Welcome to our Saint of the Day series! Each weekday, we present you with an excerpt from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints series, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press. Today we commemorate St. Chariton, whose account is found in Volume 3 of the series.)
Saint of the Day: St. Chariton
It is doubtful that any of the myriad saints who turned tragedy into a triumph of the spirit did so in quite the same manner as a man called Chariton, whose extraordinary hardihood made full use of an adversity in a manner far afield from the usual approach to spiritual perfection. Like so many of the Christian leaders caught in the web of pagan persecution, he suffered cruel punishment, but unlike so many others he survived to go on to greater things. It was the setting of these greater things that makes his accomplishments all the more unusual.
In the latter part of the third century, the vindictive Roman Emperor Aurelius, fearing erosion of his authority with the increasing numbers of Christians, ordered a dragnet that stretched across the empire into Asia to bring to pagan justice every Christian of consequence. Included in this mass arrest was a venerated holy man called Chariton, who held sway in Iconium, in Asia Minor, and was, therefore, a sought after prize for the Roman tribunals. It was the intention of the emperor that, if deprived of their leaders, the Christians would fade into oblivion, but he was unaware of the dedication and versatility of the Christians of the empire.
Chariton was brought to Rome and cast into prison to be tortured, hopefully to the point where he would recant and return whence he came as a confirmed pagan. This was the ultimate goal of the state, which saw this as a far more effective deterrent than wholesale slaughter. The remarkable durability and dedication was made evident in the Roman prisons over such a protracted period that his stubborn resistance reached Asia, thereby defeating the purpose for which he had been taken prisoner. The Christians took heart at this marvel of endurance and plans were being made for his release when the emperor Aurelius died, to be succeeded by an emperor who saw a greater menace in a continuation of the assault on the innocent Christian and ordered his release.
For the battered but unbowed Chariton, it proved to be a case of going from the frying pan into the fire. En route to Jerusalem he was set upon by thieves, who found little on this holy man’s person of any value, but beat him unmercifully and then dragged him to their hideout, an abandoned country villa of ample proportion. Chariton found himself a prisoner once again, but this time for reasons best known to the thieves, who may have had in mind a ransom after discovering just how valuable to others their captive might be.
Bound by ropes to prevent his escape, Chariton observed a poisonous snake slither into a wine vessel and after a short time make its way out into the open. The returning thieves took their usual quaff of wine but the venom deposited by the snake took its toll and they all died of poisoning. Chariton was able to free himself after considerable effort and set about burying the dead, after which he returned to survey the premises and then and there decided to transform it into a sanctuary.
When it became known that the indestructible Chariton was making this transformation alone, he found himself surrounded by several who not only offered to assist him but who remained to form a monastery. The monastery came to be known as Faran and soon boasted a beautiful church, forming a cloister to which countless pilgrims flocked for the counsel and blessing of its now very famous founder. These pilgrims returned to their villages with stories of the wonderful transformation and its fame ultimately reached the ears of the patriarch of Jerusalem. Patriarch Makarios journeyed to Faran himself and with due ceremony consecrated the monastery and chapel as officially recognized bastions of Christianity.
Patriarch Makarios was in attendance at the First Ecumenical Synod of Nicaea in 325, where he brought to the attention of the a ending church dignitaries the heartwarming story of what he had seen at Chariton’s cloister. With visitors coming in increasing numbers, Chariton retired into the seclusion of the desert, where he died in peace at the age of ninety on September 28.
Text from Fr. George Poulos' Orthodox Saints. Image from Wikipedia.