hair of the new Monk Poemen was indeed found inside the tomb of Saint Theodosios. The fathers, ultimately, understood that God Himself arranged for the young man’s tonsure. They asked him, “What were the servers like? Did they perform the entire service?” Father Poemen, bewildered at all the fuss, replied, “Why tempt me, O fathers?” You yourselves conducted the service. These were the books from which you read. Do you not remember telling me that illness will follow me all the days of my life, save on my final day? So I ask that you pray for me that God grant me patience.” The fathers, dumbfounded, accepted what he said. They were further assured of the supernatural order of things, when the candle not be extinguished for forty days and nights.
As the Angels prophesied, Poemen was afflicted with poor health. At length, those that attended hkm were either busy with their own work or intolerant of the sick room. As it happened, Father Poemen was often left without food and water–even for two or three days at a time. But he bore his brothers no resentment or ill-will. His sickness was his labor, his offering to God. He made excuses for them, saying that the brothers had more important things to do than to nurse him. Thus, he endured his heavy occupation with a bittersweet joy.
At length, another man entered the monastery who was crippled. He was tonsured, but kept mostly to the infirmary. Hence, Father Poemen now had constant company. The brothers of the monastery attended to the two of them, but time and again they were either forgotten or ignored. As Father Poemen saw that his companion suffered from teh neglect, he commented, “The brethren are otherwise engaged. They cannot bear the sick room. So why do we not attend to ourselves? If thou wert to be made whole, would dout fulfill this obedience?” The crippled monk answered emphatically, “Should I be made well, I would not forget those in the infirmary.” Father Poemen then said, “Our Lord Jesus Christ takes away thine illness. Forget not thy promise to Him lest a worse thing should befall thee.” The cripple arose from his bed, whole and sound in all his limbs. Initially, he was zealous in his chores toward the care and upkeep of the infirmary. Little by little, however, he became careless. He even secretly abhorred Poemen and his illness. Hence, he did not repay the vow he made freely. God sent him a reminder, by allowing him to be struck with a disease that left him with no strength and with a burning thirst; He, therefore, took to his bed in a debilitated state, always complaining that he could not quench his thirst or rise up.
The other fathers brought his case before Father Poemen, who remarked sadly, “God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that also shall he reap” (Galatians 6:7). He forgot about me here, leaving me hungry and thirsty. But the Savior has bidden us not to return evil for evil. It is God Who repays with affliction. But say to my friend, ‘Brother Pemen calls thee. Arise in the name of Christ, and go to him in the infirmary! He is waiting for thee!” The fathers repeated these words to the sufferer. Upon hearing how Father Poemen was calling him, he found himself suddenly well. He rose up and hastened to the infirmary. Father Poemen both smiled at him and chided him, saying, “O thou of little faith, thou art whole now. So sini no more.Dost thou not realize that the one who is ill and the one who ministers to him shall have an equal reward? I endure all, brother, that I might have joy and gladness in the afterlife where there is no sorrow, no sighing, no pain, but life everlasting. Believe me, God Who healed thee twice now can certainly heal me as well. But I do not wish a cure, because our Savior also said that “the one who endureth to the end, this one shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22); and that I should utterly decompose in this life, so that in the future one the flesh would be incorrupt.” The monk, gazing upon Father Poemen as a latter-day Job the Much-suffering, pledged neve to be lax again but that he would prove his diligence by deeds. Verily, he did attend to Father Poemen, who altogether suffered twenty years.
The the final day of Father Poemen’s earthly sojourn arrived. Father Poemen rose up as one rejuvenated and in perfect health. He went among the brotherhood, saying, “Follow me, my brothers! Accompany me, dear friends! He next entered the church, taking leave of all his brothers. He communicated the Holy Mysteries. Then he made a prostration before the grave of the founding father, Saint Anthony. Father Poemen showed the brethren his place of burial in the crypt. He pointed to those buried therein. In one instance, he foretold that the brethren would find one schemamonk buried who would not be clad in his Schema, saying that he had led a life unworthy of it. Another monk, who had been buried without the Schema, would be found garbed in it, as one worthy, since he had greatly desired it during his life. Then he remarked, “The very same Angels who tonsured me have now come to escort me on high.” Hence, he lay down on his bed and reposed in the Lord, his soul mounting on high with the Angels. The brethren interred hikm with much reverence, understanding finally that Saint Poemen the Much-ailing attained the Kingdom of the heavens BY ENDURING GRIEVOUS ILLNESS. Furthermore, upon opening the crypt, they found his statements about the two previously buried monks to be true. So it was that, after the repose of the holy Poemen, the brothers were persuaded of the truth of his words. On the day of his departure, three fiery columns appeared over the refectory that migrated to the top of the church. This took place in 1110. The holy relics of our Father Poemen rest in the Antoniev Cave. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
Through the intercessions of Thy Saints,
O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Divine and Glorious Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God