Venerable Chariton the Confessor,
Abbot of
September 28th
Tortured relentlessly for his faith by the
Romans, St. Chariton the Confessor refused to denounce Jesus Christ – and then went on to found the series of monasteries that made this monk a legendary figure among the early saints of the Holy Church. His dramatic story looms as a classic example of how trust in the Lord can help a true believer endure any
hardship and prevail against any enemy, no matter how strong.
St. Chariton’s story begins near the middle of
the 3rd Century after Christ, in the ancient Phoenician city of Iconium, where this ascetic and longsuffering figure was born to a life of extraordinary self-mortification. Converted to Christianity as a young man, the virtuous
Chariton was inspired throughout his tumultuous life by the example of the first
Christian martyress – St. Thekla, also a longtime resident of Iconium. During
all the torments that pursued St. Chariton as his destiny unfolded in Palestine
and elsewhere, it would be the sublime image of the martyred St. Thekla that
sustained him, along with what he often described as the “life-bearing armor of
the Cross.”
His own troubles began in Palestine under the
reign of the Roman emperor Aurelian, according to most historians, when the
provincial authorities arrested and tried him for being a Christian. Confronted
with this charge, St. Chariton proudly confirmed the fact that he had been
converted to the Gospel and then infuriated his accusers by loudly

to the Roman Tribunal: “All your gods are demons, and were cast from the heaven
into the nethermost hell!”
Predictably enough, the outraged Roman
authorities responded with a spasm of naked violence in which four hulking
guards stretched the saint upon the ground, beat him mercilessly . . . and then
burned his helpless body with flaming coals. But each time they struck St.
Chariton, he declared his faith more loudly – while also calling upon the noble
St. Thekla to assist him in his hour of anguish.
Somehow, the bruised Christian managed to
remain alive. Lacerated and bleeding profusely, he lay near the point of
expiring in his prison cell . . . when all at once his grave wounds were
miraculously healed. Later still, upon the accession of Tacitus to the throne of
the emperor in 275 A.D., the ferocious persecution of the Christians was halted
for a time and St. Chariton was permitted to travel to Jerusalem on a holy
Once again, however, he found himself
victimized by fate – after a band of roving bandits kidnapped the hapless
pilgrim near the Palestinian city of Jericho and abducted him to a cave in Wadi
Faran, where they bound him and left him stretched on the ground. St. Chariton
began to pray, and Providence immediately intervened. It happened when a group
of snakes entered the cave in search of food and came upon an open container of
wine. As they drank the sugary liquid, deadly venom leaked from the bodies into
the container. And when the bandits returned to toast each other triumphantly
over a successful robbery they had just completed, the poison took hold quickly
and killed every one of them!
Eventually released from his bonds, the
abstemious St. Chariton characteristically turned their evil actions into good –
by giving all of their stolen gold away to the poor. Then, having decided to
become an ascetic monk, he settled down to a life of prayer and
self-deprivation, right there in the cave where he had been held captive. In the
end, he would convert this robbers’ cave into a famous Palestinian monastery
known as the “Tharan Monastery.” Eventually, this quietly self-effacing and
self-denying monk would go on to found two other monasteries, before his death
in 350. The first of these retreats – called the “Monastery of Chariton” – would
be founded at Jericho, the great Palestinian city located only a few miles west
of the Jordan River. The second monastery, erected at Souka, would eventually
become known as the “Old Lavra,” a place of legendary piety and asceticism for
generations of monks.
After inspiring thousands of Palestinians to
convert to Christianity – with many of them becoming monks who would then spend
their lives in prayer and contemplation – the elderly St. Chariton was finally
buried in a simple grave near his monastery at Souka, only a few yards from the
robbers’ cave where his destiny had unfolded so many years before. To this day,
the sacred practice of tonsuring monks is credited to a practice instituted by
St. Chariton, who also devised many other ascetic rules for devout monks to
A faithful adherent of the monastic life, this
Holy Land saint established practices of prayer, veneration and self-denial that
remain hallmarks of Christian piety more than 16 centuries after his
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
With the streams of thy tears, thou didst
cultivate the barrenness of the desert; and by thy sighings from the depths,
thou didst bear fruit a hundredfold in labours; and thou becamest a luminary,
shining with miracles upon the world, O Chariton our righteous father. Intercede
with Christ God that our souls be saved.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Delighting in abstinence, O godly-minded one,
and reining in the desires of thy flesh, thou wast seen to be increasing in
faith. And thou didst blossom forth like the tree of life in the midst of Eden,
O all-blessed and most sacred Chariton.