Our Holy Fathers Onuphrios the Great and Peter of Mount Athos
They lived in different times and places, but are commemorated together.
Saint Onuphrios the Great (400). “This holy ascetic had been living a whole sixty years in the desert when the monk Paphnutius visited him. His hair and beard reached down to the ground, and long hair, as white as snow, had grown all overy his body during his years of nakedness. His appearance was cadaverous, unearthly and awe-inspiring. Seeing Paphnutius, he called him by name and then recounted to him his life in the desert. His guardian angel had appeared to him and taken him to that place. He had for a long time only eaten earth, which was hard to find in the desert, and, after that, when he had survived an intensive struggle with diabolical temptations and when his heart had become utterly established in love for God, an angel had brought him bread to eat. And besides that, through God’s gracious providence, a palm tree grew up at one side of his cell, that gave good dates, and a spring of water began to flow there. ‘But especially,’ said Onuphrios, ‘my food and drink are the sweet words of God.’ To Paphnutius’ question about his receiving of Communion, the hermit answered that the angel of God brought him Communion every Saturday. On the next day, the old man told Paphnutius that it was the day of his departure from this world; then he knelt down, prayed to God and gave his spirit into God’s hands. Then Paphnutius saw a heavenly light that illumined the body of the departed saint, and heard a choir of angelic hosts. He buried Onuphrios’ body with honour and returned to his own monastery, there as a living witness to narrate to the brethren, for their edification, the wonderful life of the man of God and the greatness of God’s providence towards those who give themselves wholly to His service.” (Prologue)
The Great Horologion adds that Paphnutius intended to stay in the place where Onuphrios died, but soon the palm tree withered and the spring dried up, which Paphnutius took as a sign that he was meant to leave that place and return to live with the brethren.
Saint Peter of Mt Athos (734). He was born to a noble family in Constantinople and became a soldier. He was taken captive by the Saracens and thrown into prison in chains, in Samarra of Syria. He spent his long imprisonment praying to God to free him and send him to some deserted place where he could devote the rest of his life to ascesis and prayer. One day St Nicholas appeared to him along with St Simeon the God-receiver; when they touched his chains they melted like wax, and Peter instantly found himself outside Samarra. He set out for Rome, where he was tonsured as a monk by the Pope, then set out by ship to return home. During the voyage, the Mother of God appeared to him along with St Nicholas, and Peter heard her tell St Nicholas that she had set Mt Athos apart for Peter to live in solitude. Peter had never heard of Mt Athos, but disembarked there and settled in a cave. There he spent fifty-three years in complete solitude, praying and struggling with the harshness of the elements and the attacks of demonic powers. After he had withstood fierce temptations for awhile, an angel of God began to bring him bread every forty days. Like St Onuphrios, his humble life might have passed completely unrecorded; but by God’s providence, one year before the Saint’s death a deer-hunter found him and heard the tale of Peter’s life, which he recorded. Saint Peter reposed in peace; his relics were taken to Macedonia.