Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saint Pachomius (Pahomie) from Gledin, bishop of Roman and monk

Saint Pahomie from Gledin, bishop of Roman (1707-1714) was a Romanian hierarch in the so-called „fanariot” period of the Romanian history (18th/19th centuries), named so after the princes mostly of Greek ancestry, and came from the Greek quarter of Constantinople known as Fanar. This period is known in Romania as a time of the maximum interference of the foreign interests in the internal policy, but also for the internal changes, as the first Romanian constitution and the revival of the orthodox spirituality, under personalities as staretz Vasile from Poiana Mărului and Paisie Velichcovski from Neamţ.
The life of the saint is comprised in a biography from Pocrov hermitage, entitled “Short exposition for the happy-into-the-memories [=i.e., deceased] Kir [=Lord] Pahomie, bishop of Roman, the founder of the holy shrine of the our All Holy Lady Theotokos and Virgin Mary, which he himself built from its foundation in honor of her Pocrov (=Protection)” (“Arătare în scurt pentru fericitul întru pomenire ctitorul sfântului locaş al Prea Sfintei Stăpânei noastre Născătoarei de Dumnezeu şi Pururea Fecioarei Mariei, kir Pahomie Episcopul Romanului, pe care însuşi din temelie l-au zidit întru cinstea Acoperămantului ei”). It was written by the monks from the hermitage, after the memories of Pahomie and of his disciples and after the traditions kept in Neamţ Monastery, where he lived for a while.
Gledin Culture Centre
Saint Pahomie was born in Transylvania, Bistriţa County, in a village named Gledin in 1674, baptized as Peter. His parents were, after a source, “priest Iftimie and Ana” Pencu, and after another (the historian Nicolae Iorga), “peasants, workers in this county of the Saxons”. The two informations aren’t opposite; because at this time the Orthodox faith was not one of the 4 “accepted religions” in Transylvania and the orthodox priests had had the same difficult life as the other Romanians, who were mostly enslaved.
The biography from Pocrov mentions his love for Christ and his will to live after the Gospel, so that “he left his house, parents, brethren, relatives and others” and went in another land, at that time Transylvania and Moldova being two different countries. Among another reasons he left his country it cannot be the persecutions against the ones who refused after 1700 to unite with Rome, because he left Transylvania a few years later, in 1694. More likely the reasons consisted in the liberty of religion in Moldova and the “cultural boom” of the Moldavian monasteries and monastic schools.
So Peter went to Neamţ monastery, where he was tonsured as monk in 1697, receiving the name Pahomie, being about 25 years old. But the cultural situation was in contrast with the political one: during the war between the ottoman Turks and the Holy League (1683-1699), the Poles occupied the Neamţ Fortress, never conquered before, and the monks from Neamţ found their refuge, together with their precious icon of the Protection of Our Lady, running to Strâmba hermitage, somewhere in the Tutova hills (central Moldova). The monks came back after the end of the war, in 1700 and in the next year Pahomie was ordained priest. Because of his good administrative skills, he was shortly appointed Great Ecclesiarch, so responsible for all that concerns the church, the liturgical ceremonies and so on. In any case, the biography attests not only his abilities, but also his attachment for the church, the love for prayer and good deeds. Because the liturgical services were in Church Slavonic, Pahomie learnt Slavonic and Russian. In 1702 the abbot Ioan died, and the council of the monastery elected him as the new abbot, against his will, before he was 30. But he remained in this function only for 2 years (1704) when he made a rise in Russia.
It is quite possible he didn’t like very much his function as abbot, which meant a lot of responsibilities and not too much time for prayer. So he made a “paretisis” (he resigned) and left in Russia, to Rostov, where he wanted to meet and know St. Dimitrij of Rostov, well known at that time for his sermons and writings, but also to visit the Pecerska Lavra from Kiev and to honor the holy relics there. He remained at Pecerska between 1704 and 1708 where he has studied at the school of the monastery, organized after the western scholastic methods by the already deceased Metropolitan Petru Movilă (+1646). The contacts with the scholars from Kiev and especially with St. Dimitrij (Demetrius) of Rostov meant not only a good study, but also a spiritual experience. The most intense meeting with the Russian hierarch is described by Pahomie himself. St. Dimitrij asked him once: “what wishes your heart? And I told him that it wishes a life of silence in the solitude. And then he blessed me from all his heart and said to me: May that God be with you. Your wish is happening”. He also met another Russian saint, St. John Maximovich, archbishop of Chernigov and Tobolsk.
Pahomie came back in Moldova with some books: A Psalm book from Kiev, a Patericon (Lives and sayings of the Monks in Egypt) from Bishop Dimitrij, and a prayer book for the hierarchs. In 1706 he was in Neamţ, where he asked the council of the monastery to be left to live quietly in the solitude, and he found a cell together with a few disciples (Sofronie, Macarie, Lazăr and Ioanichie), in a mountain nearby, called „Chiriacul”, about an hour to walk from the monastery.
His solitude was interrupted by some noblemen of the Voivod Antioh Cantemir (1705-1706) who incidentally found the cell of the monk, being on hunting. The impression produced by the holy monk on the noblemen was very strong. No later, the bishop Lavrentie (Laurence) of Roman died, and the noblemen remembered above proposed St. Pahomie to the voivod. Against his will, Pahomie was elected bishop on 18 December 1706 and in 18 January 1707 was ordained bishop.
Acting as bishop for 7 years and 3 months, Pahomie refused to involve himself in the quite often changes of the reigns (actually 5 changes of voivods) and generally in the politics. In change, he cared about the poor, but also acted as a good administrator of the diocese’s holdings and as a judge, as the laws of the countries specified. He signed his documents in Slavonic as "Pahomie Penkovski arhiepiscop Romanski i Galatski" (Pahomie, archbishop of Roman and Galaţi) revealing his slavicized form of his family name Pencu, and the fact that his diocese comprised the whole southern half of the country. He won for the Church many properties, donated to his monastery some holdings, but above all, books for liturgical use, which were quite precious at the time.
But at 1 March 1714 he wrote his paretisis (resign) from his function as bishop, under the reason that “the whole world is passing, and all the things like a shadow”, wishing to go back to his solitude at Chiriacul mountain. His resign happened in a period when the stability was bigger than before, so he didn’t act cowardly, but because of his inner deep wishes for a quiet life.  He remained bishop one more month, until the Feast of the Easter (2 April in that year), but on 10 April arrived at Neamţ where he remained only 4 days and went back to Chiriacul.
Planned tombstone for St. Pahomie at Pocrov

Away from the crowded places, Pahomie put the founding stone of a hermitage named „Pocrov” (The Protection of Our Lady, a Feast on 1 October). A „pomelnic” (list of names, used in the commemoration during a requiem ceremonial) from this period, attests the contributors at the building of this new shrine, among whom are some monks but also voivod Mihail Racoviţă. Normally a hermitage is a dependency of a monastery, but Pahomie obtained for his shrine the total independence, and also some other benefits (properties, books, and official documents attesting the independence of the hermitage). He also created here a school of manuscript-copyists and translators, who continued the tradition started at Neamţ by Paisie Velichcovski.
Pocrov Monastery
In 1717, during the Turkish-Austrian war (1716-1718) the voivod Mihail Racoviţă lost his throne, but he came back helped by the Tatars who made a lot of damages. In these conditions, Pahomie left his hermitage, running in Transylvania, later in Poland for some health problems and came back home a year later. But the voivod Mihail Racoviţă suspected him of conspiracy with his Austrian enemies, so that Pahomie was forced to flee to Kiev, waiting for returning, after the ending of the unfriendly reign, but that didn’t happened, because Racoviţă remained voivod until 1726. From his exil, Pahomie cared about his hermitage, sending 42 books and money in order to sustain the activities there. Pahomie remained as refugee at Kitaev hermitage of Lavra Pecherska and he received here the Great Skema, being named Pimen. He died in exil, on 14 April 1724. In his testament, written shortly before his death, he stated that the monks in his hermitage of Pocrov shall live a life of fasting, prayer and working, with devotion, humility and responsibility. The coffin with his relics is kept in the chapel of St. Sephen of Pecherska. A painting with his portrait at Pocrov shows him with his three patron saints, St. Peter (as layman), St. Pachomius (as monk) and St. Poemen (as skemamonk).
Relics of the saint at Lavra Pecherska, Kiev

The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church decided for the canonization of the St. Hierarch Pahomie from Gledin, during its reunion on 14-15 november 2006. His proclamation happened on 14 April 2007 in Gledin, the birthplace of the saint situated in northern Transylvania, in Bistriţa-Năsăud County, in the presence of bishops, priests and believers from Romania and Ukraine. His annual celebration is 14 April. In Gledin, the locals started in 2011 the construction of a religious-touristic complex dedicated to the saint. In Villaverde-Madrid, Spain, the patron saint of the Romanian community is St. Pahomie.
Official proclamation of Hierarch Pahomie as saint of the Church

Troparion (Hymn) of the Saint

Very luminous star arisen in Gledin, you shone like a divine sign in the country of Moldova, illuminating the hearts of the believers. Unshakable pillar of the clean prayer, you, chosen adornment of the Romanian hierarchs and founder of the Pocrov Hermitage near the Lavra of Neamţ, Holy Hierarch Pachomius, pray to Christ our God to save our souls!

Romanian Parish "St. Pahomie" from Villaverde, Madrid

No comments:

Post a Comment