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Πέμπτη, 30 Οκτωβρίου 2014

THE MYRRHSTREAMING MIRACLE OF ST. DEMETRIUS OF THESSALONIKI GREECE AS WITNESSED BY FR. CHRISTOS KOTIOS, OCT. 26, 1986







THE MYRRHSTREAMING MIRACLE OF ST. DEMETRIUS OF THESSALONIKI
GREECE AS WITNESSED BY FR. CHRISTOS KOTIOS, OCT. 26, 1986


SAINT DEMETRIUS THE MYRRHSTREAMING

            As many times that I and my family have visited Greece beginning in 1987, I don’t believe that we have ever failed to visit St. Demetrius Church in Thessaloniki, Greece.  I do not know what kept drawing us to that particular Church in northern Greece.  Maybe it was the historical connection that my father Demetrius Simones had with that Church when he was a member of the Greek Army that liberated Thessaloniki in 1912.  My father was part of the Greek Army that liberated Thessaloniki from the Muslim Turks after almost 500 years of enslavement.  I remember vividly my father telling me as a young boy how proud he was to be part of that army that liberated Thessaloniki.  He also told me that he was privileged to chant the epistle reading during a Divine Liturgy in that historic Church.   In our visits to this shrine we never got over the fact that the skeletal remains of St. Demetrius (his relics) were completely preserved and were on display for the faithful to reverence during our visits there.    We could not forget the Roman Baths over which the first Church of St. Demetrius was built in the early fourth century.  It was in these baths, where St. Demetrius was incarcerated, that the Saint met a martyr’s death.  He was speared to death by Roman soldiers.

            When a pilgrim today visits those Roman Baths where St. Demetrius was martyred, one can see very clearly a small pipe near the ceiling of the baths.  Historically, following the martyrdom of St. Demetrius, his holy relics poured forth fragrant myrrh in abundance.  So much myrrh was flowing from the remains of St. Demetrius that the liquid myrrh was piped down to the baths below the Church where Demetrius met his death.  The faithful would flock to the Church to harvest the myrrh for their spiritual and physical ailments.  This phenomenon continued unabated until the eighteenth century.  Since that time, the myrrh continues to flow whenever God deems it necessary to rekindle the diminishing faith of the people.  The following miraculous event happened on the evening of the Feast Day of St. Demetrius, October 26, 1987.   It is a story that is told to us by Fr. Christos Kotios, who tells us in his own words the miracle as he witnessed it.

            But before we get into the miracle as told by Fr. Christos this is a brief biography of Saint Demetrius. He was the son of a Roman proconsul in Thessaloniki.  Three centuries had elapsed and Roman paganism, spiritually shattered by the multitude of Christian Martyrs and confessors of the Savior, intensified its persecutions of the infant Christian Church.  The parents of St. Demetrius were crypto-Christians and had Demetrius secretly baptized in the Church.  By the time Demetrius had reached maturity and his father had died, the Emperor Galerius Maximian had ascended the Roman throne in 305 A. D.  Maximian, confident in Demetrius’ education as well as his administrative and military skills, appointed him to his father’s position as proconsul of Thessaloniki.  The main tasks of this young commander were to defend the city from barbarians and to eradicate Christianity.  The emperor’s policy regarding Christians was expressed simply: “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.”  The emperor did not suspect that by appointing Demetrius he had provided a way for him to lead many people to Christ.

            Accepting the appointment, Demetrius returned to Thessaloniki and immediately confessed his faith in Jesus Christ.  Instead of persecuting and executing the Christians, he began to teach the Christian Faith openly to the inhabitants of the city and to overthrow pagan customs and idolatry.  It is said that St. Demetrius was like a second St. Paul in the City of Thessaloniki.  This is particularly true since the Apostle Paul founded the first community of Christians in this city.  When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the rage of the emperor had no bounds.  Returning from a campaign in the Black Sea region, the emperor decided to lead his army through Thessaloniki, determined to massacre the Christians.  Learning of this, St. Demetrious ordered his faithful servant Lupus to distribute his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among the faithful, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.”  He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.

            When the emperor came into the city, he summoned Demetrius, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of paganism.  Maximian gave orders to lock up Demetrius in the Roman Baths of the city.  Meanwhile the emperor was amusing himself by staging gladiator games in the stadium.  His champion was a German by the name of Lyaeos.  He challenged Christians to wrestle with him on a platform built over the upturned spears of Roman soldiers.  A brave Christian named Nestor, a disciple of Demetrius, went to the prison to visit him and to get his blessing to fight the barbarian.  Nestor prevailed over the fierce German and hurled him onto the unturned spears of the Romans.  The enraged commander ordered the execution of Nestor and then sent a guard to the Roman Baths to kill St. Demetrius. 

            At dawn on October 26, 306 the soldiers went to where Demetrius was imprisoned and ran him through with their spears.  The faithful servant of Demetrius, Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garments of the Saint, took the imperial ring from his finger and dipped it also into the martyr’s blood.  Lupus was able to heal the infirm with these things that were sanctified by the blood of St. Demetrius.  The emperor proceeded to have Lupus arrested and killed.  The body of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius was cast out and left unburied to allow  the wild animals to devour but the Christians took it and secretly buried it. 

            The miracle of St. Demetrius that happened in 1987 is told to us by Fr. Christos Kiotos as follows.  “It was October 26, 1987.  The time was past 10 p.m.  The city was celebrating the Feast Day of St. Demetrius and the freedom of nearly five hundred years of Muslim slavery (1453-1912).  The doors of the St. Demetrius Church were open and the faithful were entering the Church to venerate in front of the silver reliquary that contained the skeletal remains of St. Demetrius.  At this point there must has been thirty or forty people in the Church.  There was a circle of about ten women in front of the reliquary chanting the service of supplication to St. Demetrius.  The only clergyman present with the people was a newly ordained deacon and his wife.  The pastor of the Church had told his deacon to stay in the Church until he returned from an appointment.

            Suddenly, the women who were chanting the service of supplication to St. Demetrius begin to scream.  The deacon ran up to them to see what was happening.  The women pointed to the silver reliquary which is like a big casket.  It was literally covered with an oily substance that exuded a fragrance of myrrh.  It appeared that someone had poured at least two buckets of aromatic liquid onto the silver reliquary containing the remains of St. Demetrius.  When the deacon saw this, he became dumbfounded seeing that the Saint was streaming myrrh.  The deacon then ran to find some cotton in order to absorb the myrrh that was flowing.  He started to wipe the myrrh with the cotton and then handed it out to the worshipers.  As much as he wiped off the myrrh the more it kept flowing and would not stop.  It mystically kept on flowing without any visible source.  As much as the deacon wiped the myrrh the more it flowed.  One woman wiped her hand over the silver casket and her hand was just dripping with myrrh. 

            Meanwhile the fragrance coming from the myrrh flooded the inside of the Church and flowed out the open doors of the Church onto St. Demetrius Street.  It attracted passers-by who then rushed into the Church to see what was happening.   Everyone headed directly to the silver casket and the relics of St. Demetrius.  In addition to what was happening with the relics of St. Demetrius the faithful suddenly realized that all the icons in the Church were flowing with myrrh.  The deacon saw people take out paper towels and wipe the glass that protected the icons.  It became apparent that the myrrh was flowing inside and outside the glass.  There was not the slightest doubt that this was a great miracle that was happening.  It seemed like it was a dream and yet we were living it.  We touched the miracle with our hands, we saw it with our eyes, and we smelled it with our sense of smell.   A long line of people had entered the Church and were lining up to reverence the relics of St. Demetrius. 

            The pastor of the Church showed up along with other priests.  They unlocked the silver casket containing the relics of St. Demetrius.  The relics of St. Demetrius always have a particular fragrance to them.  But the fragrance of the myrrh that was flowing on the icons was different and distinctive.  Metropolitan Panteleimon of Thessaloniki attributed the miracle of the myrrh to a speech that was given that same day at the University of Thessaloniki.  The speaker spoke exclusively about the freedom the Greeks gained from the Turks and did not say a word about the Saint. The Metropolitan believes Saint Demetrius responded to this oversight by exuding myrrh throughout his Church.  In apparitions of St. Demetrius, he told the people he would never leave the city.  This miracle has shown us that he is always present, and this is what saved the city from slavery and earthquakes.  The Saint also complains when the Thessalonians are ungrateful and distance themselves from Christ and His Saints. 

            Twenty four years have passed since then.  I was the deacon then of that Church and now I am a priest in Thessaloniki and I write the facts as I remember them.  That moment was like living a mystery.  I cannot describe what I felt that night; I felt a sense of joy, surprise, excitement and enthusiasm.  However, it is the events that happened that reinforce our belief that fills us with joy, hope, and a sense of the presence of Christ and the Saints.  Our faith is a living faith.”   

Fr. Christos Kotios, Priest of the Church of the Dormition of the Theotokos
 Saranta Ecclesies, Thessaloniki, Greece

ΔΟΞΑ ΤΩ ΘΕΩ ΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ ΑΓΙΟΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ
GLORIFIED IS THE NAME OF GOD IN HIS HOLY SAINTS





Edited by:

+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, October 29, 2014, 

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