Monday, August 31, 2009

Selected miracles from the Holy Zoni of the Theotokos

Icon of the Most-Holy Theotokos holding her Sacred Belt (Zoni) (taken from: http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/agia-zonh.jpg)
   
Because today is the feast of the Deposition of the Precious Belt (or Sash, Cincture, or Girdle, in Greek "Zoni") of the Theotokos (August 31st), the following are just a few (amateur) translated miracles from the myriads recorded by the fathers of Vatopedi Monastery. To see the many pages in Greek, see: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/ and search for "ΘΑΥΜΑΤΑ ΤΗΣ ΑΓΙΑΣ ΖΩΝΗΣ". There are 45 pages of miracles posted so far. For more information on the Holy Zoni of the Theotokos, see: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/06/holy-belt-zoni-of-theotokos-and.html.
   
Picture of the Holy Belt of the Theotokos in its reliquary, treasured at the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos (taken from: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/a-pilgrim%e2%80%99s-guide-to-the-great-and-holy-monastery-of-vatopaidi-8/)
   
5. Father Daniel Katounakiotis is cured of nephritis
In the book of the blessed Archimandrite Cherubim of the series, «Modern Persons from the Holy Mountain», v.4, describes the miraculous cure of Fr. Daniel Katounakioti from a serious attack of nephritis. Here is the description:
«He barely had time to reach (the Monastery of Vatopedi) when he suffered a severe attack of nephritis. The «thorn in the flesh» had hit him very painfully this time and he was riveted for weeks to the bed. The leader of the monastery treated him with great love. Moreover however he was showed affection by the great physician of the Holy Mountain, the Theotokos. Father Daniel harbored great devotion to the Lady Theotokos. This is the same devotion, the same confidence and the same honor occurs among all the saints. He begged her with tears and fervor, and was sure of the answer. He knew its promises. Wasn’t she able to fulfill them? Of course. On the day the monastery celebrated the feast of Holy Zoni (31st of August), the patient was suddenly healed and he was totally cured! He never again experienced this terrible sickness, which tortured him for ten whole years».

6. The healing of Fr. Philotheos Zervakos
The blessed Elder Philotheos Zervakos describes how he was cured of unbearable pains which caused him constant headaches. Hear how he recounts the event. «He came to the Monastery of Vatopedi on the 31st of July. We entered the Archontarikion where we were shown hospitality, but because of my unbearable pains I was unable to endure. After a short time passed, my headache was so painful that it radiated around both sides of my head. We asked the Archontarin to take me to the doctor, until he could give me drugs to stop the headache. Descending from the pharmacy, we passed by the Church which luckily was open. Entering inside in the Holy Bema they opened the holy relics and a Hierodeacon from Iconium venerated them. I came and began to venerate with reverence first the Cross and the icon of the Vimatarissa. Next I venerated a portion of the Precious Cross. Similarly I venerated the Holy Zoni, and I was feeling that I, the wreched and deplorable one was venerating the Precious Zoni which in life embraced the All-Pure Theotokos, and as I embraced the Holy Zoni with fervent reverence and tears, I felt—O the miracle!—that my sickness had left me and I was found totally healed! How great and awesome are your miracles, O All-hymned Lady! Let Your name be greatly-glorified and greatly-hymned, for you do not cease to grant our requests of healing of soul and body…, and exiting the Holy Bema I was in the middle of the church speechless and and said, in itself, before I was and how immediately and completely I was healed».

7. The locusts fell into the sea
(the following is from the book of sayings of Elder Paisios: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man.)
-"Did your spread pesticide?"
-"I did spread, Geronda."
-"How many nuns and you can’t even kill a caterpillar. During the Occupation [by the Germans in WWII], when the locusts descended, they had brought to Chalkidiki the Holy Zoni from the Monastery of Vatopedi, and the locusts fell in swarms into the sea."

1. Difficult to have children
Father Theotimos comes from the Congo. He studied theology in Greece. He had problems with having children, and he so much wanted and asked for the ribbon of the Precious Zoni. The result is described himself.
3/12/1995 Methoni 23, Athens
«May the name of the God-man Christ always be glorified and may the name of the Panagia Lady Theotokos be honored, who is the mother of the world.
We wore the Holy Zoni in March 1992. In May 1992 my wife became pregnant and gave birth by Caesarean section to a a boy weighing 2,900 grams. We baptized him with the name of Panagia, Marios. The doctors had confirmed that it would be difficult for us to have children. In April 1995 my wife was in her eighth month of pregnancy and there presented a problem. They had to do a caesarean section, to get the child prematurely. My wife wore the Holy Zoni for two days before surgery. The baby, a girl, who was previously 1400 gr. was born double the weight». Fr. Theotimos and Evangelia Tsalas

[Note: An incredible number of miracles occur for couples who have trouble bearing children. The tradition alluded to above is that the fathers of Vatopedi take ribbons that have been blessed on the Holy Zoni of the Theotokos and give them to people to wear as a blessing. Many healings, and especially with respect to the bearing of children result for those who then wear these ribbons with reverence, prayer and faith.]

56. Miracles of the Holy Zoni in America
Panagiotis Callas who lives in Florida during his visit to our Monastery lodged in writing the following facts.
1. «In September 2001 I was eating with some friends. A man reported that his daughter was sick with a cancerous tumor on the heart and was pregnant. The doctors wanted to remove the tumor, but she would lose the baby. If she would give birth in the ninth month, his daughter could die from the tumor. I gave the man a ribbon from the Holy Zoni, and holy oil from the miraculous icons of Vatopedi Monastery, and an icon of Panagia Pantanassa which heals cancer. This man flew from Miami to New York and visited his daughter. He tied the ribbon around her hand and anointed her with the holy oil on her stomach and placed the icon in the same place.
The child was born normally and was healthy. The mother’s tumor had disappeared totally without surgery».
   
2. «In April 2002 the uncle of my son’s wife was in the hospital with liver cancer. They gave him no hope, and his vital signs were weak [τα ζωτικά του στοιχεία ήταν πεσμένα]. They ask the priest to read the prayers of psychorragounta [the prayers read at the hour of death]. My daughter sent to her uncle a piece of the ribbon Holy Zoni. The ribbon arrived at his house. The person who picked up the mail from his house brought the sealed envelope to the hospital. As soon as the envelope entered his room, immediately he started to feel better. When he opened the envelope, without knowing yet what it contained, immediately he began to feel better. When he touched the blessed ribbon, he became a lot better and was able to go home. The hospital staff who had declared him incurable, could not believe it. Today her uncle lives and no longer has cancer.
   
   
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
O Ever-Virgin Theotokos, shelter of mankind, thou hast bestowed upon thy people a mighty investure, even thine immaculate body's raiment and sash, which by thy seedless childbirth have remained incorrupt; for in thee nature and time are made new. Wherefore, we implore thee to grant peace to the world, and great mercy to our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Thy precious sash, O Theotokos, which encompassed thy God-receiving womb, is an invincible force for thy flock, and an unfailing treasury of every good, O only Ever-virgin Mother.
(above two hymns taken from: http://goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=184)
   
The Wondrous Belt of the Theotokos, painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery (source)
   
Most-Holy Theotokos save us!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Beheading of the holy glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

The Beheading of the Venerable Head of the Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John - Commemorated on August 29 (icon taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102419)
  
Reading:
"The divine Baptist, the Prophet born of a Prophet, the seal of all the Prophets and beginning of the Apostles, the mediator between the Old and New Covenants, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, the God-sent Messenger of the incarnate Messiah, the forerunner of Christ's coming into the world (Esaias 40: 3; Mal. 3: 1); who by many miracles was both conceived and born; who was filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb; who came forth like another Elias the Zealot, whose life in the wilderness and divine zeal for God's Law he imitated: this divine Prophet, after he had preached the baptism of repentance according to God's command; had taught men of low rank and high how they must order their lives; had admonished those whom he baptized and had filled them with the fear of God, teaching them that no one is able to escape the wrath to come if he do not works worthy of repentance; had, through such preaching, prepared their hearts to receive the evangelical teachings of the Savior; and finally, after he had pointed out to the people the very Savior, and said, "Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world" (Luke 3:2-18; John 1: 29-36), after all this, John sealed with his own blood the truth of his words and was made a sacred victim for the divine Law at the hands of a transgressor.

The Beheading of the Precious Forerunner (taken from: http://www.monipetraki.gr/prodromos.html)
  
This was Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee, the son of Herod the Great. This man had a lawful wife, the daughter of Arethas (or Aretas), the King of Arabia (that is, Arabia Petraea, which had the famous Nabatean stone city of Petra as its capital. This is the Aretas mentioned by Saint Paul in II Cor. 11:32). Without any cause, and against every commandment of the Law, he put her away and took to himself Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, to whom Herodias had borne a daughter, Salome. He would not desist from this unlawful union even when John, the preacher of repentance, the bold and austere accuser of the lawless, censured him and told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife" (Mark 6: 18). Thus Herod, besides his other unholy acts, added yet this, that he apprehended John and shut him in prison; and perhaps he would have killed him straightway, had he not feared the people, who had extreme reverence for John. Certainly, in the beginning, he himself had great reverence for this just and holy man. But finally, being pierced with the sting of a mad lust for the woman Herodias, he laid his defiled hands on the teacher of purity on the very day he was celebrating his birthday. When Salome, Herodias' daughter, had danced in order to please him and those who were supping with him, he promised her -- with an oath more foolish than any foolishness -- that he would give her anything she asked, even unto the half of his kingdom. And she, consulting with her mother, straightway asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Hence this transgressor of the Law, preferring his lawless oath above the precepts of the Law, fulfilled this godless promise and filled his loathsome banquet with the blood of the Prophet. So it was that that all-venerable head, revered by the Angels, was given as a prize for an abominable dance, and became the plaything of the dissolute daughter of a debauched mother. As for the body of the divine Baptist, it was taken up by his disciples and placed in a tomb (Mark 6: 21 - 29). Concerning the finding of his holy head, see February 24 and May 25. (text taken from: http://goarch.org/chapel/saints_view?contentid=182)

  
Fresco of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, from Gracanica Monastery (http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Gracanica/exhibits/digital/n1-w1e5/large/n1-w1e5-39.jpg)
  
"According to Tradition, the mouth of the dead preacher of repentance once more opened and proclaimed: "Herod, you should not have the wife of your brother Philip." Salome took the platter with the head of St John and gave it to her mother. The frenzied Herodias repeatedly stabbed the tongue of the prophet with a needle and buried his holy head in a unclean place. But the pious Joanna, wife of Herod's steward Chuza, buried the head of John the Baptist in an earthen vessel on the Mount of Olives, where Herod had a parcel of land. (The Uncovering of the Venerable Head is celebrated (February 24). The holy body of John the Baptist was taken that night by his disciples and buried at Sebastia, there where the wicked deed had been done.
  
Icon depicting the Sacred Head of the Precious Forerunner (http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/decapitation-29.jpg)
  
After the murder of St John the Baptist, Herod continued to govern for a certain time. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, later sent Jesus Christ to him, Whom he mocked (Luke 23:7-12).

The judgment of God came upon Herod, Herodias and Salome, even during their earthly life. Salome, crossing the River Sikoris in winter, fell through the ice. The ice gave way in such a way that her body was in the water, but her head was trapped above the ice. It was similar to how she once had danced with her feet upon the ground, but now she flailed helplessly in the icy water. Thus she was trapped until that time when the sharp ice cut through her neck.

Detail of fresco depicting Salome holding the Precious Head of the Forerunner on a platter, from the Church of the Theotokos Hodegetria, Pec (taken from: http://www.srpskoblago.org/Archives/Pec/exhibits/ChurchoftheVirginHodegetria/Altar/Diaconicon/Vault/282N2103_l.html)
  
Her corpse was not found, but they brought the head to Herod and Herodias, as once they had brought them the head of St John the Baptist. The Arab king Aretas, in revenge for the disrespect shown his daughter, made war against Herod. The defeated Herod suffered the wrath of the Roman emperor Caius Caligua (37-41) and was exiled with Herodias first to Gaul, and then to Spain.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist, a Feast day established by the Church, is also a strict fast day because of the grief of Christians at the violent death of the saint. In some Orthodox cultures pious people will not eat food from a flat plate, use a knife, or eat food that is round in shape on this day." (text taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102419)
  
For a Commentary of St. John Chrysostom on the Beheading of the Forerunner, see: http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/08/commentary-of-st-john-chrysostom-on.html.
  
For a homily by St. Justin Popovitch on this feast, see: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/08/beheading-of-john-prophet-and.html.
  
Detail from an icon of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (taken from: http://www.matia.gr/7/72/7203/7203_2_12.html)
  
HYMN OF PRAISE: SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
by St. Nikolai Velimirovich
O Saint John, wonderful Baptizer,
Of the Savior, you were the glorious Forerunner,
You, with your purity, touched human souls
And, as an awesome trumpet, from the Jordan resounded
From sleep and idle vices, awakening men,
When the axe was near to the root.
To you I bow, to you I pray:
Every temptation, help me to resist.
Prophet most powerful, to you I bow,
And before you kneel and before you I weep:
From your heart, grant me the strength of a lion,
From your spirit, grant me angelic whiteness.
Grant me your strength that by practice to attain
To God be submissive and to rule over myself,
To baptize by fasting, to purify by all-night vigils,
To sweeten by prayer and heavenly vision,
And to every martyrdom, walk without fear
With your courage and with a strong faith.
O Saint John, God's chosen one,
And glorious martyr for supreme justice,
You, of whom the godless armies are afraid
To my prayers, do not turn a deaf ear,
But, strengthen me by your prayers,
That as a true candle before the Lord, I stand.
  

Icon of St. John the Forerunner, depicted as an angel, and holding his Sacred Head. His scroll reads: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" (taken from: http://www.rel.gr/photo/displayimage.php?album=26&pos=132)
  
Apolytikion of St. John the Forerunner in the Second Tone
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise, but the Lord's testimony is sufficient for thee, O Forerunner; for thou hast proved to be truly even more venerable than the Prophets, since thou was granted to baptize in the running waters Him Whom they proclaimed. Wherefore, having contested for the truth, thou didst rejoice to announce the good tidings even to those in Hades: that God hath appeared in the flesh, taking away the sin of the world and granting us great mercy.
Kontakion - Tone 5
The glorious beheading of the Forerunner, became an act of divine dispensation, for he preached to those in hell the coming of the Savior. Let Herodias lament, for she entreated lawless murder, loving not the law of God, nor eternal life, but that which is false and temporal.
  
St. John the Forerunner preaching the coming of Christ to those in Hades following his death (http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/st-john-the-baptist-preaching-in-the-underworld.jpg)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Moses the Ethiopian, the Righteous of Scete

Icon depicting St. Moses the Ethiopian and the Righteous Hezekiah - Commemorated on August 28 (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_28_aug_moses_the_ethiopian_ezekias_the_king.htm)

"Saint Moses Murin the Black lived during the fourth century in Egypt. He was an Ethiopian, and he was black of skin and therefore called "Murin" (meaning "like an Ethiopian"). In his youth he was the slave of an important man, but after he committed a murder, his master banished him, and he joined a band of robbers.

Because of his bad character and great physical strength they chose him as their leader. Moses and his band of brigands did many evil deeds, both murders and robberies. People were afraid at the mere mention of his name.

Moses the brigand spent several years leading a sinful life, but through the great mercy of God he repented, left his band of robbers and went to one of the desert monasteries. Here he wept for a long time, begging to be admitted as one of the brethren. The monks were not convinced of the sincerity of his repentance, but the former robber would not be driven away nor silenced. He continued to ask that they accept him.

St Moses was completely obedient to the igumen and the brethren, and he poured forth many tears of sorrow for his sinful life. After a certain while St Moses withdrew to a solitary cell, where he spent the time in prayer and the strictest fasting in a very austere lifestyle.

Once, four of the robbers of his former band descended upon the cell of St Moses. He had lost none of his great physical strength, so he tied them all up. Throwing them over his shoulder, he brought them to the monastery, where he asked the Elders what to do with them. The Elders ordered that they be set free. The robbers, learning that they had chanced upon their former ringleader, and that he had dealt kindly with them, followed his example: they repented and became monks. Later, when the rest of the band of robbers heard about the repentance of St Moses, then they also gave up their thievery and became fervent monks.

St Moses was not quickly freed from the passions. He went often to the igumen, Abba Isidore, seeking advice on how to be delivered from the passions of profligacy. Being experienced in the spiritual struggle, the Elder taught him never to eat too much food, to remain partly hungry while observing the strictest moderation. But the passions did not cease to trouble St Moses in his dreams.

Then Abba Isidore taught him the all-night vigil. The monk stood the whole night at prayer, so he would not fall asleep. From his prolonged struggles St Moses fell into despondency, and when there arose thoughts about leaving his solitary cell, Abba Isidore instead strengthened the resolve of his disciple.

In a vision he showed him many demons in the west, prepared for battle, and in the east a still greater quantity of holy angels, also ready for fighting. Abba Isidore explained to St Moses that the power of the angels would prevail over the power of the demons, and in the long struggle with the passions it was necessary for him to become completely cleansed of his former sins.

St Moses undertook a new effort. Making the rounds by night of the wilderness cells, he carried water from the well to each brother. He did this especially for the Elders, who lived far from the well and who were not easily able to carry their own water. Once, kneeling over the well, St Moses felt a powerful blow upon his back and he fell down at the well like one dead, laying there in that position until dawn. Thus did the devils take revenge upon the monk for his victory over them. In the morning the brethren carried him to his cell, and he lay there a whole year crippled. Having recovered, the monk with firm resolve confessed to the igumen, that he would continue to live in asceticism. But the Lord Himself put limits to this struggle of many years: Abba Isidore blessed his disciple and said to him that the passions had already gone from him. The Elder commanded him to receive the Holy Mysteries, and to go to his own cell in peace. From that time, St Moses received from the Lord power over demons.
Accounts about his exploits spread among the monks and even beyond the bounds of the wilderness. The governor of the land wanted to see the saint. When he heard of this, St Moses decided to hide from any visitors, and he departed his own cell. Along the way he met servants of the governor, who asked him how to get to the cell of the desert-dweller Moses. The monk answered them: "Go no farther to see this false and unworthy monk." The servants returned to the monastery where the governor was waiting, and they told him the words of the Elder they had chanced to meet. The brethren, hearing a description of the Elder's appearance, told them that they had encountered St Moses himself.

After many years of monastic exploits, St Moses was ordained deacon. The bishop clothed him in white vestments and said, "Now Abba Moses is entirely white!" The saint replied, "Only outwardly, for God knows that I am still dark within." [I believe they are speaking in a spiritual sense about the purification of the soul]

Through humility, the saint believed himself unworthy of the office of deacon. Once, the bishop decided to test him and he bade the clergy to drive him out of the altar, reviling him as an unworthy Ethiopian. In all humility, the monk accepted the abuse. Having put him to the test, the bishop then ordained St Moses to be presbyter. St Moses labored for fifteen years in this rank, and gathered around himself 75 disciples.

When the saint reached age 75, he warned his monks that soon brigands would descend upon the skete and murder all that were there. The saint blessed his monks to leave, in order to avoid violent death. His disciples began to beseech the monk to leave with them, but he replied: "For many years already I have awaited the time when therethe words which my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, should be fulfilled: "All who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword" (Mt. 26: 52). After this, seven of the brethren remained with the monk, and one of them hid nearby during the attack of the robbers. The robbers killed St Moses and the six monks who remained with him. Their death occurred in about the year 400." (taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102414)
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Icon of St. Moses the Ethiopian (taken from: http://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/proddetail.asp?prod=1MO43&cat=30)
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Selected quotes from St. Moses from the sayings of the Desert Fathers (forgive me for not including all the various online sources)
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Once the Fathers in Scete asked Moses to come to an assembly to judge the fault of a certain brother, but he refused. When they insisted, he took a basket which had a hole in it, filled it with sand, and carried it on his shoulders. When the Fathers saw him coming they asked him what the basket might mean. He answered, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and I am come this day to judge failings which are not mine."

“Come, my child, and taste of the blessed life of obedience,” Abba Moses told a young man who was ready to follow the monastic life. “In this life, you will find humility, strength, joy, patience, and forbearance. Within it, contrition is born and love blossoms. It aids the good monastic disciple to keep all of the divine commandments throughout his life.”

A certain brother came to the abbot Moses in Scete seeking a word from him. And the old man said to him, "Go and sit in thy cell, and thy cell shall teach thee all things."

The [Elder] was asked, "What is the good of the fasts and watchings which a man imposes on himself?" and he replied, "They make the soul humble. For it is written, "Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins" (Psalm 25:18). So if the soul gives itself all this hardship, God will have mercy on it." The [Elder] was (also) asked, "What should a man do in all the temptations and evil thoughts that come upon him?" The old man said to him, "He should weep and implore the goodness of God to come to his aid, and he will obtain peace if he prays with discernment. For it is written, "With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6).

“Affliction,” [Abba] Moses once said, “lasts for a short time, while peace is forever, by the grace of God the Word.”
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Icon of St. Moses the Ethiopian, the Righteous of Scete (taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102414)
Troparion - Tone 1
You abandoned the Egypt of the passions, O Father, Ascending the mount of the virtues with fervent faith, Taking the Cross of Christ upon your shoulders; And being glorified in godly works, You proved to be a model for monastics, O summit of the fathers. Pray unceasingly with them that our souls may find mercy!
Kontakion - Tone 3
Your mind was filled with a holy inspiration from God, Turning you from the lust and pleasures of the flesh, Bringing you to the height of the city of God! O Holy Father Moses, intercede with Christ God that He may grant us great mercy!

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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The head of the Precious Forerunner in Amiens, France

Icon of the beheading of the Precious Forerunner (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_29_aug_the_beheading_of_john_the_baptist.htm)

The following is a quote from a very interesting article from the Road to Emmaus Journal about sacred Orthodox relics in France. It is an interview with a Fr. Nicholas Nikichine who has been researching many of the purported relics of Orthodox significance in France, and here presents many of his findings. Among those relics that have more historical evidence according to him is the head of St. John the Forerunner in Amiens, France. Because Saturday (August 29th) we commemorate the beheading of St. John the Baptist, I thought to include the excerpts below:
The Amiens’ Relics of St. John the Baptist

"From the 13th century, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens has enshrined a portion of the skull – the facial bones – of St. John the Baptist. This shouldn’t confuse those who know that Mt. Athos also claims to have the “head of St. John.” This naming is a pious habit, because even if you have just a part of the head or the hand, you wouldn’t say, “we have five centimeters of the skull,” you would say, “we have his head.” On Mt. Athos, they have a different part of the skull, but in Amiens we have all the bones of the face, and you can even imagine his personality behind these relics..."
"RTE: Can you tell us now about the evidence for some of the relics you’ve studied?

FR. NICHOLAS: All of the major relics that I mentioned earlier have reasonable
historical and scientific arguments from many different sources, and this varied coherence is a strong argument in itself. Also, in learning the history of these relics, we Orthodox are discovering another view of the history of the western Church and a new way of looking at these historical events.

For example, the head of St. John the Baptist was obtained during the sack of Constantinople in 1204. This was a great tragedy for the eastern Church, but now we see what has happened in Asia Minor, in Turkey, from the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 to the present. If the head had remained there, would it have been lost or destroyed when Constantinople fell to the Turks (as many relics were), or would it still be accessible for veneration? Now, this relic is in France, in a very beautiful cathedral, and it is possible for the Orthodox to venerate it in the most open manner. May 25, according to the Julian calendar, or June 7th according to the civil calendar, is the feast-day of the Third Finding of the Head of St. John the Baptist, and on this feast in 2004 we celebrated the liturgy with this relic on the altar. This could never happen in modern Turkey, and this kind of reflection changes our estimation of the historical event of the transfer of this relic to Amiens. God has His own providence.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame d'Amiens, Amiens, France (taken from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/france/amiens-cathedral)

God allowed the transfer of these relics here, and this western society is preserving them faithfully. Certainly, France is undergoing a period of de-Christianization, but we still see daily veneration of these relics by a small number of faithful Christians. Another very well-known example from the 11th century is the transfer (“translation”) of the relics of St. Nicholas from Myra of Lycia (also now Turkey) to Bari in Italy. In the service dedicated to this event we say, “It was not useful in God’s sight that these valuable relics rested without activity in the desert of Lycia.” [***See note below] We Orthodox need to be reverent before God’s providence in this.
This continuing veneration by even a minority of French faithful is one of the spiritual arguments for their authenticity. In each case I’ve studied, I’ve found local people who believe, and scholars who have documents, historical books, and records that demonstrate the historical and scientific arguments proving the relic’s authenticity. Admittedly, these people are small in number. The great number of French Catholics not only do not know anything about their own holy places, but they aren’t very interested in them. This is not their error; they themselves are victims of the anti-Christian, anti-ecclesiastical, and anti-relic mass media. Unfortunately, every weak point of western Church history is magnified to generalize the impression of the weakness of the whole Church. The Catholics had their misadventures, and the credulity of simple people was at times turned to profit by bad clergymen, but still, when you study the history of the great relics, there is no room for these simplistic objections.

On the contrary, we have very positive and powerful arguments. We can cite the example of the head of St. John the Baptist in Amiens, which, anatomically, is a facial bone without the jaw. At the same time, a church in the diocese of Verdun reputedly had the jaw of St. John. A commission was organized to study the two relics, and in this case, the jaw in Verdun turned out to be that of another person, post 10th-century, but the conclusions of the same commission about the relics of St. John at Amiens were astonishing. The Amiens bone dates not only from the first to the third century after Christ, but this skull fragment was determined to be that of a man of Mediterranean origin, from age 30 to 45 and further, there was an ancient hole inflicted by a sharp instrument, just at the bottom of the forehead. According to Orthodox tradition, we know that after his beheading, Herodias stabbed the head with her knife as her revenge for his denunciation of her illegitimate marriage to Herod. Although this is not so important to the scientific examiners, we do have this argument from our own tradition, along with other historical and anthropological arguments for the relic’s authenticity.

A picture of the head of St. John the Forerunner in Amiens, France (taken from: http://orthodoxphotos.com/Holy_Relics/St._John_the_Baptist/2.shtml)
In the history of the great relics, we almost always have this scientific and spiritual correlation. For example, in the history of the Shroud of Turin, the historical documentation is not very convincing, but the most striking arguments come from the scientific side, whose findings have been continually revised over the past few years.

After the French Revolution, we had what was called a “Catholic Renaissance” in France. The crude rationalism and criticism of the revolutionaries and Protestants trying to discredit relics prompted the Catholics to search out the histories of these objects. They studied, they launched archeological investigations, and they arrived at a higher level of objective argument in favor of the authenticity of many of these relics than had been known before. Not only in France, but also in the Christian East, we still have many documents that have not been investigated because of language barriers, antiquity, and inaccessibility.

As we continue to study, we are finding even more arguments favoring authenticity, but my view is that rational investigation can never be sufficient proof. It is limited by the nature of rationalism. The main argument for us is the argument of our faith. It is not the fact that this relic, this bone, is really from St. John the Baptist that is ultimately important, but whether this relic can in some way affect our modern life, our personal destiny. We know from the history of the Church that if this relic is from St. John the Baptist, then we have a greater guarantee that our weak prayer will have more result here than in another place.

The place that we want to arrive at is to show that it is not only possible, but useful, to pray in front of relics. We have enough evidence to show that they support our prayer. God and the saints themselves give us enough arguments. However, even if I invite pilgrims to these holy places, personally, I do not dare to impose this veneration as a certainty. It is only the whole Church that can authorize this. Often, people ask, “Can you prove…,” and I have to honestly say, “No,” but the level of my rational knowledge shows me that my faith can support my belief, that I can pray in front of these relics with confidence that my faith is not forced by primitive and insubstantial arguments."
(taken from: http://www.roadtoemmaus.net/back_issue_articles/RTE_25/A_CITY_OF_SAINTS.pdf, "A CITY OF SAINTS: THE FORGOTTEN RELIQUARIES OF PARIS";
Road to Emmaus Vol. VII, No. 2 (#25))
[***Note: As St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain writes in his Synaxaristes for the feast of the Translation of the Relics of St. Nicholas (May 20th): "Διά τούτο ευδόκησεν ο Θεός να σηκωθούν από εκεί τα άγια λείψανα του μεγάλου Πατρός ημών Nικολάου, και να μεταφερθούν εις την πολυάνθρωπον πολιτείαν την ονομαζομένην Mπαρ, ήτις ευρίσκεται εις την Iταλίαν. Ένα μεν, διά να μη μείνουν τα λείψανα τοιούτου Aγίου άτιμα και άδοξα, και άλλο δε, διά να απολαύση και η Δύσις τα τούτου θαυμάσια, ήτις ακόμη δεν είχε πέση εις τας αιρέσεις και κακοδοξίας, αλλ’ ήτον Oρθόδοξος, και ενωμένη με την Aνατολικήν Eκκλησίαν." (http://www.snhell.gr/references/synaxaristis/search.asp)
"Becayse of this God was pleased to take up from there the holy relics of our great Father Nicholas, and transfer them to the greatly-inhabited city called Bari, which is located in Italy. For one, so that the relics of this Saint would not remain without honor and glory, and also, that the West might partake of these wonders, as it had not yet fallen into heresies and evil teachings, but was still Orthodox, and united with the Eastern Church." (amateur translation of the above excerpt)
(and now my humble opinions...)
These and the similar sentiments mentioned above do not seem to condone at all the removal of sacred Orthodox relics (including at the sack of Constantinople) and their transfer to foreign and even heterodox people, but seem to reiterate that none of us knows the infinite mind of God, and what His inscrutable will desires. Perhaps we must also show humility, repentance and endurance of the various trials allowed by God because of our many sins. In any case, let us ultimately thank God for the countless material and spiritual blessings that we continue to receive from Him in abundance.]
Icon depicting the burial of the Precious Forerunner and the finding of his sacred head (taken from: http://ag-ioannis-pro.blogspot.com/2009/06/blog-post.html)

Hymn from the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner - At the Aposticha, Idiomel Stichera - Tone 2
Herald of repentance, John Baptist, when your head was struck off you sanctified the earth; because you made clear God’s law to the faithful and utterly destroyed lawlessness. As you stand before the throne of Christ the King of heaven, implore him to have mercy on our souls.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Prayers to Christ and St. Phanourios the Great-Martyr

Deisis to Christ with the Most-Holy Theotokos and St. Phanourios the Great Martyr and Newly-revealed (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s2032/s2032001.jpg)

ΕΥΧΗ ΕΙΣ ΤΟΝ ΑΓΙΟΝ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΜΑΡΤΥΡΑ ΦΑΝΟΥΡΙΟΝ.
(Ὑπο Ἰσιδώρας Μοναχῆς)
Δέσποτα Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστὲ ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ὁ τοῦ φωτὸς ποιητὴς καὶ χορηγὸς ἡ πηγὴ τῆς σοφίας καὶ τῆς γνώσεως, παντός τε ἀγαθοῦ αἴτιος· τὸ τῆς χρηστότητος πλήρωμα καὶ τῆς εὐσπλαγχνίας ἀνεξιχνίαστον πέλαγος· ὁ ποιῶν ἐξαίσια καὶ ἐνεργῶν θαυμαστὰ ἐν τοῖς Ἁγίοις σοῦ, δι᾿ ὧν δοξάζηται τὸ Ὄνομά σου τὸ μεγαλοπρεπὲς καὶ Παναγιον ὁ φανερῶν ἡμῖν ὁδοὺς σωτηρίας διὰ τῆς ἐπιγνώσεως τῶν ἁγίων ἐντολῶν Σου Ἀγαθὲ καὶ καταυγάζων τὰς ψυχὰς ἡμῶν τῷ ἱλαρῷ φωτί σου καὶ ἀνεσπέρῳ· ὁ θαυμαστῶν τὴν χάριν σου διὰ πάντων τῶν Ἁγίων σοῦ, τῶν ἐκλεκτῶν καὶ πιστῶν ταύτης οἰκονόμων, παντὶ τῷ ἐπικαλωμένῳ αὐτοὺς ἐν ὅλῃ καρδίᾳ· ὁ διὰ τῆς παντουργικῆς σου δυνάμεως ἐνεργῶν τεράστια ἡμῖν καὶ παράδοξα, ὧν οὐκ ἐστὶν ἀριθμός· ὁ διὰ τοῦ Ἁγίου σοῦ Μεγαλομάρτυρος Φανουρίου τοῦ νεοφανούς, ἀποκαλύπτων τὰ κεκρυμένα ἡμῖν καὶ φανερῶν αὐτὰ ἐν τάχει· ὁ διδάσκων ἡμᾶς τὸ αἰτεῖν πιστῶς ἐν ταπεινώσει, ἵνα πλουσίως δώῃς ὡς φύσει εὔσπλαγχνος καὶ πολυέλεος, ὁ θέλων δὲ πάντας σωθῆναι καὶ εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν, ὁ εἰπὼν ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμὶ ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή.Αὐτὸς καὶ νῦν, πανάγαθε Βασιλεῦ καὶ Κύριε τῶν ἁπάντων, ὑπὸ τοῦ Ἁγίου σοῦ τούτου Μεγαλομάρτυρος Φανουρίου τοῦ θαυματουργοῦ δυσωπούμενος, ἔπιδε ἐφ᾿ ἡμᾶς τοὺς εὐλαβῶς αὐτὸν τιμῶντας καὶ πρέσβυν αὐτὸν πρὸς Σὲ δυνατὸν προβαλλομένους· καὶ δὸς ἡμῖν τὸν φωτισμὸν τῆς χάριτός σου· ἀξίωσον ἡμᾶς πορεύεσθαι ἐν τῇ τρίβῳ τῶν ἐντολῶν σου, τοῦ ἐπιγνῶναι τὸ θέλημά σου τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ τέλειον, φανέρωσον ἡμῖν ὁδοὺς σωτηρίας· ὑπόδειξον ἡμῖν τρόπους μετανοίας, ἵνα ἐν τούτοις εὐαρεστήσωμέν σοι, τὸ τῶν ψυχῶν ἡμῶν συμφέρον ἐργαζόμενοι· ἀποκάλυψον ἡμῖν τοὺς θησαυροὺς τῆς γνώσεώς σου, ἵνα τούτους ζητοῦντες, σοι προσπίπτωμεν ἐν πίστει, τῇ ἀενάῳ πηγῇ τῆς ζωῆς ἡμῶν· δίδαξον ἡμᾶς τὴν σὴν ἀλήθειαν, τὴν δὲ καρδίαν ἡμῶν ποίησον σκήνωμα φωτεινὸν τοῦ Πνεύματός σου τοῦ Ἁγίου καὶ δοχεῖον καθαρὸν τῆς χάριτός σου· ἵνα σὺν πᾶσι τοῖς ἀπ᾿ αἰώνων Ἁγίοις σου σὲ δοξολογῶμεν Φωτοδότα Κύριε τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς ἐνδοξαζόμενον καὶ σοὶ τὴν τιμὴν καὶ τὴν προσκυνήσιν ἀναπέμπωμεν, σὺν τῷ ἀνάρχῳ σου Πατρὶ καὶ τῷ Παναγίῳ καὶ Ἀγαθῷ καὶ ζωοποιῷ σοῦ Πνεύματι, πάντοτε, νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.
(taken from: http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2009/08/27_25.html; see the link for Engomia, Evlogitaria, and other offerings to the Saint, and see: http://voutsinasilias.blogspot.com/2009/08/27.html for the Akathist to the Saint; all of which are in Greek)
Icon of St. Phanourios the Great-Martyr and Newly-revealed of Rhodes - Commemorated on August 27th (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)
  
A Prayer to the Holy Great-martyr Phanourios (amateur translation)
(by Nun Isidora)
Master Lord Jesus Christ our God, the maker of light and source and fount of wisdom and knowledge, the cause of all that is good, the fullness of goodness and the incomprehensible sea of compassion, Who does excellent things and works wonders in His Saints, by whom Your magnificent and All-holy Name is glorified, Who reveals to us the ways of salvation by the knowledge of Your holy commandments, O Good One, and shines upon our souls with Your gladsome and un-waning light, You Whose grace is wondrous through all Your Saints, Your chosen and faithful stewards, to all those who call upon them with their whole heart, who through Your all-working power working awesome and paradoxical wonders, of which there is no number, Who through your Holy Great-martyr Phanourios the newly-revealed, revealed that which was hidden from us and reveals them speedily, Who teaches us to ask faithfully in humility, that richly You may give according to Your compassionate and all-merciful nature, Who wishes that all be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, Who said that “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life”. Do therefore now, all-good King and Lord of all, by this Your Holy Great-martyr Phanourios the wonderworker whom we entreat, bestow upon us who faithfully honor him, an intercessor towards You armed with Your strength, and grant to us the illumination of Your grace, make us worthy to walk in the paths of Your commandments, to come to the knowledge of Your good and complete will, reveal to us the paths of salvation, show to us the way of repentance, that pleasing You through these, Who works what is beneficial to our souls, reveal to us the treasures of Your knowledge, that to those seeking these, we who entreat You in faith, make our heart the dwelling of Your bright Holy Spirit and a receptacle of Your grace, so that with all Your Saints from the ages we may glorify You O Light-giving Lord, who in these is glorified and to You do we offer up honor and worship, together with Your beginningless Father and Your All-holy and Good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Icon of St. Phanourios (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_27_aug_phanourius.htm)

Prayer for the Blessing of the Phanouropita
O Lord, Jesus Christ, the Heavenly Bread, the munificent Bestower of the food that abideth unto eternity, the Giver of good things, Who through Elias didst cause miraculous sustenance to gush forth, the Hope of the hopeless, the Help of the helpless, and the Salvation of our souls: Bless these gifts and those who have offered them unto Thee, to Thy glory and in honor of the Great-martyr Phanourios, Grant, O Good One, unto those who have prepared these gifts [names may be inserted here] all Thine earthly and Heavenly good things. Gladden them in joy with Thy countenance, and show them the paths to salvation. Be swift to fulfill the requests of their hearts and their every wish, guiding them to the doing of Thy commandments, that in gladness and rejoicing they may forever hymn and glorify Thy most honorable and majestic Name, by the intercessions of the Most blessed Theotokos, of the holy, glorious Great-martyr Phanourios and of all Thy Saints. Amen.

Icon of St. Phanourios with scenes from his life and martyrdom (Icon courtesy of www.eikonografos.com used with permission)

Apolytikion (Troparion) - Tone 4
A heavenly song of praise is chanted radiantly upon the earth; the company of Angels now joyfully celebrateth an earthly festival, and from on high with hymns they praise thy contests, and from below the Church doth proclaim the Heavenly glory which thou hast found by thy labors and struggles, O glorious Phanourios.

Kontakion - Tone 3
Thou didst save the Priests from an ungodly captivity, and didst break their bonds by Divine power, O godly-minded one; thou didst bravely shame the audacity of the tyrants, and didst gladden the orders of the Angels, O Great Martyr. Wherefore, we honor thee, O divine warrior, glorious Phanourios.
(taken from: http://www.orthodox.net/saints/st-phanourios-life-hymns.html; see this link for the life of the Saint)
  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Holy Apostle Titus

Icon of St. Titus the Apostle, the first bishop of Crete - Commemorated on August 25th (taken from: http://media.iak.gr/displayimage.php?album=6&pos=2)
"Titus was one of the Seventy [Apostles]. He was born in Crete and educated in Greek philosophy and poetry.

[Preoccupied by the sciences, Titus led a virtuous life, not devoting himself to the vices and passions characteristic of the majority of pagans. He preserved his virginity, as the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-bearer (December 20) testifies of him. (http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102393)]

Following a dream, he began reading the Prophet Isaiah
[«Eγκαινίζεσθε προς με νήσοι πολλαί. Iσραήλ σώζεται παρά Kυρίου σωτηρίαν αιώνιον» (Hσ. με΄, 16); "ye isles, keep a feast to me. Israel is saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation" (Isaiah 45:16-17) (http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/o-agios-apostolos-titos/, http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Esaias/index.htm)]

and doubted all the wisdom of the Hellenes. Hearing about Christ the Lord, Titus traveled to Jerusalem with other Cretans and personally heard the words of the Savior and witnessed His mighty works. His young heart completely adhered to Christ.

[He witnessed the suffering and death of the Savior on the Cross, His glorious Resurrection and Ascension to Heaven. On the day of Pentecost the future apostle heard how the Twelve Apostles, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, spoke in various languages, among which was the Cretan language (Acts 2: 11). (http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102393)]

Later, he was baptized by the Apostle Paul whom he served as a son to a father in the work of evangelization. Paul loved Titus so much that, at times, he referred to him as son: "To Titus, my beloved son" (Titus 1:4) and, at times, brother: "I urged Titus to go to you and I sent the other brother with him" (2 Corinthians 12:18). Titus traveled extensively with the great apostle of the people [St. Paul] and was appointed by him as the bishop of Crete. Titus was present at the suffering and death of Paul in Rome and honorably buried the body of his teacher and spiritual father. After that, Titus returned to Crete where, with great success, he baptized the pagans and prudently governed the Church of God until old age. Titus entered into rest at the age of ninety-four." (taken from: http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/prolog.htm)

[St Titus peacefully guided his flock and toiled at enlightening the pagans with the light of faith in Christ. He was granted the gift of wonderworking by the Lord. During one of the pagan feasts in honor of the goddess Diana, Titus preached to a crowd of pagans. When he saw that they would not listen to him, he prayed to the Lord, so that the Lord Himself would show to the mistaken people the falseness of idols. By the prayer of St Titus, the idol of Diana fell down and shattered before the eyes of all. Another time St Titus prayed that the Lord would not permit the completion of a temple of Zeus, and it collapsed. By such miracles St Titus brought many to faith in Christ...At the time of his death, his face shone like the sun. (http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102393)]

Icon depicting the Holy Apostles Paul and Titus, holding the island of Crete (taken from: http://www.imga.gr/apostolos_pavlos.htm)

Icon depicting Sts. Paul and Titus preaching in Crete (taken from: http://www.imga.gr/apostolos_pavlos.htm)

 Icon depicting St. Paul ordaining St. Titus as the Bishop of Crete (taken from: http://www.imga.gr/apostolos_pavlos.htm)

Procession with the Holy Skull of St. Titus, Heraklion, Crete, Greece (taken from: http://media.iak.gr/displayimage.php?album=4&pos=17)

Απολυτίκιο. Ήχος β'. Τα άνω ζητών.
Του Παύλου δειχθείς, συνόμιλος Απόστολε, ουν τούτω ημίν, τον λόγον προκατήγγειλας, της ενθέου χάριτος, μυστολέκτα Τίτε μακάριε, διό τούτο βοώμεν σοι · Μη παύση πρεσβεύων, υπέρ πάντων ημών.

Icon of the Holy Apostle Titus (taken from: http://www.photosled.com/data/2367/0825_Titos.jpg)

Apolytikion in the Third ToneO Holy Apostles, intercede to our merciful God, that He may grant our souls forgiveness of sins.

Kontakion for St. Titus the Apostle in the Second ToneO yoke-mate of Paul, together with him, thou didst preach the tidings to us of saving grace bestowed of God, O Apostle Titus, blest and elect revealer of mysteries; for which cause we cry out to thee: Cease not to entreat Christ God for all of us.

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

Monday, August 24, 2009

The transfer of the relics and selected miracles of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos

The reliquary of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (taken from: http://www.imzante.gr/eng/saint_dionysusen.html)
 
THE SIGNIFICANT FESTIVALS OF SAINT DIONYSUS OF ZAKYNTHOS
"Twice a year the Zakynthians honor their Protector Saint Dionysus. All devoted Orthodox Christians arrive at the church where their concentration is drawn to the Holy Body untouched by deterioration.
 
The first of the two festivals is held on the 24th of August in memory of the transportation of the Holy Body from the islands of Strofadia to Zakynthos, which happened in 1717. The second festival, which is held on the 17th of December, honors the memory of the place where Our Saint went to sleep in 1622. Both of these ceremonials receive unique glory every year and they last three days each, (23rd - 26th August and 16th - 19th of December).
 
The magnificence of the church rituals are always carried out in a characteristic musical church idiom of Zakynthos with the participation of the Archpriests, all the holy Clergy and thousands of people, leading to the remarkably exciting hours of processional chanting in town (evening on the 24th of August and morning of the 17th of December), where the hearts of the faithful shiver, their eyes fill with tears and they kneel in supplication in front of the Elder of Ammou, Father and Comforter of all who are in pain."
(taken from: http://www.imzante.gr/eng/saint_dionysusen.html)
   
"Not only are the saint's relics incorrupt, but he is also one of Greece's "walking saints" (St Gerasimus and St Spyridon are the others). He is said to leave his reliquary and walk about performing miracles for those who seek his aid. In fact, the soles of his slippers wear out and must be replaced with a new pair from time to time. The old slippers are cut up, and the pieces are distributed to pilgims. On August 24, we celebrate the Transfer of his Holy Relics. Through the prayers of Saint Dionysius, may Christ our God have mercy upon us and save us."
(taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=103564; see the previous link or: http://goarch.org/chapel/saints/342 for a brief biography of the Saint)
 
Icon depicting the transfer of the Holy Relic of St. Dionysios to Zakynthos (source)
 
Selected miracles at the relics of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (amateur translation)
-Towards the end of the 1970’s, a priest from another part of Greece, after many prayers and entreaties, managed to have a male child. But after three months his joy was overshadowed. A large tumor appeared suddenly in the child’s ear. The doctors could not do anything. They retreated then to Zakynthos, to the Monastery of the Saint. They performed all-night supplications and vigil. At the end, while the Monastery was closed for the visitors, the abbot opened the reliquary shrine of the Saint, uncovered up to the knees, and placed the naked feet of the Saint on the child for about ten minutes. Returning, they saw that the tumor had disappeared completely and the child is healthy until today.
 
-The hierarchical stole which the Saint is clothed in is the same which he wore during his burial. It has never been changed even once. In the 1970’s, a pious woman donated to the Monastery a new hierarchical stole, seeking to dress the Saint with it. The abbot of the monastery did not want to do so. The Bishop then asked him to fulfill the lady’s request. So one day, he placed the Saint on the Holy Altar and the Bishop began to undress the Saint. Two pins on the shoulders of the saint held on the stole. When the Bishop went to remove them, he pricked the Saint with the one accidentally. The Saint then, flinched, like we do when we are pricked. At that instant, those who were standing by were shaken, and the Bishop, the Abbot, monks all left.
(source)
   
“…If anyone visits the Church of the Saint on Zakynthos and draws near to venerate his sacred relic, they will note that he is dressed with the Hierarchical Stole, however, on his head instead of the Bishop’s Miter he wears a simple kalymmavcio with the epanokalymmavchou [the head coverings of a monk]. Many times the Fathers of the Monastery tried to remove the epanokalymmavcho and place there a miter, but the Saint however, did not allow this to be removed from his head. One time when the fathers tried very hard with a lot of strength and violence to remove it and replace it with a miter, the Saint allowed the skin of his head to tear a little on his forehead, and immediately there ran warm blood, at which time the fathers seeing this miracle were afraid, and seeking forgiveness from the Saint left him in peace wearing the epanokalymmaucho, a sign that the Saint judged and perceived his monastic identity, something which during the whole period of his life, his monastic disposition was that which informed his every decision, his every action, his every phrase…”
(source)
 

St. Dionysios of Zakynthos (source)
   
Apolytikion of St. Dionysios of Zakynthos in the First Tone
The offspring of Zakynthos and bishop of Aegina, protector of Strophades Monastery, Saint Dionysios, O faithful, let us all with one accord now honor and sincerely cry to him: "By your fervant prayers save us who are observing your mem'ry and who cry to you: Glory to Christ who glorified you; glory to Him who made you marvelous; glory to Him who gave you to us as a sleepless advocate.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

St. Kosmas Aitolos, the New Hieromartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles

St. Kosmas Aitolos, the New Hieromartyr and Equal-to-the-Apostles - Commemorated on August 24 (taken from: http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102390)

The New Hieromartyr Cosmas, Equal of the Apostles, in the world Constas, was a native of Aitolia. He studied at first under the guidance of the archdeacon Ananias Dervisanos, and afterwards continued his education on Mount Athos, at the Vatopedi school renowned for teachers such as Nicholas Tzartzoulios (from Metsovo) and Eugenius Voulgaris (afterwards in the years 1775-1779 the archbishop of Ekaterinoslav and the Chersonessus).

Remaining on Athos at the Philotheou monastery to devote himself to spiritual labors, he was tonsured a monk with the name Cosmas, and later was ordained hieromonk. The desire to benefit his fellow Christians, to guide them upon the way of salvation and strengthen their faith, impelled St Cosmas to seek the blessing of his spiritual fathers and go to Constantinople. There he mastered the art of rhetoric and, having received a written permit of Patriarch Seraphim II (and later from his successor Sophronius) to preach the Holy Gospel.

St. Kosmas Aitolos, with scens from his life (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s1222/s1222007.jpg)
  
So the saint began to proclaim the Gospel at first in the churches of Constantinople and the surrounding villages, then in the Danube regions, in Thessalonica, in Verroia, in Macedonia, Chimaera, Akarnania, Aitolia, on the islands of Saint Maura, Kephalonia and other places.

Icon of St. Kosmas preaching to the people (taken from: http://www.vlasiostsotsonis.com/main.php?go=for)

His preaching, filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit, was simple, calm, and gentle. It brought Christians great spiritual benefit. The Lord Himself assisted him and confirmed his words with signs and miracles, just as He had confirmed the preaching of the Apostles.

Preaching in the remote areas of Albania, where Christian piety had almost disappeared among the rough and coarse people entrenched in sin, St Cosmas led them to sincere repentance and improvement with the Word of God.
  
Another icon of St. Kosmas preaching to the people (Icon courtesy of http://www.eikonografos.com/ used with permission)

Under his guidance, church schools were opened in the towns and villages. The rich offered their money for the betterment of the churches, for the purchase of Holy Books (which the saint distributed to the literate), veils (which he gave women, admonishing them to come to church with covered heads),for prayer ropes and crosses (which he distributed to the common folk), and for baptismal fonts so that children could be baptized in the proper manner.

Since the churches could not accommodate everyone wanting to hear the wise preacher, St Cosmas with forty or fifty priests served the Vigil in the fields, and in city squares, where thousands of people prayed for the living and for the dead, and were edified by his preaching. Everywhere that St Cosmas halted and preached, the grateful listeners set up a large wooden cross, which remained thereafter in memory of this.

Icon of St. Kosmas being martyred by the Turks (taken from: http://www.vlasiostsotsonis.com/main.php?go=for)

The apostolic service of St Cosmas was brought to a close by his martyric death in the year 1779. At 65 years of age, he was seized by the Turks and strangled. His body was thrown into a river, and after three days, was found by the priest Mark and buried near the village of Kolikontasi at the monastery of the Entrance into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos. Afterwards, part of his relics were transferred to various places as a blessing.

Icon depicting the finding of the sacred body of St. Kosmas (taken from: http://www.vlasiostsotsonis.com/main.php?go=for)

He was glorified by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1961."
  
Icon depicting the dormition of St. Kosmas Aitolos (Icon courtesy of http://www.eikonografos.com/ used with permission)
  
"It is interesting to note that the initiative for the first church to be built in memory of Father Kosmas was taken by the Moslem ruler of Albania, Ali Pasha, who held Father Kosmas in high esteem not only because he believed Kosmas to be a holy man but also because Kosmas had earlier predicted great success for him [Note: see the first prophecy of St. Kosmas below]. In 1810 Ali Pasha became master of the city of Berat and its environs. Within four years he succeeded in raising the money required to build the first church in honor of St. Kosmas. Moreover, he personally contributed not only toward the building of the church but paid to have a silver reliquary made in which Kosmas' skull was placed and saw to it that the Saint's service (akolouthia) was composed. It was later printed in Venice by the Epirot printer Nicholas Glykys."


Selected Prophecies of St. Kosmas Aitolos (taken from: http://members.cox.net/orthodoxheritage/St.%20Kosmas.htm; see the link for many more prophecies of this great saint)
"You will become a great man, you will conquer all of Albania, you will subjugate Preveza, Parga, Souli, Delvino, Gardiki, and the very stronghold of Kurt Pasha. You will leave a great name in the world. Also, you will go to Constantinople,...but with a read beard. This is the will of Divine Providence. Remember, however, throughout your whole reign, to love and defend the Christians, if you want your successors to retain their power."
(This was said at Tepeleni, in present day Albania, to Ali Pasha, and found amazing fulfillment after some thirty years. He became the sole, powerful ruler of Epiros. In saying the Ali Pasha would go to Constantinople but with a "red beard", the Saint meant that Ali Pasha would be beheaded and his head with bloody beard would be sent to that city. This, too, found fulfillment.)
  
"Things will come out of the schools that your mind does not even imagine."
  
"You will see in the field a carriage without horses running faster than a rabbit."
   
  
"A time will come when the earth will be girded by a thread."
(electrical power grid and telephone lines)
  
"A time will come when people will speak from one distant place to another, as though they were in adjoining rooms--for example, from Constantinople to Russia."
  
"You will see men flying in the sky like starlings, and throwing fire on the earth. Those who will live then will run to graves and will cry out: "Come out you who are dead so that we the living may enter."
(These five successive prophecies of St. Kosmas are in books that were written about a century before the related inventions were made. Hence, they arouse admiration and manifestly testify to the Saint's gift of prophecy.)


"The Turks will leave, but they shall return and will come as far as Hexamilia. In the end, they shall be driven away to Kokkina Milia. Of the Turks, one third will be killed, another third will be baptized, and the remaining third will go to Kokkina Milia."
(Kokkina Milia was a region which the imagination of the enslaved Greeks placed in the depths of Asia Minor and beyond. It is there that they hoped to push back their oppressors, i.e., where they originally came from.)
  
"In the City (Constantinople) so much blood will be spilled that a three-year old calf will swim in it."
"After the war, a man will have to run half an hour to find another human being to join him in fellowship."
(The situation prophesied here fits with that anticipated today in the case of a nuclear war.)
  
Icon of St. Kosmas Aitolos with scenes from his life (Icon courtesy of http://www.eikonografos.com/ used with permission)
  
Selected quotes from St. Kosmas Aitolos (taken from: http://www.serfes.org/writtings/stcosmas.htm; see the link and Modern Orthodox Saints I by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos for more information and quotes from St. Kosmas Aitolos)
"This All-holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship. He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we along that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-holy Trinity. Again, out of their love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with temperance and virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever."

"If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor. It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved."
"If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love."
  
  
"The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame."
"If you want cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us."

"God created woman equal with man, not inferior...My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are. God was crucified for her as much as for you. You call God Father, she calls Him Father, too. Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy. God does not regard her as inferior to you. "
"This prayer should never be absent from you: Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant." (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: "O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME, A SINNER.") Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal., frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country."
  
Icon of St. Kosmas Aitolos the Hieromartyr (taken from: http://christopherklitou.com/icon_24_aug_cosmas_aitolos.htm)
  
APOLYTIKION IN THE THIRD TONE
By teaching the Divine Faith, thou hast richly adorned the Church and become a zealous emulator of the Apostles; for having been lifted up by the wings of divine love, that hast spread far and wide the message of the Gospel. O glorious Cosmas, entreat God that He grants us His great mercy.

KONTAKION
Having led an irreproachable life on Athos, like Moses thou hast been deemed worthy of God's manifestation; wherefore truly thou dost gladden the Church exceedingly by thy deeds and thy God-inspired words, O Father Cosmas, having contended for which, thou hast been adorned with a double crown.

MEGALYNARION
Rejoice thou emulator of the Apostles, teacher and luminary of the Church; rejoice thou divine cultivator of piety, associate of Martyrs and peer of Angels.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!