The Monk Peter of Athos

Commemorated on June 12

      The Monk Peter of Athos, a Greek by birth, served as a soldier in the imperial armies and he lived at Constantinople. In the year 667 during the time of a war with the Syrians, Saint Peter was taken captive and locked up in a fortress in the city of Samara on the River Euphrates.
      For a long time he languished in prison and he pondered over what sins of his had incurred the chastisement of God. Saint Peter remembered, that once upon a time he had the intention to leave the world and go off to a monastery, but he had not done so. He began to observe strict fast in the prison and to pray fervently, and he besought of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker to intercede before God for him. Saint Nicholas appeared in a dream to Saint Peter and advised him to call for help on Saint Simeon the God-Receiver. And encouraging the prisoner in patience and hope, Saint Nicholas once more appeared to him in a dream. The third time it was not in a dream that he appeared with Saint Simeon the God-Receiver. Saint Simeon touched his staff to the chains of Saint Peter, and the chains melted away, literally like wax. The doors of the prison opened up, and Saint Peter emerged to freedom. Saint Simeon the God-Receiver became invisible, but Saint Nicholas conveyed Saint Peter to the borders of the Greek lands. And reminding him of his vow, Saint Nicholas likewise became invisible. Saint Peter then journeyed to Rome to assume the monastic form at the tomb of the Apostle Peter. And even here Saint Nicholas did not leave without his help: he appeared in a dream to the Pope of Rome and informed him about the circumstances of Saint Peter's liberation from captivity, and he commanded the Pope to tonsure the former prisoner into monasticism.
      On the following day, amidst a numerous throng of the people during Divine-services, the Pope loudly exclaimed: "Peter, thou who art come from the Greek lands, and whom Saint Nicholas hath freed from prison in Samara, come thou forth unto me". Saint Peter stood forth in front of the Pope, who tonsured him into monasticism at the tomb of the Apostle Peter. The Pope taught Saint Peter the rules of monastic life and kept the monk by him. And then with a blessing he sent off Saint Peter thither, whence God had blessed him to journey.
      Saint Peter boarded a ship, sailing to the East. The ship-owners, during a time of having come ashore, besought Saint Peter to come and pray at a certain house, wherein the owner and all the household lay sick. Saint Peter healed them through his prayer.
      The Most Holy Mother of God then appeared in a dream to Saint Peter and indicated the place, where he should live til the very end of his days Holy Mount Athos. When the ship sailed alongside Athos, it then halted of its own accord. Saint Peter realised, that this was the place he had to go, and so he went ashore. This was in the year 681. The Monk Peter then dwelt in the desolate places of the Holy Mountain, not seeing another person for 53 years. His clothing had tattered, but his hair and beard had grown out and covered his body in place of clothes.
      At first the Monk Peter was repeatedly subjected to demonic assaults. Trying to force the saint to abandon his cave, the devils took on the form at times of armed soldiers, and at other times of fierce beasts and vipers that seemed ready to tear apart the hermit. But through fervent prayer to God and the Mother of God, the Monk Peter conquered the demonic assaults. Then the enemy began to resort to trickery. Appearing under the guise of a lad, sent to him from his native home, he with tears besought the monk to leave the wilderness and return to his own home. The monk was in tears, but without hesitation answered: "Hither have the Lord and the Most Holy Mother of God led me, and without Her leave I go not from hence". Hearing the Name of the Mother of God, the demon vanished.
      After seven years the devil came before the monk in the guise of a luminous angel and said, that God was commanding him to go into the world for the enlightening and salvation of people needful of his guidance. The experienced ascetic again replied, that without the permission of the Mother of God he would not forsake the wilderness. The devil disappeared and did not bother more to approach the saint. The Mother of God appeared to the Monk Peter in a dream together with Saint Nicholas and said to the brave hermit, that each 40 days an Angel would bring him Heavenly manna. From that time the Monk Peter fasted for 40 days, and on the fortieth day he fortified himself with the Heavenly manna, receiving the strength for further forty-day abstinence.
      One time an hunter, chasing after a stag, caught sight of the naked man, covered about with hair and girded about the loins with leaves. He took fright and was about to flee. The Monk Peter stopped him and told him about his life. The hunter asked leave to remain with him, but the saint sent him off home. The Monk Peter gave the hunter a year for self-examination and forbade him to tell about the meeting with him.
      A year later the hunter returned with his brother, afflicted with a demon, and together with several other companions. When they entered the cave of the Monk Peter, they then saw, that he had already reposed to God. The hunter amidst bitter sobs told his companions about the life of the Monk Peter, and his brother, with but a touch to the body of the saint, received healing. The Monk Peter died in the year 734. His holy relics were situated on Athos at the monastery of Saint Clement. During the Iconoclast period the relics were hidden away, and in the year 969 they were transferred to the Thracian village of Photokami. With the name of the Monk Peter of Athos is connected the sacred testimonial of the Mother of God about Her earthly appenage Holy Mount Athos, which even now presently remains in force: "To Mount Athos let there be its peace, for this is allotted Me by My Son and God, given unto Me, wherein let them be separated from worldly whisperings and gathered together those spiritual in the power of their exploits, with faith and love in soul calling out My Name, thereupon to pass their earthly lifetime without travail, and for their God-pleasing deeds to receive life eternal: for exceedingly do I love this place and I do wish upon it the increase of monks, and they possessing the mercy of My Son and God thereupon as monks shalt never be undone, if they observe the saving commandments: and I shalt spread them forth upon the Mountain to the south and to the north, and they shalt possess it from the world til the end of the world, and their name throughout all under the sun I shalt make praiseworthy and so defend those, which there with patience would asceticise in fasting".

1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.

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The Monk Peter of

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