ORTHODOXY IS LOVE
& Saint Pansemni the former prostitute in Antiochia, Syria (+369)
The venerable Theophanes was born in Antioch, to unbelieving parents, but this did not thwart him from becoming a Christian at an early age, though he was not Baptized. When he was fifteen years old, his parents insisted he take a wife. Being married for three years, he was widowed when death intervened and took his wife.
Now unencumbered, Theophanes hastened to a Christian church, and received the Mystery of Holy Baptism. Then he built a narrow cell near Antioch, where he enclosed himself and expelled all his passions that dominated his body and soul, and excelled in the virtues.
With the passage of time, Theophanes learned that in the city dwelled a prostitute named Pansemni, who brought ruin to many men. Pricked in his heart over this calamity, both on behalf of the woman and her male admirers, Theophanes entered into deep prayer, whereupon he was enlightened to ransom Pansemni and take her as his wife. Therefore, he removed his hair shirt and donned expensive apparel. Theophanes visited his father to reveal his intentions in taking a second wife, and the father gladly gave his son ten gold coins.
Theophanes then visited Pansemni the prostitute in her home. Upon entry, he was invited to eat and drink with her. After engaging in a pleasant conversation, Theophanes bluntly asked Pansemni how long she had been involved in her indecent vocation. Unoffended, she stated she had been engaged in her occupation for twelve years. She also added that of all her admirers, Theophanes was by far the most handsome. Unaffected by the compliment, since Theophanes desired to preserve the purity of his soul and body, he told her: “I desire and intend to take you in honorable marriage.” Pansemni was quite pleased at his pleasant proposal, reasoning that it was a singular token of esteem for her, being a shameless prostitute. Accepting his proposal, Theophanes gave her his ten gold coins and told her to hasten in the preparations for the wedding.
Taking his leave, Theophanes returned to his cell outside the city. While Pansemni prepared for their marriage, Theophanes also made preparations for Pansemni by building her a cell not far from his own. Not long after, he returned to the city and visited her. However, this time he placed a condition on her. Unless she accepted the Christian faith and became a Christian, they would be unable to cohabit. Pansemni initially found this condition difficult to accept, so she requested time to consider the matter.
Seven days later Pansemni heard someone speaking about the future judgement, how the righteous would enjoy eternal life and the blessings that come from it, while the unrighteous would receive eternal condemnation. Her conscience became censured by this, and the grace of God moved her to profound contrition, allowing her heart to be transformed from impious to pious. Conscious of her sinfulness, she disowned her ancestral polytheism, and assented to the teachings of the Gospel.
Seeking the perfect path of piety, Pansemni resolved to enter the ranks of the newly-illumined, and received Holy Baptism. Her new path in life moved her to free her retinue of servants and handmaids, and she donated everything she received and acquired through her disreputable occupation to the Church of God for suitable distribution. Pansemni, therefore, bidding farewell to the pleasures of this world, devoted herself to qualities her name implied, that is, to be all-modest.
Having nothing left in the world, she hastened to Theophanes who brought her to the cell he built for her. Inflamed with divine eros, she sought to contemplate the beauty of the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, the fairest among men, and sought union with Him intensely and with longing.
Pansemni kept watch over her inward thoughts and guarded her heart in this endeavor, and through asceticism of the body and soul, her labors attracted divine grace, gaining spiritual regeneration and victory. She had such an outpouring of divine grace that she was able to dispel demons and heal diverse passions and illnesses. And this was done in a very short time, since the devout and venerable Pansemni lived only fourteen months after baptism, and she was translated to the Heavenly Bridegroom on the same day the venerable and wonderworking Theophanes surrendered his soul to the Lord.
ORTHODOX HEART SITES