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Παρασκευή, 28 Νοεμβρίου 2014

A MIRACLE OF THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL WITH SUDAN AIR.






A MIRACLE OF THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
WITH SUDAN AIR



          It was a beautiful spring morning in the far away country of Sudan. There was unusual activity at the international airport of the capital of Sudan.  In addition to the regular flights that were taking off there were an unusual number young people present filling the waiting rooms of the terminal.  An educational excursion had been planned for that particular day for the young students.  School songs and happy voices could be heard breaking the monotonous routine of the airport where planes were continuously landing and taking off.  Suddenly the public address system announced: “All those who are part of the educational tour and their guides should prepare to board the airplane.  The plane is scheduled to depart in five minutes.”  A river of young people rushed to the boarding area where their plane was waiting.   The plane was ready to board in three minutes.  The pilot, who was a young athletic type, not much older than the student passengers, was one of the best pilots of the airline.  He welcomed the young students aboard and promised them that they would have a wonderful flight.  Everything was now ready for takeoff.

          The captain checked the instruments one last time and then announced to the control tower that everything was ready for takeoff.  The control tower gave the pilot the latest meteorological forecast for the trip.  All indications showed that the weather was good for the planned trip and the tower wished the captain a good flight.  Within a short period of time the airplane was racing down the runway and lifting up into the morning sky like a huge bird on its way to its destination which was 500 miles away.  The plane had covered about 100 miles and everything appeared that they would have a great flight with blue skies in every direction.  The young passengers were enjoying the great views of the ground below.  The topography below them appeared like a huge live map with villages, rivers and verdant plains.  The airplane hostess continuously pointed out to the students what they were seeing below.

          The captain also took his turn on the intercom system giving a description of the airplane and its technology.  It was truly a wonderful trip.  The captain then radioed the tower giving his location and the weather conditions.  The tower responded that it did not foresee any change in the weather throughout the course of the flight.  The captain turned off the radio and then started to talk to the passengers on the intercom when he suddenly noticed in the distance a very black cloud.  He turned off the intercom and grabbed the control stick and directed the plane below the cloud so that the passengers could see the ground below them. The pilot had now taken the plane below the cloud when he saw before him another even blacker cloud with flashes of lightning and thunder.   They had flown directly into a tempest.

          Upon seeing this second cloud, the pilot gained altitude in order to avoid the cloud formation.  The altimeter indicated that he was at 8,000 feet and the storm was still intense.  He then climbed higher in the sky.  The altimeter showed that he was now at 10,000 feet, the maximum limit of the plane.  The passengers began to become uneasy.  The visibility was zero.  The hail was pelting the windows of the plane like bullets.  The thunderbolts and lighting lit up the sky like enemy artillery trying to shoot down the plane from the sky.  The stewardess calmly attempted to reassure the passengers that everything would be all right.

          The airplane was being bounced around like a toy in the fearful arms of the storm.  The plane was creaking and the altimeter was now at 12,000 feet.  The captain calmly began a descend.  He kept moving down to 8,000 feet, then to 6,000, then 5,000, 4,000, 3,000, and then 2,000 feet and the conditions were the same.  At this altitude the pilot was now afraid that he might hit a mountain top and so he began to climb again.  He ascended up to 8,000 feet and then attempted to contact the control tower with his wireless radio to report his situation, his location and to report the weather conditions.  Instead of receiving a weather report, he found that the wireless was dead.   He then immediately turned on the plane radio and that too was silent.  He felt a cold hand squeeze his heart.  He looked at a map and attempted to find his exact location but this was also useless.  In his attempt to avoid the terrible storm, he had lost all sense of direction.  He also could see that the co-pilot was in a state of total panic.  Seeing the panic in the eyes of his co-pilot, the captain again tried to communicate with the tower with his wireless radio.

          All of these efforts were in vain.  The violent weather had destroyed all forms of communication.  He again attempted to find his location on the map and again he came up empty.  In similar circumstances, the courage and calmness of the captain usually brings about good results.  The captain turned again to his co-pilot and found him motionless.  He asked him to be calm because the situation had become very critical and they must keep the passengers from panicking.  The passengers were very close to being panic stricken.   The stewardess, not knowing about the critical situation they were in, tried every possible way to calm the passengers.   Truly, the situation was very critical.  The captain, without having any sense of direction, no wireless, no radio, or where he was in this endless storm, was no longer able to pilot the plane properly.  He began to fly in circles, climbing and then descending attempting to maneuver out of the storm.  The plane was now flying blind.

          Time was passing and the plane was scheduled to land at its destination in two and a half hours.   The fuel supply was getting critically low. There was no help and no light at the end of the tunnel.  The passengers knowing how long the flight should have taken began to cry.   Even the stewardess lost control of her emotions and she could no longer offer any help to the passengers. 

          It was useless for the captain to convey a sense of calm to the passengers.  The co-pilot was now a basket case incapable of offering any help.  In the midst of this angst, the captain looked at the fuel gage and then began sweating.  They had about twenty minutes of fuel left.  At this point, even the captain was losing all hope.  He felt like crying but he controlled himself.  He was now sure that they were headed for a catastrophe.  He engaged the automatic pilot, laid his head on the controls and surrendered to the fate that was awaiting them. Suddenly the pilot was seeing something like a movie playing in his head.  His whole life was passing in review.   While watching this play out in his mind, he became startled and said to himself, why of course now I understand.  In the images of his thoughts, Greece appeared; the island of Mytilene to be exact.

          He was of Greek ancestry and his mother hailed from the village Sikamnia, Mytilene.  He remembered that as a small boy, he visited his mother’s village, Sikamnia in order to visit his grandmother and his relatives.  He even remembered that his pious mother would often speak to him about the miracle working icon of the Archangel Michael in Mandamadou.  He remembered that he had visited Mandamadou as a young boy in order to venerate the miracle working icon of the Archangel.  He also remembered that he felt a chill go through his body when he first saw the bas-relief of the Archangel Michael.  He was now hearing clearly the words of the elders who said to him about the icon:  “The Arab, my child, when you call upon him with faith he will always be with you, willing to help you.  We have witnessed many miracles first hand during the wars.” Remembering this pilgrimage from his youth, the captain regained hope and truly believed in the power of the Archangel Michael.  He lifted up his hands and shouted with a load voice: “My Archangel, my Arab, save us, save us, and I promise to light a candle in your honor as tall as I am and I will also offer you a gold image of our plane.  These I will place before your image. “

          As the captain was relating this story to a priest of the Church in Mandamadou, Greece, Nicholas Hatzoglou, the captain of the airplane stood up trembling, turned yellow, and made the sign of the Cross.  He was still living those unusual circumstances of his life and he continued to tell me the rest of the story with difficulty:  “At that moment, the very black clouds opened up below us and the blue sky reappeared.   It was like a curtain opening up for a theatrical performance. There below us was the airport of our destination, bathed in sunshine. I thankfully took control of the plane and in a short time we were landing at the airport. Upon landing, I looked at the fuel gage and noticed that we had only five minutes of fuel left. When the opportunity first became available to me, I took leave of my job and came here today, my dear Reverend Father, in order to thank my Saint and my savior. I offer him my thanksgiving and my reverence.  I also offer him the two items that I had promised him.”

          In his hands, which were trembling, he was holding a gold mock up of his plane.  He was fulfilling his fervent promise to the Archangel.  I looked at him with emotion.  I saw in his weeping eyes the satisfaction one feels in fulfilling a great obligation.  My tongue became heavy and I could not talk.  My eyes hurt as I was trying to hold back my tears. The only thing I could say was to whisper: “Wanting to show the fortunes of men are not dependent on themselves, but are always held in His Divine Hand, the Maker of all has given you to the kingdoms of the earth as a defender and keeper, that you may prepare all the tribes and peoples for the Kingdom of God that is eternal.  Therefore all of us knowing your great service for the salvation of mankind; cry to God in thanksgiving: Alleluia!” Kontakion—A hymn to Archangel Michael.

Translated from the Greek by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT, USA, November 26, 2014 860-460-9089, cjsimones300@gmail.com

Dear People,

Having read this wonderful contemporary miracle performed by the Archangel Michael, I would like to also share with you the history of Archangel Michael’s miraculous appearance at this Orthodox Monastery in Mandamadou, Mytilini, Greece in the 10th century.  I have personally made pilgrimages to this shrine many times during my visits to Greece.  In fact, the photograph of the bas-relief at the end of this article was taken by me personally. It is truly a special feeling to be in the presence of this unique sculpture that was created from the elements of martyred Christian blood and fine white sand.   During the tenth century when the Byzantine Empire was at the height of its development, the Saracen pirates were also very active in the Mediterranean.  They would attack the islands of the Aegean and especially the Monasteries.  They would plunder, burn, murder and take hostage many of the inhabitants of the islands and the Monasteries.  These hostages would end up in the slave markets of the Middle East. Fr. CJS

          We learn the details of this miracle and the history of these islands from the local inhabitants which have been handed down to us from generation to generation.  The Monastery of Archangel Michael was built like a fortress with high thick walls and towers.  The pirates had taken notice of this particular Monastery and they were determined to plunder it.  This particular attack took place during the springtime when the monks were preparing the Monastery buildings for Holy Week and Pascha.  The leader of the pirates that wanted to attack this Monastery was called Sirhan.  He was a giant of a man.  He always looked fierce and angry.  He gathered his men together and said to them: “This time we will enter the Monastery.  The only thing that I want from the Monastery is the gold cup with which the monks use for the Divine Liturgy.  You may have everything else that you find there.  Sirhan was armed with an ax and a sword.  They set sail for Mytilini.  They arrived at the Monastery about midnight and hid amongst the trees surrounding the Monastery.

          As we said previously, the monks had been white-washing the buildings of the Monastery in preparation for the Easter holidays.  That particular night the monks felt secure because it was still winter and they did not assign a lookout to protect the Monastery from the marauding pirates.  At one point during the night, the simantron was sounded calling the monks to prayer.  The simantron is a long carved piece of wood that is struck with a mallet.  Tradition tells us that this is what Noah used to call the animals to his Ark.  One could hear the footsteps of the monks as they hurried on the wooden verandah as they came down to the Church.  In a little while everything was quiet.  At that very moment the leader of the pirates gave the signal.  One of the pirates threw a hooked rope over the Monastery wall.  He climbed over the wall, jumped down into the courtyard and proceeded to unlock the large main door of the Monastery.  The pirates entered the Church while crying Alu Akbah.  Before the monks could come to their senses from the sudden attack, they were quickly put to death.

          A novice monk, Gabriel, was in the altar with the abbot when the attack took place.  He quickly exited the altar through a window and ended up on the roof of the Church.  The pirates saw the young novice exit the altar.  They followed him up onto the roof.  Almost immediately a load noise was heard.  The roof of the Church appeared to be transformed into a ragging ocean.  Above the foaming waves appeared a huge and angry Soldier.  He was holding a sword that was giving off tongues of fire.  He lunged at the pirates.  The pirates fled for their lives as they abandoned their weapons, the stolen items and fled in panic.  The novice Gabriel was the only one that remained alive from the attack.  He was overwhelmed by the appearance of the Archangel Michael.  When he came to his senses, he quickly ran down from the roof and went into the Church to see if any of his fellow monks had survived the attack.  When he ascertained that they were all dead, he went up to the icon of the Archangel Michael in the Church and prayerfully asked:  “What kind of face was that that I saw on the roof of the Church?  My beloved Archangel Michael intercede to the Lord that He will grant repose to the souls of my brother monks, also inspire me to be able to form the beauty of your face the way I saw you on the roof of the Church.”  Suddenly, as if inspired by the Archangel, he looked for a sponge and an earthen vessel.  He knelt reverently in the Church next to each of his dead brother monks and sponged up their martyred blood and filled the earthen vessel with it.  He then went outside the Church to get white fine sand.  He mixed the blood with the white fine sand that was all around the Monastery.  He took the mixture and immediately began the task of shaping the face of the Archangel as he saw him on the roof of the Church.  From the very beginning of his effort to form the face of the Archangel, he felt the very physical presence and help of the Archangel.  His hands felt as if they were being guided by an invisible force.  He quickly formed the face of the Archangel.  It was the same angry face that also had a divine countenance.

          As this drama unfolded at the Monastery of the Archangel Michael, the people who lived nearby were unaware of the horror that was taking place at the monastic community.  But there was a shepherd boy that night that could see the ocean from high on a hill.  He suddenly saw the pirate ships anchored near the shore.  He mounted his horse and proceeded toward the Monastery in an effort to warn the monks.  When he arrived at the Monastery the scene that he found there caused him to faint.  When he came to his senses, he proceeded to inform Alexi, the village elder of Stenaka what happened at the Monastery.  Alexi immediately left for the Monastery accompanied by fifty others on horseback.  When he entered the Church he could not believe what he saw.  He found the slaughtered monks.  They were all bathed in blood.  The abbot was found dead in front of the altar table.  He clinched his teeth as he went into the courtyard desiring very much to avenge the killings.  The men mounted their horses and followed the trail to find the pirates.  They approached a high point on the hill that looked down over the sea.  They stopped suddenly for the scene they saw before them made them shudder.  They saw those whom they had been chasing dead and scattered all over the hill.  They had been killed by one thrust of a sword.  The thrust of the sword went from the forehead all the way down to the belly.  Their bodies had been literally cut in two.  The cut of the sword was exactly the same on each of the pirates.  They all believed it was divine retribution meted out by the Archangel.

          In the meantime, two pirates who had been waiting on the shore for their fellow pirates to return from the Monastery began to worry about their delayed return.  They decided to climb the hill and look for their brother pirates.  When they reached the top of the hill and saw their dead fellow pirates they immediately returned to their boats.  Their leader was also waiting for their return.  They informed him about the tragedy that had befallen their fellow pirates.  As soon as he heard the news, he hit the table with his hand and pledged to someday seek revenge.  This revenge came the following year when Sirhan put a plan together to capture the village of Stenaka.  A year later the pirates disembarked quietly on the shore and prepared themselves to attack the city at sunrise.  They believed that the residents would be sleeping without being aware of the impending attack.

          During this very crucial moment for the city of Stenaka, the Archangel Michael intervened again.  Stephen, the son of the mayor Alexi, had just prepared to retire for the night, suddenly saw before him the Archangel Michael. He was very striking in his silver attire.  His blond hair fell upon his shoulders and his silver clothing reflected off his wings.  He held a fiery sword in his right hand.  His left hand was lifted up and outstretched.  He smiled at the young man and with a sweet voice said: “Get up Stephen.  Go immediately with your father to prepare for the defense of the city.  The Saracens are coming to obliterate you.  Do not be afraid!  I and your patron Saint will be at your side.  We will protect you and we will direct you.  The pirates have anchored their ships down below where your city is.  A few of them will attack the castle first so that you will think they are not attacking the city.  They will then unlock the doors of the castle.  Then they will attack you at sunset.  You should be prepared to defend the city.”

          Everything unfolded just as the Archangel had said it would.  When the pirates attacked they found the defenders at the ramparts of the city.  At that very moment, a group led by Stephen, who had quietly gone down the embankment to the shore, set fire to the pirate ships.  The pirates saw the light from the fires; they panicked and ran for their lives.  The panic that followed is beyond description.  As they were running toward the ocean the defenders of Stenaka pursued them on horseback and the pirates were decimated.  One group of pirates led by Sirhan, managed to escape the attack and attempted to hide themselves in the forest.  But the group of defenders from the city that set fire to the ships encircled and annihilated them. 


          Since that time many centuries have intervened.  The Monastery was eventually destroyed by the constant attacks of pirates.  In the eighteenth century an old small Church was replaced with a new and larger one.  But the bas-relief of the Archangel Michael has been preserved there since the tenth century.  It is the very same one that was formed by the hands of the novice monk Gabriel.  It continues to have the same life-like features.  It has been unscathed over the centuries in spite of the fact that thousands upon thousands of pilgrims reverence it by kissing it.  Some the faithful try to take chips from the bust.  These of course leave marks on the face.  But miraculously these marks quickly heal themselves.  You must remember that the bust has been created from the mixture of human blood and sand.  Also remember this is no ordinary human blood, it is the blood of martyrs.  Every now and then the eyes of the Archangel become filled with tears.  The faithful gather up these tears with cotton balls.  To this very day astounding miracles are performed for those who hasten to the shrine with faith.  The Archangel continues to perform profound miracles like the one that is referred to at the beginning of this article with Sudan Air.   


+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones

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