Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Wondrous Myrrh of St. Demetrios

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr in prison, blessing St. Nestor (http://vatopaidi.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/nestor-dimitrios.jpg)

Another confirmation of the Saint's glory from God
"There lived once an ascetic on the Mount of Solomon who, hearing of the reports of the holy myrrh [of St. Demetrios], had doubts, saying in his mind that there were many other great martyrs who suffered more than St. Demetrios, yet they were not honored by God in such a manner. And one night after he saw, as if in a dream, that he was in the Church of St. Demetrios and he met the man who had the keys to the tomb of the Saint, and he asked him to open it that he might venerate it. When he was kissing the shrine, he observed that it was wet with fragrant myrrh, and he said to the keeper, "Come, help me did that we might see from whence comes this holy myrrh." They dug, therefore, and came to a large marble slab which they removed with great difficulty, and immediately there appeared the body of the Saint, shining and fragrant, from which welled up abundant myrrh coming from the openings of his holy body made by the piercings of the lances. There flowed so much myrrh that both the keeper and the ascetic were drenched, and fearing to be drowned, the monk cried out, "Saint Demetrios, help!" Whereupon, he awoke from this vision and found himself to be drenched with the holy myrrh."
Sts. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer, together with his disciples, Sts. Nestor and Loupos the Martyrs (source)
   
The Myrrh of the Saint (amateur translation)
St. Demetrios, according to sources, is called “Great-martyr”, “Lover of the City”, “Savior of the City”, and “Myrrh-streamer”. He is called Myrrh-streamer because he poured forth myrrh from his tomb, which was taken up by the faithful in vials made from glass, clay, or lead, called “koutrouvia”. The myrrh of the Saint is a miracle of God, and a great blessing of the Great-martyr to the faithful Christians who call upon his sleepless intercessions.

There are many authentic witnesses to the Myrrh of the Patron Saint of Thessaloniki, St. Demetrios. We offer the following examples:
  1. Demetrios Chrysoloras (end of the 14th to the beginning of the 15th century) notes that “the myrrh of St. Demetrios is not water, for it is more lipid than that, nor does it resemble the dew that comes from the earth, or prepared perfumes; it does not resemble these. It is more wondrous than both natural and prepared perfumes.”
  2. Ioannes Kameniates, who tells of the sack of Thessaloniki by the Saracens (904 AD) calls St. Demetrios the “Myrrh-streamer”.
  3. Konstantinos Akropolites (Great Writer, compiler of lives of Saints, rhetor and writer of letters) in 1321 AD, writes of a miracle of the Saint (healing of eyes), calling him the “Myrrh-streamer”.
  4. Isidoros (1342-1396) and Gabriel (1397-1416), Archbishops of Thessaloniki. The first calls the Saint “Myrrh-flower”, and the second, “Myrrh-streamer”.
  5. Epigraph from 1284 AD that was found in the Eski Serai mosque, speaks of the Church of St. Demetrios, saying: “there within is the great Myrrh-streamer”.
  6. The liturgical tradition and life of the Orthodox Church, after the 10th century, which, out of wonder and reverence, refers to St. Demetrios as the “Myrrh-streamer”.
The witnesses to the myrrh of St. Demetrios are many, but great also is the grace which they received and continue to receive up till our days, as a sign of the blessing of the Myrrh. The wonders which the Saint works (both in the past and in our days) are many, and truly deep the gratitude of the faithful who are healed or helped in various ways.

The Myrrh-streaming and Wonder-working St. Demetrios belongs not only to the God-preserved city of Thessaloniki, where his all-sacred Church is preserved, dating to the 5th century, but to the whole world, which honors and shows him reverence with moving deeds, here, and for 17 centuries.

   
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr in prison, blessing St. Nestor (http://www.saint-demetrios.com/iconography.aspx)

One who once doubted the Myrrh of the Saint (the following two accounts are amateur translations)
The Saint was imprisoned for around one year in a prison that was literally a cesspool! Waste was thrown in the place where the Saint was imprisoned. Does anyone then wonder why God granted him the grace of myrrh-streaming?

...Every year, roughly a week after the feast of the Saint, the priests, during a vespers service, open the reliquary to distribute the Myrrh to the world. One year, being an unbeliever, I went with my camera to the Church, and climbed the women's side of the church, standing so I could see what was going on. I began to record, and at one point, they opened the reliquary. There to my great astonishment I saw that the priests had another plexiglass inside that separated the Holy relics [holding them in place]. But what happened? I saw with my eyes and with my camera that whole reliquary (the chains, plexiglass, sidewalls) were covered with a coffee-colored liquid which filled the whole church with a beautiful fragrance.

I took a bit of the Myrrh as a blessing which naturally, after many years (if I'm not mistaken six), is still fragrant. And now that I write this, I just went to smell it again. I smell that it is fragrant, though I have a cold with a stuffed-up nose...
Giorgos Giannikes
Theologian, Thessaloniki

The reliquary of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_oOs-m4ZdPXY/TMXopzUJA7I/AAAAAAAABNA/GwqZEh8hbdc/s1600/P8230010.JPG)

Surrounding the miracle of the myrrh of St. Demetrios in 1987
It was October 26th, 1987, at 10PM. Thessaloniki had celebrated the memory of the martyrdom of their protector, St. Demetrios, along with her liberation from around five hundred years of occupation by the Ottomans (1430-1912). The church of St. Demetrios with open doors received night time pilgrims who knelt before the silver reliquary with the holy relics of the Myrrhstreamer. That hour there mustn't have been more than thirty or forty people in the church. A band of about ten women, before the reliquary, chanted the Paraklesis of the Saint. The only cleric who was there was a young, newly-ordained deacon of the holy church with his diakonissa wife. The then Proistamenos [head priest] of the church was the current Metropolitan of Veria, Naouses and Kampanias Panteleimon, who had ordered him to stay there and wait.

While the women were chanting the Paraklesis, they began to shout! The deacon ran close to them, and with mixed emotions they showed him the reliquary. It was literally bathed in an oily residue of myrrh (I saw myrrh because the fragrance was indescribable). It was as if someone had emptied at least two “buckets” of aromatic liquid (I use the word “buckets” so that you understand the quantity of the myrrh which poured down the sides of the silver reliquary with its relief icons of the Saint).

The deacon was baffled at that instant: The Saint was flowing myrrh! Without at all doubting the miracle, and being found in a state of joy, astonishment and enthusiasm, he ran to bring cotton from the holy altar. He returned running, and began to soak up the myrrh with the cotton from the side walls of the reliquary to give portions to the pilgrims. Though he soaked up the myrrh, it didn't stop, but continued to pour forth mystically, without a source being seen. He was particularly struck by the following fact: with a large piece of cotton he soaked up the myrrh from a smooth area of the reliquary, which then appeared polished clean. A woman had touched the part that he had just cleaned, and he saw that her hand became soaked with the oily yellowish-green myrrh!

In the mean time, the fragrance had filled the whole church, and poured forth from the open doors towards the road Agiou Demetriou, inviting passers-by to hasten to see what was happening, and where this fragrance was coming from. All those approached the reliquary where the relics of St. Demetrios were placed (they were not yet placed in the large reliquary that they are in today).

These blessings, though astonishing, did not stop there! The pilgrims experienced that all of the icons of the church, wherever they were (either on veneration stands or the iconostasis) poured forth myrrh. In fact, the deacon saw pilgrims take out handkerchiefs to wipe the frames that protected the icons of the icon screen, and the handkerchiefs turned a yellow hue from the myrrh that ran from the two sides of the frame, the inner and outer. The magnitude of the miracle was so great that it left no one in doubt. We did not understand what we were experiencing, it was like a dream amidst fog, but we lived it! We touched it with our hands and saw it with our eyes, and sensed the fragrance in our nostrils!

In a short while a line of people formed, with tears in their eyes, to venerate the reliquary of the Myrrh-streamer and they realized how he received this title.

In the mean time, the Proistamenos and otherI priests reached the church. They unlocked the reliquary and opened the lid to reveal the holy relics of the Patron of Thessaloniki. They were fragrant, but the fragrance of the myrrh was different and characteristic.

The blessed Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Panteleimon II Chrysaphakes ascribed the miracle of this myrrh-streaming of St. Demetrios to the following event: That evening in the festive celebration of the University for the liberation of Thessaloniki, the keynote speaker totally omitted the Saint, and didn't mention him at all. St. Demetrios, however, showed through his myrrh-streaming that he would never abandon the city of Thessaloniki neither now nor never, and that it was he who saved it from slavery and from earthquakes. Some, however, showed themselves ungrateful and distanced from Christ and His Saints.

Twenty four years have passed since them. I was then the deacon of the church, now a priest in Thessaloniki, and I write you what I experienced as I remember. That time was as if I was living a mystery. I can't relate what I was feeling! Joy, astonishment, being moved, enthusiasm...I can't describe it fully. In any case, these are events that strengthen faith and fill us with joy, hope and the feeling of the presence of Christ and His Saints. Our faith is “alive”.
Fr. Christos Kotios
Priest of the Holy Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos
Saranta Ekklesies, Thessaloniki
   
St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myrrh-streamer (http://pravicon.com/images/sv/s0626/s0626019.jpg)

Doxastikon of the Praises for St. Demetrios the Great Martyr
Tone 4. By Andrew of Jerusalem.
Let us all honour Demetrios, wisest in teachings and victor among Martyrs, who by lances inherited the grace from the Saviour’s side that was pierced by the lance, from which the Saviour pours out for us streams of life and incorruption. Through blood he finished the course of his contest and shone for all the inhabited world by wonders, zealous for the Master and compassionate lover of the poor; many times the defender of the people of Thessalonika in many dread dangers. As we celebrate his yearly memorial, we glorify Christ God, who works through him healings for all.

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

1 comment:

A. Karin Schultze said...

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." "Lazarus, come out!" St. Demetrois, pray for us, to carry all illnesses, diseases and infirmities in my son, nieces, nephews, godchild (parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents (step)) for cleansing, healing, deliverance.