Our Venerable Father Chariton

September 28

Our holy Father Chariton was born and brought up at Iconium in Asia Minor. The Emperor Aurelian (270-6), who showed no hostility to Christians at the outset of his reign, was incited by the Devil after a while to begin a violent persecution of those who called upon the Name of Christ.+ Chariton, whose piety and godliness were well known in Iconium, was arrested and brought before the Consul when the imperial decree arrived. As he fearlessly confessed Christ and his abhorrence of idols, he was stretched on the ground, violently scourged, and thrown into prison with his flesh torn to shreds. A few days later, after a second appearance at the tribunal, he was set free and took refuge in Egypt, until the death of the tyrant put an end to persecution for a time.

Bearing in his body the marks of the Passion of Christ, Saint Chariton achieved his martyrdom by the ever greater zeal with which he followed the Lord in a life of ascesis and renunciation. Unlooked for trials came his way, besides those voluntary afflictions by which he subdued his body and made it subject and obedient to the law of the Spirit. One day, he fell among thieves as he was going up to Jerusalem. They bound him hand and foot and took him to their cave at a place called Pharan, where God soon executed his judgement upon them, for they drank wine polluted by snake-venom and died. Chariton was miraculously freed from his bonds and found himself in possession of the booty amassed by the brigands. He distributed part of these ill-gotten goods to the poor and part he used to build churches to the glory of God. He then settled in the cave himself, and lived there in ascesis.

While dwelling at Pharan, Saint Chariton brought many infidels to embrace the faith and to follow the example of his angelic life; but he wanted to find again his beloved solitude. He therefore placed the best of his disciples at the head of the community, and exhorted his spiritual children to observe a strict temperance in food and sleep, to pray day and night at the hours he had appointed them and to receive the poor and strangers as Christ himself. He then settled in a cave on Mount Doukas near Jericho. However, he was not left to converse alone with God. Many disciples came to join him and he had to establish a second Lavra,* before fleeing once again to a place more remote called Thekoue. He later settled with a few disciples in a third lavra called in Syriac Souka, or the Old Lavra. But nothing could stop the flow of new disciples and of pagans who came to taste the honey of his words, and to look upon this living image of Christ. As Chariton sought nothing but the sweetness of union with God in solitude, he withdrew to a cave above the Lavra that could be reached only by using ladders. He dwelt there for many years, taking water from a spring that flowed in the cave at his prayer.

Knowing beforehand the date of his death, he was brought back to his first Lavra of Pharan where, as a spiritual testament, he gave his disciples to understand the ascesis, linked with humility and love towards all without exception, is the sure way to arrive at union with God. His last word spoken, Saint Chariton lay on his bed and fell asleep in peace to take his place in the choir of angels and Saints.

+Since Aurelian was assassinated before the start of the persecution he was planning, it is possible that St Chariton suffered at the beginning of Diocletian’s persecution.
*In Palestine, a lavra was a place, originally inhabited by one or two hermits, that had grown into a monastery through the influx of disciples.
Source: The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Volume One, Introduction, September, October. Holy Convent of The Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike), 1998.