Saint John Chrysostom in his interpretation of Matthew 8:4.in which Christ says to the leper he has just cured “see thou tell no man, but go thy way…”, writes that in the Gospels, for reasons of modesty and to avoid praise, Christ twelve times commands those who had been miraculously cured or who were present at such a cure not to tell anyone of the miracle or of what they had seen
On other occasions, such as in Luke 8:39, our Lord tells the man from whom he had cast out the devils, and who had asked Christ if he could stay with Him, to return to his home and show what great things God hath done unto thee”.
Until His resurrection, the most usual behaviour of Christ was to keep certain miracles and great events hidden, as was the case with his spiritual teachings, for he spoke in parables. In the words of Saint John Chrysostom: “the more that is said, the more difficult it is to accept.”
Many people who have been miraculously cured, and whose full details are kept in the church archives, do not want their addresses made public in books or on the Internet. Wherever they may live or work, be it in the city or a village, they wish to avoid discussion and investigation of these things – the how, the when and the why – whether such interest is well-meaning or not.
We also know that hermits and ascetics from Mount Athos and other monastic centres who witness many miraculous events and who participate in heavenly spiritual experiences, because of their great humility and modesty usually say nothing of these things to anybody except those in their close circle of spiritual confidants. It is with these things in mind that my personal decision was to leave the publication of these people’s addresses for a later time, if it should be needed.
During the some thirty years I have served in the church of Saint John, the miracles that have taken place amount to many hundreds. I have personal knowledge of them and the spiritual responsibility of their witness is mine.
Let us take joy from the simplicity and also the grandeur of these rare and wondrous events.
The doctors were categorical: “Your child”, they explained to the parents, “was born with this rare disease and indeed in its worst form. He is very weak and whatever treatment we might prescribe for him in order to prepare him for the complicated operations necessary, he will not have the strength to cope with it. The only thing to be done is to wait for the uncertain progress of his health.”
The head doctor responsible for this case was the famous specialist Mr Choremis.
The child’s mother refused to accept what the doctors told her.
She persuaded her husband to sell all they had and to go to Paris, to a large children’s medical institute. There they received exactly the same advice from the French doctors and were told that they should not involve themselves anymore in so much trouble and expense.
The doctors say one thing, but the child’s mother thinks and says another, for as a mother created by God she is, with Him, a co creator and helper in His work. A mother truly suffers and offers all for her children who are her very being, and cries out in her heart: “Save my child.”
The child then developed a very high fever. Fearing for its life, its mother seized it in her arms like a she-wolf and ran to find a way out of the hospital. Out in the street, she knocked on doors left and right.
People looked at her strangely. She then found a taxi and asked to be taken to Vichy , a well-known spa town in central France. At Vichy is a Russian Orthodox Monastery dedicated to the Mother of God which she had known about from a previous visit she had made while studying in France. She entered the monastery and went straight to the icon of the virgin Mary.
“All-holy Mother”, she said, “my courage is exhausted. If my child is to die, let him die before your icon. I implore you. You are also a mother and you saw your precious son hanging from the cross and blood spilling all around Him. You were able to bear that I cannot. See what I have brought into this world.”
In the monastery church was a Russian whose name was Sergius Ivanovitch, who knew a little Greek from working in Athens at one time. He heard the mother’s words, approached her, and in his limited Greek said: “You in Greece have a fellow countryman of ours who is a saint, Saint John the Russian. He is a great miracle worker.
For years I have carried his icon with me and have often asked for his help. I will make the sign of the cross over you and your child with the icon and God be with you.”
When the icon touched the child’s forehead he writhed like a fish and broke out into a cold sweat. The mother bent to put her lips to the child’s forehead, not to kiss him but to see whether he still had the raging fever. The skin was cool. An all night vigil was held in the monastery church and prayers were offered for the child.
In the morning the mother returned to the hospital to secure the child’s admission.
Three months later, without any operation having being carried out, it was ascertained that the child’s bones were growing normally and that his deformed arms and legs were being brought back into balance.
“An exceptional scientific event”, said the French doctors.
“An exceptional event of faith and of the saints”, says the child’s mother who now delights in her son who, full of life, walks to and from his school.
12th November 1974
A Hundred Kilometre Walk
In the town of Istiaia, in northern Euboea, a baby is born with its legs bent backwards and joined to its shoulders. For three and a half years doctors strived to correct this tragic deformity and after repeated operations they managed to detach the child’s legs from its shoulders and bring them back to their right position.
“We have done whatever it is possible to do for your son”, the doctors told his parents, “but he is never going to be able to walk because there are virtually no nerves in his legs. Go, and God be with you.”
Back in their house, the father, looking at his paralytic child laying in bed, remembered Saint John and called out to him with unbearable pain: “My Saint John, how will I be able to bear seeing this unfortunate boy bed-ridden for the rest of my life? How can I cope with such a burden? You have cured so many people all over the world, make this poor child able to stand on his feet, make him walk. I will walk barefoot to your shrine on your feast day. I have nothing else to offer you as a gift, except a baby lamb which is in my garden; this I will bring to you.”
And so the father and mother set out walking barefooted, taking it in turns to carry the child and the lamb. For two and a half days they walked through the forests and precipitous gorges of northern Euboea, from Istiaia to Prokopi, with only the inner hope that Saint John would listen to their grief and give them what they desired.
In the Saint’s church they prayed fervently before the holy relic.
Even the lamb, which had been tied to the shrine, began to bleat as if it understood its masters’ grief. The priest was chanting, the mother and father were weeping, the child, who had been laid at the marble base of the shrine, looked round mutely, the votive lamb was bleating: all was as a hymn, an unbearable grief, one of the uncountable tragedies that are lived by our fellow men and which so often we are unaware of.
That night the parents did not want to sleep either in the church’s guest house or in a hotel but they unfolded a blanket before the locked door of the church on which they lay down to sleep.
It is after midnight. The father wakes up his paralytic son. His wife wakes too and says to him: “Anastasi, what time is it? Why have you woken up the child? What do you want of him?”
“Wake up, wife, Saint John has worked his miracle.” He then says to the child: “Get up my son, come on, bring me a little water to drink.” Nearby there was a jug of water, but it is not water that the father is thirsty for, he is thirsty to see the miracle. The boy stands up and makes the first steps of his life.
The parents begin to cry out in the middle of the night. The whole village and all the visiting pilgrims wake up and participate in the miraculous event of God’s energy working through his Saint.
Since then, every year at about the same time in the autumn, a sturdy fellow with a lively lamb in his arms, brings this votive symbol of his life as an offering to the Saint. He embraces and kisses the reliquary in which the Saint’s holy body lies, then returns home to continue life’s daily struggle.
19th September 1976
A Shipwreck Averted
A loaded merchant ship sailing in the North Sea on its way to a port in the Netherlands suddenly encountered a terribly heavy sea. It seemed that the ship would be sunk at any moment by the enormous waves and that its crew of Greek sailors were facing the last moments of their lives. The ship’s steering gear and radar had ceased working and there was no way of knowing where the ship was being driven. Amid the roaring of the storm the voice of the captain could be heard. He was not giving orders, for they were not needed.
Experienced sailor that he was, he was telling his crew the truth: “We are going down. Pray to God for our salvation.”
He himself went to the ship’s icon shrine where there was an icon of Saint John the Russian. Aware of what was about to happen, he knelt and prayed: “My Saint John, I am not asking you to save me or this valuable ship, but I am praying for these poor sailors who travel in foreign places and who eat the bread of exile kneaded with the salt of the sea so that they can support their families, and who tonight will be lost. Saint John, I want you to save them.
All night, while the sea boomed and the freezing north wind howled, the captain beseeched Saint John continually in his heart.
The dreadful night passed. Dawn came. And what did the sailors see? Their ship was moored and safe in the port of Rotterdam.
Who was the “great captain” who had guided the ship through the storm and brought them there? It was Saint John the Russian.
Nobody could persuade Captain Dimitris Varoutsikas, who over the years had seen many things on the high seas, otherwise. Stunned by this miracle he telephoned the shipping company to say that he was laying up the ship for repairs and coming to Greece.
In his own way he wanted to express a spontaneous “thank you”
to Saint John. Once in Greece he took his wife to a big shop where ecclesiastical items are sold and bought a ciborium, a book of the Holy Gospels, a chalice, liturgical fans, a cross for blessing, and oil-lamps, all made of gold, enamel and silver – gifts for Saint John the Russian. These valuable treasures now upon the Holy Altar remind us of the miracle of faith and of prayer and of the salvation of those anguished and distraught sailors.
23rd January 1978
A Walking Stick
As you enter the church of Saint John the Russian you will see hanging before the shrine of the Saint, like a spoil of victory, a simple and poor gift: a walking stick. It belongs to Maria Siaka, an old lady from the village of Frenaro near Ammohostos in Cyprus.
For eighteen years she had been a hunchback and bent so double that her face was but a short distance from the ground. On 11th August 1978 relatives of the old lady, together with some hundred Cypriots, brought her to the church of Saint John. They lifted her up to enable her to reverence the Saint’s holy and uncorrupted body. Looking at the blessed relic the old lady wept and beseeched Saint John to grant her a little divine help for the remainder of her life. Saint John saw the grandeur of her soul, her grief and also her deep faith. At that moment, before the eyes of everyone there, it seemed that an invisible arm seized her shoulders with tremendous power and slowly began to unfold her body. Her spine creaked and returned to its original form; the old lady stood upright.
Her fellow villagers wept, the bells of the church rang, prayers of thanksgiving were offered by all the Cypriots who could not hold back their tears. Anyone who has had the fortune to be present when a miracle occurs can understand these lines.
Finally, the voice of the old lady was heard: “What can I give you my young man, my Saint? I am poor I will give you my walking stick which I will not be needing for the rest of my life.
The daily papers of Nicosia reported: “Maria Siaka, after her pilgrimage to the church of Saint John the Russian in Greece, can now, after nearly twenty years of being bent double and seeing only the ground, see the faces of her fellow villagers. Thanks to the miracle of the Saint she is restored and completely well.”
11th August 1978
A Little Boy’s Tragedy
In a small, low-roofed house, in a narrow street that leads to the beautiful church of Pantanassa in the town of Patras, a family is living through a tragedy. On being given her new born baby by the midwife after awakening from the anaesthetic, its mother saw that the infant’s tongue was protruding from its mouth. She felt something horrible inside her. The baby tried to suckle its mother’s breast but it was unable to do so because its tongue was too long and was hanging three to four centimetres out of its mouth. A tragedy had begun
At home the mother confined herself in her house with the child.
She went up and down to Athens hoping the doctors would be able to find a cure, but the child’s tongue grew even longer and hung down to its chin and saliva ran continually from its mouth. “Oh my God”, begged the mother, “tell me what to do.”
The doctors recommended that the child’s tongue should be cut.
However, this would mean the little boy would never be able to speak. His parents did not agree to this, and so they sold whatever they could so as to be able to take the child abroad for medical advice. They took the baby to a special clinic in Stockholm in Sweden, but there the findings of the doctors were the same as those of the Greek doctors: the child’s tongue must be cut. Both parents said: “No.”
They telephoned their relatives in Patras to say they were returning home, their grief did not allow them to say anything more.
Back at home their family – parents, brothers and sisters – welcomed them with restrained eagerness but the child’s unchanged appearance, the weak morale of its parents after their long, tiring and unsuccessful journey, cast them all into a state of depression.
They greeted them tearfully. What could they say? What consolation could they give them? Suddenly a voice was heard. An enlightened and truly Christian lady of 50 whose life was devoted to the Church and her saints began to speak:
“Listen to me”, she said to the child’s parents. “I believe that God will listen to our prayers”.
She then spoke directly to the mother: “Pledge your child to Saint John the Russian whose body remains entire and uncorrupted and who goes wherever God sends him. Ask him now, fervently, to visit your child. And even though you are tired, let us all go now to the church of Pantanassa to pray.”
The prayers we offer for others, as the French surgeon and biologist Alexis Carrel tells us, are the best prayers and are heard by God.
The old priest at the church chanted the Invocationary Canon to Saint John, then celebrated a short vigil service in the Saint’s honour.
The sad group of relatives then returned home. They entered the house, and switched the light on. The child’s mother gave a cry:
“My Saint John, did you come so quickly to take away our unbearable pain? What do my tired eyes see that for three years have wept such bitter tears?”
Everyone present witnessed the end of the little boy’s tribulations:
his tongue had receded to its right position and he began to talk.
Such events are inexplicable to human reason. For those who deny it is possible to go beyond cold logic and the evidence of the senses, such things are nothing more than fictitious stories. But for people who have faith these things are simple and they can be explained. In the words of Saint Paul: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
16th May 1966