Saint Chariton the Confessor was born at Iconium in the province of Lycaonia, and suffered there during a persecution against Christians in the reign of Emperor Aurelian (270-275). The example of the holy Protomartyr Thekla, who was also a native of his city, encouraged him to confess Christ, since he had a great devotion to her.
Chariton bravely denounced the pagan gods and staunchly confessed faith in the one True God, Christ the Savior. The holy Confessor underwent fierce tortures but, by God's providence, he survived. The persecution ended after Aurelian's death in 275. Saint Chariton was among the many Christians who were released from prison, and he resolved to dedicate his entire life to the service of the Lord. Although he escaped death, he grieved because he had not received the crown of martyrdom.
After arriving at Jerusalem on a pilgrimage to the holy places, he fell into the hands of thieves. They tied him up and threw him in a cave, intending to kill him later. After they left to find people to rob, the saint prayed fervently to God expecting to be put to death. He did not ask God to deliver him, but instead he entreated Him to do with him as He wished.
At this time a snake crawled into the cave and began to drink wine from a vessel setting there. Later it vomited forth its deadly venom, poisoning the wine. When they returned to the cave, the evil men drank the poisoned wine and they all perished. Thus, their wicked lives came to an end. Chariton gave thanks to God, and then he gave away the gold which the malefactors had stolen, distributing it to the poor, to churches, and to monasteries. He began his ascetic struggles in the place of his miraculous rescue, and there he built a church. In time a monastery was established: the renowned Pharan Lavra in Palestine. Chariton's fame drew many disciples to him. He governed them with paternal affection, and he elevated them to the highest degrees of virtue.
Chariton compiled a strict Rule for his monastery. Yearning for solitude, the monk withdrew farther into the desert in order to avoid the praise of men, but he never rejected anyone who sought his spiritual guidance. He founded two more monasteries: the Jericho (called the Monastery of Saint Chariton) and the Souka, which was called “the old Lavra.” He also brought many Jews and pagans to the Faith.
At the end of his life, Chariton struggled in a cave atop a hill near the Souka monastery, but he did not cease to provide guidance for all three of the monasteries which he founded. He fell asleep in the Lord peacefully and at an advanced age on September 28, 350.
According to Tradition, Saint Chariton compiled the Office of the Monastic Tonsure. Saint Chariton was buried at the Pharan monastery, in accordance with his last wishes. His grace-filled relics were enshrined in the church that had been built on the site of the robbers' cave.
By a flood of tears you made the desert fertile,
and your longing for God brought forth fruits in abundance.
By the radiance of miracles you illumined the whole universe!
Our Father Chariton, pray to Christ God to save our souls!
You delighted in the monastic life, O divinely-wise one
and conquered the bodily passions.
You increased in faith, blossoming as the tree of life in the midst of Paradise,
O most blessed and holy Chariton!