A Saint in the Making
A young man, Peter from Constantinople, served as a soldier in the Roman imperial armies. During conflict with Syrians he was taken prisoner 1 and locked up in a fortress in Samara on the shores of the Euphrates River. During his long imprisonment he remembered he’d once intended to leave the world behind and become a monk. He began to fast and pray and asked Saint Nicholas to intercede on his behalf.
Saint Nicholas came to Peter in a dream, telling him that he would see what he could do, and urged him to have patience and hope. St. Nicholas also reminded Peter that God delayed his deliverance because he had earlier made a similar promise and had not kept it. After some time Saint Nicholas again appeared to Peter, saying he should call for help from Saint Simeon, the God-Receiver, who is mighty before God stands close to God’s throne in Heaven.
Peter took St. Nicholas’ counsel and prayed to St. Simeon.
Then a third time, St. Nicholas came to Peter—this time it wasn’t a dream and Saint Simeon was with him, too. St. Simeon asked Peter, “Do you want to fulfill your vow and become a monk? Peter replied, “Yes master, with God’s help.” Then St. Simeon touched Peter’s chains with his staff and they melted like wax. Next the door of the prison opened and Peter was free. Saint Simeon vanished, but Saint Nicholas accompanied Peter to the Greek border, reminding him of his promise before he also disappeared.
Peter continued on to Rome. Saint Nicholas again provided help by appearing to the Pope in a dream, telling about Peter’s release from prison and asking the Pope to make Peter a monk. At the next day’s crowded divine service, the Pope called out, “Peter, who art from Greek lands, freed from prison by Saint Nicholas, come to me.” Then at the Apostle Peter’s tomb, the Pope shaved Peter’s head preparing him to enter monastic life. The Pope taught Peter what he must do to be a monk before sending him off with a blessing to follow God’s call wherever it might be.
Peter set out on a ship. While sailing, the Holy Mother of God appeared to him, telling him to go to Mount Athos. so Peter disembarked 2 at Mount Athos where he lived in solitude for fifty-three years.
1. In the year AD 667
2. In the year AD 681
- The Monk Peter of Athos, Orthodox Calendar, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, Baltimore, Maryland
- The vitae of St. Nicholas and His Hagiographical Icons in Russia, Vol. 2, doctoral dissertation by Alexander Boguslawski, University of Kansas, 1980, p. 79.
- “Venerable Peter the Athonite,” The Prologue from Orhid, June 12.