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
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
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.