Sonntag, 29. Dezember 2013

On Myrrh-flowing Relics and Their Fragrance- from ATHONITE GERONTIKON

St Theophylos the myrrh-gusher lived in the time of the holy Patriarch Niphon (1556). He was sent by the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to Egypt to confirm the amazing miracle which had taken place there, the movement of the mountain Ntour Tag from one place to another. Even though in the world he had received various ecclesiastical offices, including notaries, St. Theophylos had abandoned everything to come to Mount Athos, where he had lived the ascetic life in the holy monasteries of Vatopedi and Iviron, and in St. Basil's cell of Pantokratoros.
Before his repose in the Lord, this ever memorable one had asked his disciple not to bury his body but to throw it into the woods. This was done. For forty days the wild beasts and fowl did not attack his holy body.
His tomb emitted a sweet smell of myrrh which even to this day is sensed by pious people who come to revere his relics. Such was holy Theophilos, God's true friend, the fragrant rose of virtue and ascesis.
In 1948 there reposed in the Lord a newly manifested saint, j our father Savvas of St. Anne's, who after he left the Holy Land, went to live in Kalymnos, where he established the All Saints Monastery for women.
He was a pupil of St. Nectaries the miracle worker. Tel years after his departing to the Lord, when his relics were translated his body was found whole and in tact, emitting the fragrance of myrrh and working miracles. Indeed this in the way God glorifies those who glorify Him.
In the desolate area between Kafsokalyvia and Vigla, in the steepest cave on Mount Athos, our holy father Neilos the myrrh-gusher had lived, leading a totally ascetic life of sanctity. After he fell asleep in the Lord, so much myrrh poured forth from his tomb that it flowed down through the floor of the cave and into the ravine below.
St. Simeon had been the spiritual father of St. Savvas the! Serbian. After St. Simeon reposed, a vigil was offered in the monastery of Chilandari on the memorial day of his passing. During the Doxology there came from the saint's tomb! an ineffable fragrance which filled the whole area surrounding the monastery. This manifestation assured St. Savvas that his spiritual father was sanctified, and he gave thanks' to the all-merciful God Who glorifies in return all those who glorify Him.
St. Simon, the builder of the holy Simonopetra Monastery, led his ascetic life in a cave near the monastery, a cave which is preserved to this day. He heard the voice of the Mother of God during a Christmas vigil; he wrestled with demons victoriously; he saved his disciple who had fallen down the ravine from a great height; and he cured the possessed daughter of King John Ouglesi of Serbia. Following his repose, myrrh flowed from his holy relics, palpable evidence of his sanctity.
Great in virtue, good works and faith also was St. Athanasios from Esphigmenou, an excellent cenobitic who served in the monastery's trapeza. Because of his great humility, he was raised to the office of Patriarch of Constantinople and, as St. Gregory Palamas tells us, his tomb and relics became a source of miracles and untold fragrance, for the glory of God and of monasticism.
In 1840 in the holy monastery of Vatopedi, the monks decided to transfer the bones of the deceased fathers to another location. After they had torn down one of the walls of the massive crypt and reached its foundation, they smelled an ineffable fragrance, a "smell beyond this world." As they went further on, they saw that the fragrance was coming from the relics of an unknown saint whose skin and bones were still in tact. With great reverence and piety the priests, fully vested, placed the body in a casket and with lit candles brought it to the monastery's main church. Although they did not know whose body it was, they all agreed to name him Eudokimos, and he is honoured on October 5th of each year.
From the position of the uncorrupted relics, it is clear that this unknown saint, now called Eudokimos, when he knew that his end was near, came to the crypt where among the bones, he prepared himself: he crossed his hands and went to the sleep of the just, unknown and invisible to all, avoiding human praise and destructive glorification.
Monk Savvas from the kellion of St. Nicholas, which is attached to the little chapel of Ravthouhos and presently belongs to Pantokratoros, was known for being faithful in attendance at services and for his piety and bodily endurance of ascetic labours. For a time he lived in the cenobitic monastery of Esphigmenou. When he realized his end was near, he came to the monastery in which he had begun as a monastic. When, three years after his repose, his relics were translated, his skull gave off a fragrant scent, an event which became well known.
A novice of the monastery, filled with the doubt of weak faith, thought that they might have poured some fragrance on the relic; so he took the skull and threw it into a reser¬voir of water. With great sadness the elders searched for it Twelve days later he revealed where he had thrown it. It was still emitting the fragrance. Then the novice believed that Monk Savvas was indeed a holy man.
I remember when I first came to the Holy Mountain," an old monk told me. "I would pass by the skete's cemetery and the crypt where the fathers' relics were kept. Numerous times I smelled such a fragrance coming from them that I would stop there to enjoy the wonderful experience." He was eighty-nine years old, and his emotions were obvious on his face.
"But two years passed by and I lost this gift from God. I did not smell the heavenly fragrance again. The Lord deprived me of it. Who knows why? Probably because of my sins, or because He may have given me this divine gift only for a time, in order to strengthen me at the beginning of my monastic life."
In the Meeting of the Lord kalyve, which is located above St. Anne's Skete, lived the pious monk Elder Dionysios. He was trying to repair some old ledges at a point where one ledge was crumbling when he unearthed the relics of an unknown ascetic, completely preserved.
Amazed and very moved by this finding, for the relics gave off a marvellous fragrance, he started to pray, asking the unknown saint to reveal his name. He also had a thought to go to the main church and ring the bells to notify the fathers so that they could bring the relics to St. Anne's central church with honour and incense, and so that they could pray and ask the saint to reveal to whom these holy relics belonged.
While he was thinking this, the blessed ascetic appeared to him in a vision and ordered him in a stern voice to cover the relics and not to reveal to anyone, as long as he lived, that God had made him worthy of seeing them. Elder Dionysios told his group of monks about this event shortly
before he died, but without telling the exact location where the relics were buried — stopped by the command of the unknown saint who, even after his death, avoided the glory of men; for he was honoured by God in the Heavenly Kingdom.
The ever memorable elder Pavlos the Lavriotan, a medical doctor, in one of his letters to me in 1971 wrote the following:
Talking with Elder Gerontios, one of the Danielites, I had mentioned to him Father Leontios, one of the well-known spiritual fathers from Moutalaski of Kaisaria, whom I had met and some of whose work Orthodox Catechism, writ¬ten in Turkish, I had read. It was an important work to the Karamanlides, and we have it in our library. He replied to me that Elder Leontios had died in Thessaloniki where, on his translation day, his body was discovered to be undissolved and gave off fragrance.
A Christian once had read in the biography of St. Akakio the Kafsokalyvitan, that while he was passing by St. Anne! graveyard, he smelled a fragrance of myrrh coming from of the father's relics. Remembering this, the Christian, who was sitting in the skete's graveyard, said "I wonder if the are still such relics like those in St. Akakios' days." Immediately after he had thought this, he smelled a fragrance coming from the graveyard! He got up, searched a!' around, and found a skull which had an fragrant scent, i was inscribed "Hieromonk Philimonos, from the Dormition of the Theotokos hut, near the St. Eleftherios vouleftirion. He thought to call the others, but at that thought he started shaking, for he realized that the deified father would not want him to tell about the fragrance coming from his relic.
I do not remember the exact year (it may have been twenty years ago), on the feast day of the Forerunner St. John the Baptist, in St. Dionysios' holy monastery, just before
Compline I went through the small door of the sanctuary and smelled a fragrance known as that of the Forerunner, coming from the holy sanctuary. . .
At other times when I have been walking on the path from the cell of St. Neilos the Myrrh-gusher toward the Great Lavra, on Chairi, I have smelled waves of fragrant breeze.
On this same spot many fathers and travelers and pilgrims have had the same experience. It has been passed down by word of mouth that in this area many hermits have struggled in past times, leading ascetic lives at the highest spiritual level of grace and sanctity. The exact locations of their burial places are unknown.
In 1927 on the feast day of St. John the Baptist's birthdate, a monk who was the monastery's cook smelled an ineffable fragrance during the magnification, when the Holy Fore¬runner's right hand is revered. He confided this occurrence to Father Lazaros.
The ever memorable elder Lazaros, among his many stories about the fathers and brothers of Dionysiou, told us also about the blessed end of the hieromonk Markos, who was hegumen of the monastery between 1926 and 1931 and who for his whole life went about serving in three or four obediences, happy and humble. He ate only once a day.
At the time of Father Markos' repose, Father Lazaros was an infirmarian in the monastery. The very moment that Father Markos slept in the Lord, the whole hospital room was filled with fragrance which lasted twenty minutes, which was witnessed also by the blessed hegumen of the monas¬tery at that time, Father Gabriel, who had come to read a prayer for the dying.

It has long been known that buried in the holy ground of Mount Athos, filling the garden of the Mother of God with the fragrance of myrrh, are many saints from whose relics flow this sweet oil of holiness. In Xenophontos in 1989, it was the feast day of the holy and great victorious martyr St. George, he who, in addition to all his other charisms, is a myrrh-gusher. The vigil, full of grandeur and piety, had just begun when, in the middle of Compline, the holy hegumen Alexios, clearly moved, interrupted the service to announce to all the marvellous, and for the first time occurring inci¬dent of myrrh flowing from St. George's hand. It was a sign that the saint was present. Father Alexios immediately had the paraklesis to St. George served and the holy relic revered by everyone.
Shortly before this gracious manifestation, Father Alexios had invited into the sanctuary the Most Reverend Ambrosios, Metropolitan of Polianis and Kilkisiou, a hierarch noted for his support of monasticism and thus a bright presence on this feast day. Also in the bema were Archimandrite Christodoulos, the hegumen of Koutloumousiou, as well as the abbot of St. Anne's Skete, the spiritual father Anthimos, who was in his eighties. All of these were there to confirm by eyewitness the grace of myrrh-flowing.
All of us who were present at this festal celebration, the representatives of the monasteries, the hermits, the cenobitic monks, and the faithful, venerated this relic with uplifted hearts, and with the piety and compunction which were suited to this moment, when the mighty and faithful guardian of the mountain, St. George, was present with us, leading the feast, glorifying God and being glorified by Him in return. It was as if we all, full of piety, were saying silently, "Great are You, O Lord ... no words are sufficient to praise your wonders."
At the point where the relic was flowing myrrh, it looked as if it had a wound. And the fragrance emanating from it was, characteristically, the same fragrance that all holy relics have. The grace of this holy relic was consonant with the joyful message announced at the vigil: "We preach Christ who was crucified, and who is risen from the dead. O Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you have been defeated!"
The blossoms on the lemon trees and the roses in the monastery's garden were confirming the spring's presence, and the flowing of myrrh from the "Slave's Deliverer" was declaring that "the Lord has risen indeed!" Even the Doxastikon was filled with fragrance and mystical power:
Spring has appeared: let us rejoice! Christ's resurrection has shone forth! Come, let us rejoice in the mention of the Victor, Who gives joy to the faithful.


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