Monday, March 30, 2009

The Ladder of Divine Ascent by St. John Klimakos - Step 5

Fresco of Christ and the Adultress (John 8:3-11), from Gracanica Monastery (taken from: http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Gracanica/exhibits/digital/w5-s3s5/w5-s3s5-1.html)

St. John Klimakos, the author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent is celebrated on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (yesterday), and today on his feast day. The following are a few quotes from the Ladder, Step 5, "On painstaking and true repentance which constitutes the life of the holy convicts; and about the Prison". In this chapter on the virtue of repentance, St. John tells of a group of penitent monks who have devoted their whole lives and beings to repentance because of their great contrition and love for God. May we, even in a small way, emulate their repentance as we approach Holy Week and the Lord's Pascha. Note: the translation used is from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery edition of The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

The first quote is from some of the penitent monks:
"Some often expressed their doubts to each other and said: 'Are we accomplishing anything brothers? Are we obtaining our requests? Will the Lord accept us again? Will He open to us?' And to this others would reply: 'Who knows, as our brothers the Ninevites said, if God will repent and will deliver us even from great punishment? In any case, let us do our part. And if he opens the door, well and good. And if not, blessed is the Lord God who, in His justice, has closed the door to us. At least let us persist in knocking at the door till the end of our life. Perhaps He will open to us for our great assiduity and importunity.' Therefore they exhorted one another, saying: 'Let us run, brothers, let us run. For we need to run, and to run hard, because we have fallen behind our holy company. Let us run, and not spare this our foul and wicked flesh, but let us kill it as it has killed us.'"

[Note: This does not hint at all of masochism or suicidal intentions, but fighting and ultimately conquering the sinful passions of the flesh, a struggle which all Orthodox Christians are called to pursue. The following quote is from the introduction of this edition of the Ladder: "For the character of the Church has always been heroic, one of struggles and asceticism. 'The Kingdom of the Heavens suffereth violence' (Matt. 11:12), it is constrained. Saint John said it most beautifully in the Ladder: "Angels are a light for monks, and the monastic life is a light for all men" (Step 26:31)" (http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/divine.htm). This quote also vividly shows the deep love for God and philotimo of these monks, as they maintain their love and devotion to God whether He would forgive them or not (though Christ forgives all who return to Him with repentance).]

The second quote is St. John's perception of the penitents, told to his Spiritual Father after visiting "the Prison":
"'I saw them, Father, and I was amazed; and I consider those fallen mourners more blessed than those who have not fallen and are not mourning over themselves; because as a result of their fall, they have risen by a sure resurrection.' 'That is certainly so,' he said."

The final quote is from St. John's Spiritual Father:
"'All things are possible to him that believeth, said the Lord. I have seen impure souls raving madly about physical love; but making their experience of such love a reason for repentance, they transferred the same love to the Lord; and, overcoming all fear, they spurred themselves insatiably on to the love of God. That is why the Lord does not say of that chaste harlot [Luke 7:36-50]; 'Because she feared,' but: 'Because she loved much,' and could easily expel love by love.'"


Icon of St. John Klimakos (Icon courtesy of http://www.eikonografos.com/ used with permission)
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miraculous Icon of the Theotokos: the "Megalochari" of Tinos

Miraculous Icon of the Theotokos: the "Megalochari" of Tinos
"The miracle-working of the Holy Icon of the Annunciation of the Island of Tinos has been known since long age all over the world and thousands of Christians souls in every part of our planet feel its graceful influence in the difficult moments of their lives. The Sacred Church of the Megalochari [meaning “Great Grace”, referring to the greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to the Theotokos “Hail of Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!”] of Tinos has since long been internationally recognized as a place of pilgrimage and as a philanthropic organization.

The sacred emotion and the mystical atmosphere present among the mass of believers at the Great Feasts of the Church, shake even those who know but few things about the Holy Icon.
No foreigner among those who visit the island remains unmoved in front of the Church of the Holy Virgin, which like a divine crown adorns, covers and guards the town of Tinos and most of the days of his stay there his interests is attracted by the Church.

The present edition is addressed to all our foreign fellow-men, who, irrespective of their language, nationality or religion, would like to get to know the Holy Foundation of the Annunciation of Tinos. It will try to present as shortly as possible a vivid picture about the Sacred Church, the history of the miracle-working Icon, the philanthropic, social and national activity of the Foundation. It will also deal with the narration of certain miracles of the innumerable ones which continuously happen, by which the Divine Grace sanctifies and saves the believers.

CHAPTER I - HISTORY
HOW THE WONDER-WORKING ICON OF OUR LADY WAS FOUND
The present site of the Marble Palace of the Virgin, with the numerous chapels, cell and the offices, has been since ancient times a place of religious gatherings and manifestations.
Excavations have proved that in pre-Christian times existed a temple of Dionysos of panhellenic projection. Next to the temple, on the Western side, there was an ancient theatre, where musical, gymnastic and dramatic games were held.

When the religion of the Nazarene established itself on the Cyclades, this ancient temple was transformed into a Christian church dedicated to the Holy Mother of Christ and to St. John the Forerunner. In this the wonder-working Icon of the Megalochari was kept and venerated.

This Sacred Church was destroyed in the middle of the 10th century during a great historic invasion of the Saracene pirates, who burned down and dug up this ancient building.
Since then the Holy Icon lay buried in the earth, until in the year 1823 the spade of a pious worker brought it to the surface and it became since then an invaluable relic and holy treasure of Christendom.

For the finding of worker-working Holy Icon many miraculous happenings occurred, which started from the Monastery of Kechrovounion lying on the slope of a mountain of the same name, 20 minutes by car from town. The Monastery was built about the 10th century and has always been example of the virtue and piety.


St. Pelagia the Righteous of Tinos, holding the Miraculous Icon which Panagia revealed to her (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_23_july_pelagia_of_tino.htm)


THE VISION OF THE NUNIn this monastery during the year 1822, a pious nun named Pelagia saw repeatedly in her visions the Holy Virgin, who ordered her to go to the town and to inform the elders to start the excavations in order to find Her Icon, buried since many years ago in the uncultivated field, which the Holy Virgin described exactly, and to built Her Church on that place.

At first the nun hesitated, but soon she came to understand that the Divine Grace has chosen her to bring to the inhabitants of Tinos the happy announcement. She thus went to town and told the Bishop of the island about her Divine Visions. The Bishop, a wise prudent and pious man, knew about the virtue and holiness of Pelagia; after having listened attentively the believed in the words of the nun. He also brought to his mind the narrations of an old man of his town, who just a few years ago saw in his vision the Virgin Mary, Who expressed also to him Her desire that Her Holy Icon be bound. And he thought that the Christian history, which is full of miracles, teaches that many times God has revealed his Divine Will by visions.

Deeply moved, the Bishop gave his blessing to the pious nun and rallied the same day by ringing the church bells the people of Tinos, to whom he spoke with words full of faith about the vision of Pelagia and explained to them the desire of Our Lady. The people of Tinos, well known for their faith and adherence to the Christian principles, believed in the vision of the nun and the words of the Bishop and full of enthusiasm and sacred emotion started immediately in September 1822 the excavations.

THE FIRST FINDINGS
The first excavations brought to light the ruins of the foundations of the Church already mentioned, a deep but dry well, marble plates with various inscriptions, articles of religious worship and other things. However, the Holy Icon, about which the vision of Pelagia spoke, could not be found. Several days of fruitless searches passed. Little by little the enthusiasm started to diminish - an example of human weakness- and finally the excavations stopped.

Simultaneously, however, with the discontinuation of the excavations, a formidable illness made its appearance on the island with continuously increasing fatal outcomes.

Full of scare, the people of Tinos asked for the protection of the Virgin Mary, repenting for the disobedience they have shown to her Divine Orders.

With a warm and moving proclamation, the Bishop invited all the inhabitants to resume the excavations, which then started with greater zeal and enthusiasm.

This time the excavations were made in a systematic way. A special commission of inspection was formed. The inhabitants of the villages took also turns in the work in order to hasten up the searches.

After about one month's work it was decided to start, parallel to the searches of the Holy Icon, the building of the Sacred Church. Thus, on January 1st 1823 the corner stone of the Church of the ''Zoodohos Pighi'' (Life-giving Well) or of the ''Evresis'' (Finding), as it has been called after the finding of the Icon, was laid. This church is situated exactly below the brilliant Church of the Annunciation.

THE FINDING OF THE HOLY ICON

It was January 30th 1823. In spite of the great feast of the Three Hierarchs, the work was continued by the inhabitants of the village Phalatas, whose turn it was to work on that day.
They restricted the work mainly to the excavation of the floor of the Church under construction, the leveling and transportation of the earth.

By 2 p.m. one of the workers engaged in the transfer of earth, felt at a distance of about 2 metres from the well that his hatchet struck some wood. Frantic with joy and emotion, he saw that it was a part of the icon showing the angel holding the lily. Immediately he called al his colleagues and together they soon found the remaining part of the Icon showing the Virgin Mary, kneeling and accepting the Divine Message of the Incarnation of the Savior.

After cleaning in haste the Holy Icon, they joined two, parts and kissed it with religious fear.
The news of the finding of the Holy Icon spread with a lighting speed to the town of Tinos and the near-by villages. Masses of people with tears of emotion in their eyes started to assemble from all directions in order to adore they Holy Icon. Among the first ones to arrive was the Bishop with the clergy and the notables. Piously and full of emotion, they adored the Holy Icon and placed it on an old double legged stand outside the Church under construction, leaving it there for the people to adore it.

The Icon of the Theotokos the "Megalochari" above the Image of the Church of the Panagia "Evangelistria" of Tinos (taken from: http://www.agiooros.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3444&start=50)

THE HOLY ICON

The Holy Icon of the Annunciation of Tinos, the Megalokhari, as it is called by the people, existed on the poor island of Tinos since the first Byzantine years and decorated the ancient Church of St. John the Forerunner, which was built after the destruction of the idols and the death of worship of the Olympian gods on the ruins of the pagan temple of Dionysos.

When this Holy Church was destroyed and burned down by the Saracenes in the 10th century A.D., the Icon was buried among the debris of the Church and was thus saved from that terrible catastrophe, which is mentioned by history with special emphasis.

Thus the Icon remained hidden in the ground till its discovery by the pious worker from Phalatas at noon January 30th 1823, after about 850 years. The fact that it remained in the humidity and the earth for so many years without practically any damage, can only be attributed to the wonder-working power and presence of the Holy Virgin.

It portrays the Megalokhari in a room, kneeling with Her head bent in prayer, in front of a small low stand, wearing a golden-yellow-green dress. On the stand is an open book, on which are written the words pronounced by the Virgin herself after the Annunciation by the Angel.
In the background of the small room and on both upper sides one can distinguish the separations of inner windows, while in the centre of the upper part of the Icon, we see the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending from heaven.

Above Her and to the right we see a rod protruding from the wall, on which is hung a light-colored curtain. The fine and impervious material of the curtain is folded at the lower part towards the wall.

Opposite to the Virgin and turned towards Her stands the illuminated figure of the Archangel Gabriel, also wearing a golden-yellow-green robe and holding in his left hand the symbolical lily of purity.

On the back the Icon bears traces of the fire, which as it seems finished up the catastrophic work of the pirates during their terrible attack, from which the Icon was miraculously saved.
The art of the Holy Icon does not belong to the Byzantine age, but is much older, belonging to the early Christian age. Those who studied the origin of the Icon come to the unanimous conclusion that the Megalokhari of Tinos is the work of the Apostle and Evangelist Luke. They even consider it to be one of the first three Icons painted by St. Luke during the life-time of the Holy Virgin of Nazareth. It is also asserted threat the Icon has received its wonder-working power from the Holy Virgin herself, Who being satisfied by the true presentation of the Divine Moment of the Annunciation by St. Luke, blessed the Icon with the following words: ''THE GRACE OF HIM WHO WAS BORNE BY ME BE THROUGH ME WITH IT''. This is the reasonable explanation given by the weak human mind to the infinite greatness of the finding of the Holy Icon by the divine order and indication of the Holy Virgin, as well as to Its wonder-working power, which is an inexhaustible source of consolidation, healing, salvation, peace and love for the Christians.

Like most of the relics of Christendom of the Holy Icon of the Megalokhari of Tinos is covered with plenty of gold and precious stones, which the devoted Christians deposit with piety in front of the Throne of Her Grace, wishing to express in this way their faith and gratefulness to the Mother of the whole world, offering Her the most precious articles that they have acquired by hard work and privation.

When looking at the Icon the pilgrim is filled unwillingly with emotion and awe. He kneels instinctively and prays and asks the Virgin to mediate so that Her Son Christ would give him from heaven strength and consolidation.

By observing closely the Icon one can see the face of the Virgin painted in the right direction and the face of the Archangel Gabriel in the left direction. The sides and the back of the Icon are in a golden frame, while the front surface is covered by the relief gold plate to which are attached jewels, rings, medallions, brooches, ear-rings, precious stones, diamonds, rubles emeralds and real pearls of great value.

A copy of the Icon can be seen in the Vestry next to the Church which we are going to describe below.


The Miraculous Icon of the "Megalochari" as it appears today, covered with the gold and jewels given in thanksgiving for miracles of the Theotokos (taken from: http://www.agiooros.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3444&start=30)


THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION (EVANGELISTRIA)
Immediately after the finding of the Holy Icon, it was decided to build a big Church above the chapel of the Life-giving Well (Zoodochos Pighi). For this purpose the Lower Church was extended to the right and to the left by proper porticos in order to enlarge it and above it was started the construction of the brilliant Church which we see to-day, after the plans of Eustratios Kallonaris, an architect and artist from Smyrna.
The whole work of construction, the iconography and the finishing of the Church, with the surrounding grounds and extensions was terminated by 1830, i.e. within eight years.

The work that was accomplished by our renowned forefathers within a relevantly short period of time is really surprising. Moreover, if we take into consideration the bad conditions prevailing at that time, the construction of this wonderful marble complex, which is preserved nearly unchanged up to-day, must cannot be attributed to nothing else but a miracle.

Only two years before the Holy Icon was found, the great and nation-saving Greek War of Liberation (1821) broke out.

The whole Greek Nation was fighting for its national liberation in and uneven inexorable fight against the Ottoman Empire. Destruction, blood and fire were commonplace.

The small, barren and poor island of Tinos, which also constituted a port of the fighting Country, answered the national call and its brave people found themselves together with all the other Greeks from the very first days in the first line of the fight


Besides, thousands of refugees from Chios and other islands that had received the wrath and the revenge of the Turks, had flooded the islands in a search of protection and salvation from the sword of the conqueror.
The poor island tried desperately to feed a multiple number of inhabitants. And in spite of that the Church of Megalokhari rose quickly to become a brilliant throne of the glory of the Mother of the Most Gracious King Christ.

The best technicians worked to produce the most brilliant marbles. The best known artists produced the wonderful inner ornamentation. The most famous artisans of that time built the marble palace of the Virgin. Tens of workers and unskilled technicians helped by carrying the raw materials and by executing the orders of the artisans.


Nobody tried to take advantage of or to receive high pay for his skills. Everybody worked for the sake of the Virgin, without receiving his normal wage.


Marbles and columns from the ancient temples of Delos and Poseidon at ''Kionia'', Tinos, were used for the construction of the Church, as well as marble from the quarries of Panormos, Tinos.

Every vessel that passed by the island loaded with lime, timber or another building material, being informed about the needs of the Church, donated part of its cargo for its construction.

When at a certain moment the funds of the Church were nearly exhausted, the Virgin, by one of the innumerable miracles that happen in her Holy Church, replenished the treasury again with money and the work continued without the slightest interruption.

The Church and the holy complex were thus built, and it has been preserved up to-day with only slight changes or renovations, which however have not changed at all its initial form. Anybody entering the Church is filled with religious awe and sacred emotion.

The gold and silver, lavishly offered to Her Grace by pious Christians from all over the world, give it a specific appearance. The enormous chandeliers and the hundreds of icon-lamps hanging in unending rows, offer to the Megalokhari the humble light of the sanctified oil and to the pilgrim and visitor a spectacle of surrounded by a mystic atmosphere.

Below each icon-lamp hangs an offering - a vessel, a silver child, a golden woman, an instrument, an animal, a house, a heart and many, many other things.

Each one of them is a living story of a cause of the offering, as well as of the divine intervention, to the desperate captain, whose vessel and crew were saved by the Megalokhari, to the sick child that was healed with the help of Her Grace, to the orphan and to the weak woman, who with the help of the Great Mother of the World found the courage and the strength to face the difficulties of life, to the poor bread-earner whose faith in the Virgin and the Protectress of the persecuted lead him to progress and promotion, to the unprotected girl, who with the help of the Virgin got what she desired in life- a house and a household.
To the left, at the marble praying desk, the Holy Icon brilliant framed with golden offerings and flowers, sheds its sweet light. At any time of the year or of the day, the visitor of the Church will see somebody in front of Her Gase who invokes the help and succour of the Virgin.


In the background, the icons of the bauster, also clad in gold and silver, compose and underline together with all the vestry the sacredness of the place and the greatness of the Church.

Good-voiced chanters and revered priests in golden dresses chant continuously thanksgiving hymns to the Lady of the Angels and pray for the salvation of the world.

By a tradition taken over from the seat of the Patriarchat at Constantinople, the Divine Liturgy and vespers are held every day of the year, from the inauguration of the Church and up to day.


Church of Panaga "Evangelstria" (of the Annunciation) - Tinos (taken from: http://www.greeceathensaegeaninfo.com/h-greek-islands/cyc/tinos-1b.htm)


THE MIRACLES OF THE MEGALOKHARI OF TINOS
The whole history of the Holy Church of the Megalokhari of Tinos, from the first vision of the nun Pelagia and up to day, is full of unquestionable miraculous events, which prove the divine presence and the divine action, there were it is impossible for the normal flow of things to act and to give an explanation.

Even the most rationally minded researcher, however indifferent and abstemious he might try to be when examining the reality about the Megalokhari, he will not be able to avoid the feeling of the presence of the Virgin in every step of his and in the end he will whisper full of piety: ''Great art Thou, o Lord, and wonderful art Thy works''.

Besides, the innumerable offerings are the biggest proof of the miracles, because all of them are an expression of faith, gratefulness and thankfulness on the part of the saved towards the Virgin.


For the sake of the reader, we will mention several of the remarkable and characteristic miracles of the Megalokhari, out of the numerous miracles happening daily, most of which are confirmed by the official written history of the Church.




The ornate interior of the Church of Panagia "Evangelistria" of Tinos. Many of the vigil lamps and decoratons were given out of thanks for miracles of the Theotokos. (taken from: http://www.angelfire.com/super2/greece/images/tinos2005-23.jpg)

HOW TINOS WAS SAVED FROM THE EPIDEMY [Epidemic?]
As the first miracle of the Holy Icon after its finding one should mention the salvation of the island from a terrific epidemy, which carried daily to death hundreds of the island's inhabitants. As witnessed by the historians o that time, as soon as the joyful announcement o the finding of the Holy Icon reverberated in the frozen atmosphere, the epidemy stopped and from that moment on no more cases of the disease were reported. Even those who were attacked by the disease got well again.

THE WELL OF SANCTIFICATION [Agiasma, Holy Water]
As told above, the mouth of a well was found during the excavations made in search of the Holy Icon. The well was completely dry and could not be used for anything.

As there did not exist any well near to the building site, on the day of the laying of the corner-stone of the Holy Church, the Bishop sent a small boy to bring some water from the town for the celebration of the hallowing of the waters.

Shortly afterwards the child was back and told the Bishop that the well next to the foundations was full of water. Having heard this the Bishop, accompanied by the notables went to the spot and all of them saw with great surprise that the dry well was now filled up to the brink with water.


They all made the sign of the cross for this miracle and after that took from the well the water necessary for the celebration of the hallowing.

From that time, the water of the well has been used by the pious pilgrims as a sacred water and everybody takes it along with him in special vials and keeps it at home as a talisman.

THE SAVING OF THE ENGLISH FRIGATE.
During one of the first years of the construction of the Church and n a period of great financial difficulties for treasury of the Church, which would have lead to the suspension of the construction works, a big English frigate was anchorched at the beach of the town, which at that time did not have a harbour. On board of the frigate was the English vice-concul H. Flick, a Catholic by confession.

Suddenly, as it often happen in the Aegean, a storm broke out and placed in a difficult situation the master of the frigate, which was in danger of being crushed on the wild rocks of the coast.

The frightened vice-consul standing on the deck saw at a distance the Church under construction and prayed spontaneously for his salvation and promised a substantial amount of money.

It happened them, as told by an eye-witness, that while the storm continued to rage out in the sea, around the frigate named ''As You Like It'' the waters were absolutely calm, as if a divine hand had removed from there the wild waves.

The vessel was saved and the vice-consul, faithful to his promise, went to the Church, adored the Icon and deposited at the treasury 100 Spanish dollars, which permitted the continuation of the construction works.
This miracle is representative of a great number of others, by which the Virgin helped for the works of the construction of the Church never to stop.

THE PRESENT OF THE MOSLEM OFFICIAL.
It is not only among the Orthodox that the Divine Grace acts by the Holy Icon of the Annunciation. It also acts among people of other confessions and nationalities.

As an example is mentioned the case of a Turkish colonel, a Moslem by confession, who was suffering from an incurable disease and visited the Church of the Megalokhari to ask for Her Help. The Virgin granted his prayers and healed him.

Full of gratefulness, the Turk undertook the expenses for the construction of a wonderful marble fountain next to the marble staircase of the upper Church, here the hallowing of the waters is celebrated on Epiphany every year.

THE VESSEL WITH THE FISH.
Around the middle of last century a vessel sailing in the Mediterranean met with an anti-cyclone. The ship fought hard, but the wild waves opened a breach in the ship's hold and it started to sink. The frightened crew, while doing everything in their power to stop the water, sent their warm prayers to the Lady for help. After tremendous efforts and hardships they succeeded to bring the vessel to safety into a leeward harbour.

Their first thing to do was to repair the damages caused by the storm. It was then that they found out to their surprise that a big fish was caught in the breach of the vessel, as a result of which the influx of water stopped.

They considered this as a sign of the divine intervention of the Megalokhari and in their faith and emotion they hurried to send Her the ''tama'' (offering).

Thus a model of that vessel, with the fish in the breach, made of gold and silver, can be seen hanging on one of the big icon-lamps of the Church of the Annunciation of Tinos.

THE SILVER ORANGE TREE.
A Greek, who lived for many years in America got blind after a heavy sickness. He heard about the miracles of the Megalokhari of Tinos and asked the Lady with help to give him back his health. He promised that he would offer to Her Grace anything that he will see first.

The divine Grace acted through the Mother of God on the sick Christian , who after many years found again his sight.

Faithful to his promise and full of gratefulness he sent to the Church of our Lady of Tinos his offering, which presents a wonderful orange tree with ripe fruits, bearing on the ends of the top branches fine supports for small lamps, all made of pure silver, because the first thing that he saw after the miracle was an orange tree.
This wonderful offering can be seen on the right side of the entrance.

THE HEALING OF THE DYING KING
In 1915 the King of the Hellenes Constantine was down with a heavy illness. His health deteriorated quickly and his physicians were anxious about the state of his health. A deep sorrow spread among the Greek people, who adored the Warrior-King and followed with agony the development of the illness, praying at the same time for his salvation.

In the general atmosphere of anxiety and pain, the Megalokhari of Tinos appeared as a ray of live-giving light and the hopes of everybody were turned to her.

The Holy Icon was transferred with great honours to Athens and thousands of people accompanied Her to the Palace. It was for the first time that the Icon left Her House.

The King, embraced by the nightmare of the long fever, became aware of the presence of the Megalokhari and with trembling lips asked to kiss Her Icon.

From that moment on the illness started to recede and within a few days the King was healthy again.

The King thanked the Virgin and out of gratefulness dedicated to Her a golden plate on which he is presented riding on his horse.

The offering is attached to the old wood carved praying desk. During the stay of the Holy Icon in Athens, tens of sick people were healed, as is witnessed by many official documents and confirmed by various offerings.
It is a fact that our Kings, continuers of the great Byzantine tradition and faithful Christians, have always expressed their reverence and adoration to the Megalokhari and Protectress of the Nation and many and precious offerings are royal presents.

Lately, the late King Paul asked on his death - bed strength and consolidation from the Holy Icon of the Megalokhari of Tinos, which the then Heir and now King Constantine placed at his pillow during his last moments.

Ocean of Ink would not suffice for the narration of the miracles of the Megalokhari. Innumerable cases are mentioned in his official documents of the Foundation and thousands of pious Christians witness with their letters and offerings the acts of Divine Grace.

As already mentioned, every molecule of the building of the Holy Church and of the Foundation of the Annunciation of Tinos is a living proof of the miracle.

THE NATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS IMPORTANCE OF THE FINDING OF THE HOLY ICON OF THE MEGALOKHARI.
The finding of the Icon took place when Greece was in a dramatic situation.

Only two years ago (1821) the whole Greek Nation had revolted against the tyranny of the Turks and had declared before God and men its political existence and independence, based on its indestructible moral forces and the help of the God.

All Greeks believed in the sacredness of their fight, since they fought for the basic ideals which compose the human entity, i.e. the liberty and the national dignity. This belief became for the fighting men a deep set conviction and the leaders of the war of independence used to say that God had signed the liberation of Greece.

Thus, when the news spread that on the small island of Tinos the Icon of the Virgin was found under miraculous circumstances and the first miracles became known, all Greek should felt a great joy and came to believe that its finding was a divine sign, which meant an approval of the fight and a confirmation of the liberation.

Great soldiers and leaders of the fighting Nation among them Kanaris, Miaoulis and Kolokotronis, visited the Megalokhari of Tinos and lit before the Holy Icon the candle of gratefulness and reverence.

Thus the history of the Holy Icon is closely bound to the History of modern Greece and the feasts of the Church have always a national religious character, where the Government is officially represented in the presence of high military, administrative and judicial authorities.

THE FEASTS OF THE HOLY CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF TINOS
The Church of the Annunciation is for Tinos the centre of all religious and national manifestations of its inhabitants. All services and doxologies for great historic events are held there.

The most important holidays of Christianity, like Christmas, Easter, the services of the Akathist and of the Passions of Our Lord, are celebrated there in an atmosphere of contrition and surprising greatness, similar only to that of the period of the height of the Byzantine age.

Many foreigners spend their holidays during these feasts on the island of Tinos.

But the feast of the Holy Church of the Megalokhari are mainly the following:

January 30th - Anniversary of the Finding of the Holy Icon.
On this day the religious feelings of the believers find strongest expression. The whole population of the island and many visitors, who disregard the winder storms of the Aegean offer their thanks to the Great Mother and Proctress of the Christians, Who deigned to reveal Her Holy Icon for the salvation of all those who really believe.

In the afternoon on the eve the Holy Icon is transferred with great honours to the Lower Church and its placed near the point where is lay buried for centuries. This is followed by a special service dedicated to the finding of the Icon.

The next day, an official episcopical [presided over by Bishops] [Divine Liturgy] is celebrated and by 2 p.m. unde the continuous ringing of the bells of all churches, the Holy Icon is carried through the decorated streets of the town in its gold and silver canopy supported by the church wardens, the local authorities and the representatives of the population. After a short prayer at the quai the Holy Icon is returned to Her marble palace, where a prayer is said in memorial of the builders of the Church, whose tombs are situated at the East side of the Church, and of all those who have sacrificed their fortunes and themselves for the construction of the Church.

After vespers the President of the Church Committee pronounces the panegyric of the day, which refers mainly to the activity of the Holy Foundation during the past year and the planned activity of the new year.
In the evening the school-children lead by the orchestra of the Church march through the streets holding lighted multi-colour lamps and singing various hymns referring to the finding of the Holy Icon.

Icon of the Holy Annunciaton of the Theotokos (taken from: http://www.agiooros.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3444&start=50)

March 25th, The Annunciation of Our Lady.This day has double meaning for the Greeks, because they celebrate at the same time the Annunciation of Our Lady by the Archangel Gabriel and the anniversary of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire, which brought the liberation of our nation.

In the Church of the Megalokhari the celebration has a national religious character, which is attended by members of the Government, who arrive on the eve aboard a special Navy vessel. Very often the celebration is attended by the Royal family, who have have a special respect for the Megalokhari.

Up to the year 1920 great masses of Christians, mainly from the Asia Minor regions flooded the island in order to participate in the celebrations. However, after the exchange of the populations with Turkey and the uprooting of the Greek element from the shores of Asia Minor, the flow of pilgrims from these stopped. Today, inspite of the heavy climate conditions of that time of the year, the attendance amounts to several thousand people.

On the eve a service is held with the participation of navy bishops, after which the Church remains open, permitting the pilgrims to pass the night inside the Church and to offer continuous prayers to the Virgin. Many miracles happen every year these all night long prayers.

On the day of the feast an episcopal mass is celebrated after which the Holy Icon is carried in a procession up to the quai of the town.

July 23rd, Anniversary of the Vision of St. Pelagia.This day the people of Tinos consecrates to memory of that pious nun Pelaghia, who had the great privilege to be visited on that day in her poor cell by Our Lady and to the first person to annunciate the finding of the Holy Icon.

Early in the morning of that day, accompanied by the nuns of the Monastery and a crowd of believers, is transferred to the Monastery where St. Pelaghia lived. A festive mass is celebrated there and in the afternoon a requiem s held in the cell of St. Pelaghia, where the visitor can still see her humble belongings, her ascetic bed and may adore her holy head.

Later in the afternoon, the Holy Icon is returned to Her Church surrounded by the clergy and thousands of people.

August 15th, The Assumption of the Holy Virgin.This day is concentrated to Megalokhari. Thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Greece and from abroad, surpassing 30.000 people every year, come to the Megalokhari full of faith and threats, warm, implores of Her Grace. Among them are many distressed human beings, physical and mental invalids, persecuted and suffering people.

The representatives of the Government, other official, as well as the military guard of honour arrive on the eve, while masses of people are crowded in front of the Church, trying to adore the Megalokhari and if possible to secure a place inside the Church.

While the adoration continues throughout the night, those who remain nude the Church offer continuous prayers and ask Our Lad to give them health and peace to the whole world.

Many of them carried away by the mystical and inspiring atmosphere which is created inside the Church and flooded by the lights of faith, come to see the optasy of the Virgin n the trembling light of the lamps and the smoke of incense. Then the shouts, the outbursts of the sacred emotion, ascend to the heavens and electrify the crowds, who in an unworldly uproar sing hymns of thanks, expectation and faith. These are the moments when the Divine Grace chooses to act and to perform miracles.

Mutes find suddenly their voice and mad with joy run to kneel in front of the Icon. Paralytic children, blind girls find again their precious health and in a confusion of shouts and emotions express their gratitude to the Megalokhari.

On the day of the feast, the noise and the traffic on Tinos resemble that of a Megalopolis. Its population of 3000 is increased ten times overnight. Its houses and streets are full with people. In its small harbour a forest of masts is rolling rhythmically and the flags greet the light of the brilliant day of the feast of our Lady, which is also a feast of every Christian soul. On the quai the agitated crowds are moving towards the Church.

In endless queues, which are formed in front of the Church, the pilgrims wait for their turn under the burning August sun to adore Her Grace. The big candles, which every one of them has vowed to light in front of the Holy Icon, protrude from the crowd in the form of real spears and arrows of a strange army fighting for the salvation of its soul.

Black-dressed mothers with children loaded on their backs, persecuted orphans and black-dressed youths, who have lost their health, ascend the wide avenue on their knees. Sweat running down their faces like drops of blood waters the hole earth, their faces changing from the superstension, while continue their hard course, because they have vowed to walk in this way the distance between the quay and the Throne of Her Grace, because they believe that the love and protection of the Great Protectress will be much sweeter, after they have felt the agony and hardships, and have gave through the martyrdom of Jesus Her Son in the ascend to Golgotha for the explanation and the salvation of the world


At 10 a.m. an official processation of the Holy Icon takes place, after which the clergy and the officials go aboard a special vessel to the point exactly where on August 15th 1940 the destroyer ''ELLI'', one of the best Greek navy vessels at that time, was treacherously and cowardly sunk by an Italian submarine. There a requiem is held and a laurel crown is thrown on the wet tomb of the glorious ship and of the innocent victims of its crew.

At noon starts the departure of the believers by the big passenger liners, which on that day make special passages to Tinos


All leave the island re-baptized [not referring to a second Sacrament of Baptism] in the eternal source of the Grace of the Megalokhari."

Greek text by Ev. A. Foskolos, Employee of the Holy Foundation of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Tinos. Translation by C. Meihanetsidis. Text taken from:
http://vincenzo.gr/panagia_eng.htm.
 
Another excellent account of the miraculous icon of the Megalochari can be found here: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=100379.

Icon of the Theotokos "Megalochari" of Tinos (http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/panagia-tinou-01.jpg)
 
Troparion of the Mother of God Tone 1
O people of Tinos and all faithful, come and acclaim with hymns our Protectress; the all-venerable icon of the pure Mother of God/ is found to be a source of healing for us. Let us cry to her: Rejoice, O our glory and boast. Rejoice, thou who hast delivered mankind from the ancient curse.

Most-Holy Theotokos, save us! Amen!

The Holy Annunciation of the Theotokos

Icon of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, with Christ depicted in the Panagia's Holy Womb (taken from: http://www.agiooros.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=3444&start=50)
Kontakion.
Mode pl. 4. Original Melody.

O Champion General, I your City now inscribe to you, * triumphant anthems as the tokens of my gratitude, * being rescued from the terrors, O Theotokos. * Inasmuch as you have power unassailable, * from all kinds of perils free me so that unto you * I may cry aloud: Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.

OEkos.
An Angel of supreme rank was sent down from heaven to say to the Theotokos, Rejoice. And perceiving You take bodily form at the sound of his bodiless voice, O Lord, he was astounded and he stood shouting to her such salutations:
Rejoice, through whom is the joy to shine forth. Rejoice, through whom is the curse to vanish.
Rejoice, restoration of Adam the fallen one. Rejoice, liberation of Eve from tears.
Rejoice, height to which the thoughts of men are hardly able to ascend. Rejoice, depth which for the Angels’ eyes is very hard to apprehend.
Rejoice, for you are a throne for the King. Rejoice, for you hold the One who holds everything.
Rejoice, the star causing the Sun’s manifestation. Rejoice, the womb of the divine incarnation.
Rejoice, through whom is creation recreated. Rejoice, by whom is the Creator procreated.
Rejoice, O unwedded Bride.
Doxastikon of the Praises - 2nd ToneThe age-old mystery is revealed today, and the Son of God becomes the Son of man, so that by partaking of what is lower He may impart to me what is superior. Of old, Adam was deceived; and he did not become God, though this was his desire. But now, God becomes man, to make Adam god. Let creation sing for joy, and let nature be exultant. For the Archangel is standing with awe before the Virgin and is delivering the salutation, ʺRejoice, ʺ the reverse of the pain and sorrow. O our God, who in Your tender mercy became man, glory to You!
(Texts from Fr. Seraphim Dedes at: http://sgpm.goarch.org/ematins/bilingual/Mar25.pdf)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"On the Victory of the Cross": Kontakion 22 of St. Romanos the Melodist

ON THE VICTORY OF THE CROSS
Acrostic: BY THE HUMBLE ROMANOS

"...In the east, [Kontakion 22 of St. Romanos] has long been associated with the feast of the Veneration of the Cross during the fourth week of Lent, which starts on the third Sunday and continues during the following week. The 1st Proemium and 1st stanza are still used as Kontakion and Ikos for the 3rd Sunday of Lent. It is sung in the 7th, or Grave, Tone. As in Greek tragedy the dramatic events take place ‘off stage’, and the Kontakion takes the form of a dramatic dia-logue between Hades and Satan below the earth as they comment on the drama taking place on earth."

Detail of Christ Crucified, Fresco by the Pachomaioi Fathers (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)

Proemium 1. Idiomel.
The sword of flame no longer guards the gate of Eden,
For a strange bond came upon it: the wood of the Cross.
The sting of Death and the victory of Hades were nailed to it.
But you appeared, my Saviour, crying to those in Hades:
‘Be brought back
Again to Paradise’.


Proemium 2.
Nailed to the form of the Cross
As truly a ransom for many
You redeemed us, Christ our God,
For by your precious blood in love for mankind
You snatched our souls from death.
You brought us back with you
Again to Paradise.


Proemium 3.
All things in heaven and earth rightly rejoice with Adam,
Because he has been called
Again to Paradise.

1
Three crosses Pilate fixed on Golgotha,
Two for the thieves and one for the Giver of life,
Whom Hades saw and said to those below,
‘My ministers and powers,

Who has fixed a nail in my heart?
A wooden lance has suddenly pierced me and I am being torn apart.
My insides are in pain, my belly in agony.
My senses make my spirit tremble,
And I am compelled to disgorge
Adam and Adam’s race, given me by a tree,
A tree is bringing them back
Again to Paradise’.

(excerpts from Fr. Ephraim Lash: http://www.anastasis.org.uk/kontakion_22.htm)
Your Cross do we venerate O Master, and we glorify Your Holy Resurrection! Amen!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

St. Theodore Tyron and the Miracle of the Kollyva

Icon of St. Theodore Tyron (The Recruit), the Great Martyr (taken from: http://www.goarch.org/special/theodoretyre/)

This holy, glorious Martyr of Christ came from Amasia in Pontus and was a Roman legionary at the time of Maximian’s great persecution (c. 303). He had been a Christian since childhood but kept his faith secret, not out of cowardice but because he had not yet received a sign from God to present himself for martyrdom. While his cohort was stationed near the town of Euchaïta (Helenopontus), he learned that the people of the district lived in terror of a dreadful dragon, which lurked in the surrounding forest. He realized that here was the quest in which God would show him whether the time had come to offer himself for martyrdom. Going deep into the woods, he came upon an abandoned village whose only remaining occupant, a Christian princess named Eusebia, told him where the monster had its lair. He set off to find it, arming himself with the sign of the Cross, and when he confronted the roaring, fire-spitting beast, he thrust his spear through its head and killed it.

Icon of St. Theodore slaying the monster and saving the princess (taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_of_Amasea)

Convinced that now, by God’s grace, he would be able to vanquish the spiritual dragon, the Devil, just as he had felled the visible fiend, Saint Theodore returned to the camp, ready to confess his faith. When the commander of his cohort ordered a sacrifice to the gods of the Empire, Theodore remained in his tent. “I am a Christian,” he told the squad who came to look for him. “I adore only Christ. He is the King whom I serve, and to Him only am I willing to offer sacrifice!” After plying him with crafty questions, they left him in order to interrogate other Christian soldiers. Inflamed with divine zeal, Theodore encouraged his fellow Christians to show themselves worthy of Christ, who had chosen them to be soldiers in His army on high.

That night he went to the pagan temple and reduced the altar of Rhea, the mother of the gods, to ashes. He was caught in the act by a verger, and brought unresisting to the governor Publius. There was an uproar in Euchaïta when the deed was known; but Theodore replied calmly to the governor’s questions, showing the absurdity of regarding as a deity a lifeless piece of wood which had been reduced to ashes in a few moments. Threatened with dire torments, the Saint responded, “Your threats do not frighten me because, amid torments, the power of Christ will be joy and gladness to me.” Grinding his teeth in rage, the governor had him thrown into a gloomy dungeon.

That night, Christ appeared to His valiant servant and promised that His grace would be at once his food and drink, his joy and shield. Thus comforted, Theodore spent his time chanting hymns with the Angels, so that even though his cell was bolted and barred, the jailers thought that other Christians must have joined him there.

When offered bread and water, Theodore refused it, saying that Christ had promised him food from heaven. On coming before Publius for the second time, he was offered the post of high priest of the idols, at which he laughed, and assured the governor that he was ready to be cut in pieces for the love of Christ. He was then hung by his heels while his body was lacerated with iron claws. But faced with the Saint’s indomitable resolution, the tormentors labored in vain, and the governor, fearing lest this example encourage other Christians, decided to be done with him; and he condemned him to be burned to death.

When they reached the stake, the Martyr took of his clothing and sent up a fervent prayer that God would strengthen the other confessors. He walked freely into the flames, which surrounded him but left him untouched as though wanting to do him obeisance. In the midst of this triumphal circlet, Saint Theodore gave back his soul to God with thanksgiving. The pious Eusebia ransomed his body, which she took to Euchaïta. A church was built there in honor of the Martyr, who obtained healing of soul and body for the many pilgrims who came to seek his intercession.
 
St. Theodore Tyron the Great Martyr (source)
 
St. Theodore and the Great Miracle of the Kollyva
In 361, Julian the Apostate was doing his utmost to restore pagan customs. Knowing that the Christians were accustomed to sanctify the first week of Lent by fasting and prayer, the wily tyrant told the Prefect of Constantinople to have all of the food set out for sale in the markets sprinkled with the blood of animals sacrificed to the gods, so that no one in the city would escape the contagion of idolatry. However, the Lord did not abandon His chosen people, but sent His servant Theodore to outwit the tyrant. Appearing in a vision to Patriarch Eudoxius (360-364), the holy Martyr informed him of what was happening and told him to instruct the Christians not to buy food from the markets but instead to eat kolyva made from grains of boiled wheat. Thus, thanks to the intervention of the holy Martyr Theodore, the Christian people were preserved from the stain of idolatry. The Church has commemorated this miracle ever since on the first Saturday of Great Lent, in order to remind the faithful that fasting and temperance have the power to cleanse all the stains of sin.

Saint Theodore the Tryon wrought many other miracles for those who had recourse to him with faith, and who persevered in prayer in his church. One day, shining in glory on his white horse, he appeared to a poor widow and restored her only son who had been captured by Saracens. He often brought the tempest-tossed to safety, thieves to light and runaways back to their masters. In all his miracles, this Roman legionary showed that he had become the heavenly protector of the Christian people.
 
Christ blessing the Most-holy Theotokos and St. Theodore Tyron, a mosaic from the Church of St. Demetrios, Thessaloniki (source)
 
Orthodox Christian Celebration of the Feast of Saint Theodore The Tyron
The feast and commemoration of Saint Theodore the Tyron is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers may be conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. The commemoration of the appearance of Saint Theodore and the miracle of the kolyva is celebrated on the first Saturday of Great Lent each year with a Divine Liturgy and a Memorial Service. This day is the last of three Saturday of Souls observed each year at the beginning of the Lenten season. The faithful bring kolyva and lists of names of friends and family members who have reposed in the faith. The names are read by the priest during the Memorial Service.
(http://www.goarch.org/special/theodoretyre/)
  

Icon of Sts. Theodore the Recruit and Theodore the Commander (taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Theodore)
   

Troparion — Tone 2

Great are the accomplishments of faith, / For the Holy Martyr Theodore rejoiced in the flames as though at the waters of rest, / Offering himself as sweet bread to the Trinity. / So by his prayers, O Christ God, save our souls!

Kontakion — Tone 8

Your faith in Christ was like a breastplate upon your heart: / With its aid, you overcame the power of the enemy. / Therefore you are crowned in eternity with a heavenly diadem.
 
St. Theodore Tyron the Great Martyr (source)
 
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kontakion of St. Romanos on Adam and Eve, or on Fasting

Christ God cursing Adam, Eve and the Serpant, Fresco from Decani Monastery (taken from: http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Decani/exhibits/Collections/Genesis/CX4K2302_l.html)


Kontakion 51 of St. Romanos the Melodist - ON ADAM AND EVETone 1
Prooimion
Devote yourself, my soul, to repentance, be united to Christ by thought,
Crying out with groans, “Grant me pardon for my evil deeds,
That I may receive forgiveness and eternal life”.
1.
Let us await the blessed hope through works and faith
As many of us as observe the teachings of the Lord and Saviour.
That is why we honour and love the achievement of fasting
That is honoured by Angels,
By keeping it Prophets, though earthly beings,
Became partners of the heavenly choirs.
Christ was not ashamed to accomplish
This; for he fasted willingly;
Through this he underwrote for us eternal life.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!