Mother Stavritsa the Missionary and the Miracle of the Archangel Michael the Taxiarch

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The wondrous icon of the Holy Archangel Michael, Mantamados, Mytilene (Lesvos). “Where your grace casts its shade, Archangel, there the devil’s power is chased away; for the fallen Morning Star cannot endure in your light.”  May he intercede for us all and protect us! The Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearers is one of the major feasts of the Holy Archangel Michael the Taxiarch, Mantamados, Mytilene (Lesvos). This is because that church was consecrated on this day. Thousands of pilgrims flock to celebrate this feast, seek the intercessions of the great Taxiarch, and thank him for his prayer and his protection. 

Days of travelling, days of mourning (+ my father-in-law, Pericles), days of new beginnings, new home and new job, arduous, exhausting days, yet such hope and inspiration in Mama Stavritsa’s faith and courage!

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Miracles of the Archangel Michael the Taxiarch to Mother Stavritsa the Missionary (+2000) (1)
My name is Stavritsa Zachariou, and I am a Greek American. In 1969 I went to Africa as a missionary. I am 75 years old, and 15 years I spent in Africa, near our suffering brothers, sowing the seed of the Gospel. I stay by myself in Nairobi, Kenya, and from there I go to Kampala, Cameroon, and other places, where the seed of the Gospel of Christ needs to be sowed.
I am a missionary of the Archdiocese of America. With the help of God and of benefactors, we built 12 holy Churches in [Africa]. We built the 10th holy church in honor of the Archangel Michael, and I wanted to paint his icon from the prototype from the north gate of the Patriarchate. As I was finishing the icon, when I went to the post office, I received a letter from Fr. Soterios Trampa. I know Archimandrite Fr. Soterios, who was a missionary for many years in Korea, and who also served as a preacher of your Metropolis, along with Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Athens from 1968-1973. In his letter was a small booklet on the Taxiarch of Mantamados. Then I learned about Mantamados, and the bas-relief icon of the Archangel Michael. Fr. Soterios wrote: “I am sending you the information on the Taxiarch of Mantamados, that you might come to know his wondrous icon. Within this you will see one of his many miracles, which occur daily to the glory of God. I served there in the past, and I especially honor him…”
I began to read the booklet on the Taxiarch, including the miracle of the sword. As I continued reading, I reached the place regarding the passing of the sword from some unknown person to Mr. Diamante, when there was as if some marked commotion in the icon [that she had painted]. I turned around to see what was happening then and, O my God!!!! The Archangel of the icon began to come to life, to take on flesh and bones! I was astonished! I knelt before it and began to pray with tears and to ask for his help and his protection. After a short while, slowly the icon began to return to its natural state.
I was supposed to go for a trip to Kampala. I always thought that when I would go on some trip, that I should take with me the icon of some Saint from my icon corner. That time, I took with me the little icon of the Taxiarch of Mantamados.
We reached the border of Kampala and Kenya, and Kampala at that time (1988) had a military regime. When we speak about a military regime in the center of Africa, it means that human life is cheaper than the life of a blackbird!
As we were passing through, my driver (a Kenyan and my Koumbaro) did not notice that at one place there was a stop sign and he kept going. Five wild motorcyclists surrounded us. They got off their motorcycles, drew their weapons, and knelt, preparing to fire at us and to take our car and our possessions as spoil. That is what usually occurred there…
Then, I don’t know what strength was within me, but I opened the door of the car..I exited with the icon of the Taxiarch in my hands, and approached them, crying out:
“For God’s sake, stop! I have with me the Taxiarch of God, who is dark-colored (2) like you, come see him!!!”
Automatically, it was as if someone grabbed them by the hands. They calmed down, left their weapons in the grass, and ran up to me, took the icon, like something holy and venerable, and began to examine it carefully and to shout. They bowed their faces to the ground and holding my hands, they asked for forgiveness. Then I saw that one of them was injured badly in the hand by a knife. I took my first aid kit from the car, nursed the wound and dressed it. We became friends! The most impressive thing is that, there was sown the word of God, and the five of them received Christ, and became Christians!
After all of this, I promised to the Archangel to come to Greece, to Mantamados, to thank him. And today, I feel very blessed that the Lord made me worthy to fulfill my promise. I thank Him from all my heart!”
(1) Ed.’s Note: Excerpt not included in the Amazon book; part of her own autobiography, yet available in a limited edition only in Greek.
(2) Ed.’s Note: Dark-colored, because of dirt, mud and dried blood: 

“There are two accounts surrounding the date of this icon, one having to do with the Ottoman Turkish occupation and destruction of 1462, and the other with Saracen pirates during the 9th and 10th centuries during which the entire island was invaded.In either case, the story of the creation of the icon shares the theme that the target of the raids was the monastery of the Taxiarchis. The pirates threatened the monks with death if they would not reveal the whereabouts of the hidden villagers. The monks refused and the invaders slaughtered all of the monks except for one novice-monk [1]

As the pirates where leaving, the novice climbed to the roof of the monastery to be sure that the pirates had left. However, the pirates noticed him from afar and returned to kill him as well. It is at this point in the story that the Archangel Michael makes his appearance in front of the Saracens with his own sword drawn forcing them to retreat in terror[2]. Thanks to this miracle from the Archangel the monk survived and descending to the courtyard buried the bodies of his fellow brotherhood.

The monk still in deep respect and reverence for having witnessed the Archangel Michael in all his fury, gathered up the earth that was red by the blood of the martyred monks and shaped it into the icon-sculpture of the Archangel as it is today; while it was still vivid in his memory. According to legend, the monk did not have enough of this dirt-blood mix and so the head of the Archangel has turned out disproportionately larger to the rest of his body.

This icon, is now kept within the interior of the church. Many islanders claim to have had personal experiences of miracles being granted for them by Mantamados. This is evident by the numerous cabinets full of tagmata (gifts) to the Archangel housed inside the church. To this day, pilgrims to this church have mixed emotions regarding this icon. At times, the expression on the icon can appear severe, sad, or happy, according to the message that the Archangel wants to convey to that pilgrim or the faithful. This is the tradition of the much-celebrated icon of Mantamados.”

 

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These Eyes


+ Maria, Μαρία Χατζηθανάση- Σοφικίτη, mother of 10 children, aged between 22 years and 2 months old, a  midwife, ‘lost her life’, suddenly and unexpectedly, in a fatal car accident, on her way back home from her work. (What a beautiful face!!! Like the Ierosolymite Theotokos)
In a prophetic conversation with a priest, who prefers to stay anonymous, just 2 weeks ago, Maria had told him that she had asked her elder children what they would say to the younger ones if she got hit by a lorry and die: “Will you tell them that mom got killed or that mom went to Heaven?” . She also added that even if this happened, she would not worry about her 10 children, because our Heavenly Father would best protect and care for them.
Blessed Maria, when asked why they had 10 children, she said that initially they only had 5 in mind with her husband, but with every new child and all the blessings each child  brought to the family, they kept changing their mind and finally decided to have as many children as God would send them!
+Memory Eternal! +21 June. Our prayers to her husband Spyridon and her 10 little angels, all in white in the funeral. All my friends from Greece are telling me that this was the most resurrectional funeral they have ever attended in their lives! 10,00 faithful chanting “Christ is Risen!” The funeral took place at St. Porphyrios’ the Kapsokalyvite church  of Milesi, in Oropos. +Christ is Risen!
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The Precious and Life-Saving Cross (Sts Isidoros, Likavittos). One miracle of many happening every day, captured and sent from a friend in Greece, Lagadas, northern Greece, Church of St Paraskeva. A paralytic, wheelchair-bound woman is getting to her feet after a blessing from a local priest and is walking! During the Holy Liturgy which was held to commemorate the blessing of the Holy Cross. Photographs depict the woman receiving a blessing from Father Dimitrios before she stands on her two feet.

For more photographs and videos which capture more miracles, please go to the Facebook page of the Orthodox City Hermit as I cannot upload them here. Miles of queues of the faithful for the last 7 days. For more photos, go here

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Sent from friends in Greece.

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Busy, nearly exhausted, still in the process of moving, unpacking, deep cleaning of my new flat and making preparations for my new job post. Wishing you all a Blessed Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul!

 

New Beginnings

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Fresco of the Throne of Preparation (Bucovina)

Pentecost blessings, T.S. Eliot malaise and a little city hermit’s new beginnings, and I Have a Question!
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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

(“Little Gidding” ― T.S. Eliot)

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Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling (…)

(“East Coker,” from *The Four Quartets* East Coker —T. S. Eliot)
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+ Monday of the Holy Spirit

Dear Friends in Christ
May the Holy Spirit give you the fruits of His grace this Pentecost!

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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I can’t believe May flew by so fast! Little did I know when I wrote on May 1st that my Bight Week pilgrimage “felt like a landmark and a watershed” that so many things in my life would change at such a dizzying speed! Thank you for staying in touch through my inbox. So many emails to reply, questions to answer, stories to be told … I honestly feel surprised and deeply humbled by your love and encouragement. Please be patient with me, as I am simultaneously moving on to new ministries, a new home and a new job!!!. More in the posts to follow…

I need your help in another matter too. Please send me your questions–preferably practical questions that impact you personally in a real way but more theoretical ones too–ideas, topics etc about WHAT you would like me to blog about. Would you be more interested in …

a.Saint’s lives, homilies, holy men’s lives and teachings yet untranslated into English?

b.Vignettes, stories and photos from pilgrimages and Orthodoxy all over the world?

c. Conversion stories, especially from Protestantism to Orthodoxy?

d. ‘Missionary’ vignettes from my life and ministry here?

e. Differences between ‘American’, ‘British’ , ‘Greek’, Russian’, ‘African’ Orthodoxy, if I am allowed to make use of such terms and offer some poor reflections based on first-hand experience?

f. Witnessing in a multicultural and secular country?

g. Differences between a ‘Cradle’ Orthodox person and a ‘Convert’? (Although I personally shun such labels for various reasons)

h. “Questions and Answers”, ‘Erotapokriseis’ ‘literature’? I have received numerous questions over the years, which I have primarily answered in private, but maybe I should make these public. (Anonymously of course) (If one person has a question, most likely many more have the same question.) Witnessing in a multicultural and secular country?

i. … ???

All of the above? None of the above? Please respond at either the Comment section below or at my email – anastasioskefalas1961@gmail.com. Your suggestions to my previous question–whether this blog should become bilingual etc– have been such a great help! Thank you ever so much for your love and encouragement! I really need to decide where to lay emphasis on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (II)

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Paschal Holy Dances in Attica, Aegina and Euboia

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Bright Tuesday

Morning Holy Liturgy at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery of Saint Dionysios of Olympus: I can literally feel the 179 Martyrs presence on me, as Father Jonathan had insisted that I carry them during this pilgrimage on their Feast Day[1]. Of course, the truth is the other way round: it is always the Saints who are carrying us. Archimandrite Theoklitos had offered a tiny fragment of the 179 Martyrs’ relics to our Holy Cross parish, which is displayed for veneration in the Holy Liturgy, and will later in the day return to ‘their own’ monastery to be ‘reunited’ with their brethren on their feast day.

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Holy Monastery of Saint Ephraim of Nea Makri, the Wonderworker and Newly-Revealed: A strange spectacle is awaiting us at the monastery gates: a leaping and dancing Resurrectional priest, a modern Saint Seraphim of Sarov figure, who greets all who enter the monastery with a kiss, and the words of the Paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!” He is literally leaping with joy and greeting all pilgrims in a ‘dance routine’!!!

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Pantokratoros Monastery in Ntaou Penteli: Vespers and a Holy Procession of the 179 Martyrs. During the Procession, Abbess Styliani’s face is lit and transfigured in ecstasy. Together with all the nuns, she too is dancing the Resurrection dance. She is also blessing all pilgrims with a large pectoral Cross.

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NOTES

[1]The 179 Holy Martyrs were massacred by pirates into the katholikon, on Pascha 1680, during the midnight service, after the final “Christ is Risen!” was joyfully chanted by the fathers following the Divine Liturgy. Similarly, Saints Raphael, Nikolaos and Eirini were tortured from Holy Thursday until Bright Tuesday when they were eventually martyred on April 9, 1463. St Efraim of Nea Makri was himself too martyred by the Turks on Tuesday May 5, 1426.

 

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Musings from a Bright Week Pilgrimage (I)

 

Saint Porphyrios’ Mobile Phone

By Nun Porphyria (Spyridoulas Moschou)
Because the Elder calls me on the phone every day from 4:00 to 6:00 in the morning and we read Matins, I thought that since the phone call is long-distance, he must be paying a lot of money to OTE [Hellenic Telecommunications Organization]. This is why when I got paid I put 50,000 drachmas in an envelope to give him.
“Elder, I brought some money, because your OTE bill must be big.”
“What are you talking about, foolish one? Here we are building a church and we’re gonna give so much money to OTE? Put it in the box we have for the building of the church.”
I put it in the box. But my thoughts kept telling me: It seems like OTE granted him a line of communication or someone else is paying for it.
“Lift me up. Give me my shoes to put on and tie them.”
He then took his cane and said to me: “Let’s go.”
I was surprised. As I held him I thought: Where are we going? We walked out of the balcony door and headed for the new building which was still a worksite. We went up some stairs and he showed me the new cells. He showed me the lightweight concrete that was being put as insulating material.
We then went up to a cell that had a built-in-bed where from the window was a view of the sea.
“Do you like it here?”
“Yes, it’s very beautiful, ascetical.”
“I love the ascetics very much. This is why my mind is constantly at Kavsokalyva, but they don’t let me go. One day I will go and stay there.”
We returned to the balcony door and I waited for him to want to lie down and rest. He proceeded however towards the entrance of the cell and said to me:
“Now we will go to the old cells that are empty.”
Outside at the corridor many people were waiting and they thought I was in his cell with him all this time. They were waiting for me to leave that they may come in. When they saw the Elder standing in the corridor, they lost it. For some of them it was the first time they saw the Elder standing up. They were shocked and ran to receive his blessing. We proceeded forward and went up to the second floor. The doors of the cells were shut.
“In this cell they have incense.”
I thought: Perhaps he smelled it. He read my thoughts and saw my lack of faith.
“Here they spread out washed wheat to grind it for prosphora.”
Again my thoughts told me: Well, wet wheat also has a certain smell.”
The Elder caught my thoughts again and said about the third cell:
“Here the toilet tank has rusted because we don’t pull on it to flush. Go pour a little water inside.”
Indeed, I opened the door and when I pulled on the toilet tank, the water came out rusted. So I thought: Rust doesn’t smell.
As we returned I heard him answer a telephone call from someone.
“Hello, Go ahead! Yes, yes, do it like that….”
He was giving advice to someone. But there was no telephone in his hands. It was just the two of us. I was motionless. How is he talking to someone without a telephone? I asked myself.
“Alright, hang up now, and come by some day so we can see you.”
He then said to me:
“See, foolish one. He had need of asking me something. He was calling me downstairs in my cell, but since I wasn’t there, I answered it here.”
Then I woke up. Then I understood that the Elder was not talking to me through OTE. He talked to me in a spiritual manner, which is why he told me to put the money in the box for the building of the church.
“Come on, let’s go now.”
Source: From the book Μαθητεία στον Άγιο Πορφύριο, έκδοση “Η Μεταμόρφωσις του Σωτήρος”, Μήλεσι, 2017. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

In the Womb

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A young couple once visited St. Gabriel (Urgebadze). The woman was pregnant. St. Gabriel blessed them and said, “My dears, be aware, a child understands everything, therefore read the word of God to him, so he will grow up properly from the very beginning.”

The husband was amazed by what St. Gabriel said and asked, “Yes, but Father, I don’t even understand what’s said through a half-closed door, so how will a child in the womb understand?”

St. Gabriel looked at the woman and addressed the child in his mother’s womb: “Hello baby, I ask you—do you hear the word of God?”

He had just finished saying it when the child began to move so much that the mother grabbed her stomach and couldn’t hide her emotions. Her husband, amazed and already believing what St. Gabriel had said, looked at his wife, astounded.

St. Nektarios, the unknown hermit and the raging demons

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A meeting of Saint Nektarios with a clairvoyant hermit on Mount Athos. Also, a recent miracle of the Saint in Romania.

 

St. Nektarios enjoys wide popularity amongst Orthodox throughout the world, yet his popularity in Romania has gained over the past few years. Portions of his relics can even be found in such places as Putna Monastery, Radu Voda Monastery in Bucharest, the Church of the Holy Hierarch Nektarios in Iasi, and the Hermitage of Saint John and Nektarios in Bradetu, Arges. Why do so many Romanians venerate Saint Nektarios and go to pilgrimage to his Monastery in Aegina? All this seems to be related to a recent, miraculous “visit” of the Saint to a village in Romania.

Below is the account as it was told by Romanians to Greeks:

“In a village of Romania there was no priest and the residents often went to the Patriarch with the problem in order to fill the empty spot. However the Patriarch did not have the means of satisfying the demand. The villagers often went to the Patriarch, but he would say the same thing, that he did not have a priest to send to the village.

Meanwhile people died unread (no funeral service), others had relationships and children without marriage vows, and the children and adults alike were unbaptized.

Then one day, outside of the church, a car stopped and out stepped a priest. The village was astonished and yelled out that a priest had come.

The villagers went to the church to greet him and asked him, “How did you come to the village after our Patriarch had said that he doesn’t have a priest to send us?”

The priest answered, “Isn’t this what you wanted? Did you not want a priest? Here I am.”

All the villagers were glad in the presence of the new priest.

The priest began immediately working. He went to all the graves and read the funeral service. He baptized and married everyone in the village and administered Holy Communion.

One day he invited all the villagers to church and told them, “I will leave now, my mission is done.”

The villagers were confused and asked, “Now that you came, you are leaving?”

However the priest did not listen to the villagers and proceeded with his decision.

When the villagers realized that their wasn’t anything they could do, they thanked him for his offering.

After a few days, the villagers went to the Patriarch and they thanked him for sending them a priest and to let him know that they would appreciate it if he could send them another priest soon, but the Patriarch didn’t know anything.

He said to them, “I didn’t send a priest because I don’t have one, however let me check with the chancellor to see if he had sent a priest to you to serve your needs.”

He phoned the chancellor, but he too didn’t send anyone.

The Patriarch inquired, “What did this priest do in your parish?”

The villagers answered, “He married us, baptized us, performed funerals for our parents, he did what any other priest would have performed for us.”

Then the Patriarch asked, “Well, didn’t he gave you any papers or log the Mysteries.

“Of course,” said the villagers, “he gave us papers and he wrote them in the church’s books.”

“Then did anyone see what he wrote? And with what name he signed?”

“All the documents were written in Romanian and we are not well educated and the signature he signed in a language we have not seen before.”

The Patriarch requested they go bring the books in order to see who was this clergyman.

When they returned with the book the Patriarch remained speechless. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

Indeed all the documents were written in Romanian while his name was written in Greek with the name of his signature,

Nektarios, Bishop of Pentapolis

For the original sources of the miracle and further information, all translated by John Sanidopoulos, go to Mystagogy.