27 July 2011

27 July - Saint Pantaleon; Seven Sleepers of Ephesus

Weather: If it rains today, it will rain for forty days.

Today is the feast of Saint Pantaleon, martyr (died c 305).  He was a native of Nicomedia and the son of a Christian mother who raised him in the faith.  His medical skill earned him a place as physician to the emperor Galerius Maximian, and in the pleasures of the court, he became a non-practicing Christian (he was likely one of those who was "spiritual, not religious").

At some point, with the help of a priest, he reverted to the faith of his youth, giving his fortune for the poor and charitably treating them without charge.  Denounced as a Christian, he was nailed to a tree and beheaded.  The Roman Martyrology says "For the faith of Christ he was apprehended by the emperor Maximian, subjected to the torture and burned with torches, during which torments he was comforted by an apparition of our Lord.  He ended his martyrdom by a stroke of the sword."

He is a patron of doctors and midwives, and, as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, is invoked against consumption.  A vial of his blood is said to liquefy today.

This is also the feast of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus (c. 250),  Maximian, Malchus (or Malthus), Martinian, Dionysius, John, Serapion, and Constantine, who were walled up together in the cave where they had taken refuge from the persecutions of Decius.  The story (taken from The Golden Legend) is that two hundred and twenty-nine years later they awoke, thinking that they had only been asleep one night, but like Rip Van Winkle, found that things had changed a bit (for one, Christianity was now the state religion, although a heresy flourished which denied the resurrection of the body).

Malchus was chosen to go into Ephesus to buy food, which he did, not without the usual complications.  After being astonished to see the Cross embellishing gates, walls, and buildings, he tried to buy bread with a coin minted at the time he and his companions fell asleep.  This astonished the vendors, who suspiciously demanded to know where he had found an 'ancient treasure', and when he didn't give a rational answer, put a halter around his neck and led him to the bishop.

In his defense, he led everyone back to the cave, where his companions were waiting.  The Emperor was sent for, and when he arrived, the Seven "demanded of the emperor that he would believe the resurrection of the body, for to that end had they been raised; and then they gave up the ghost".