Monday, June 28, 2010

The Discovery of the Relics of Sts. Cyrus and John

Discovery of the Relics of Sts. Cyrus and John the Unmercenaries (Feast Day - June 28)

The transfer of the relics of the Holy Martyrs, Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers, Cyrus and John from the city of Canopus (or Conopa, Conopis, Konopa), near Alexandria (where they suffered in the year 311) to the nearby village of Menouthis (or Menuthis, Manuphin), took place in the year 414. This Egyptian village was the center of a popular healing shrine dedicated to the goddess Isis. Demons would often appear in the dreams of people here in the form of Isis and gave them oracles, and the shrine was a center of much debauchery. Patriarch Theophilos (385-412) wanted to cleanse this place of demons by building a church dedicated to the four Evangelists, but he died and the cult of Isis flourished. His wish was fulfilled by his successor in the See of Alexandria, the holy Patriarch Cyril (412-444). He prayed fervently in carrying out this project. An angel of the Lord appeared in a vision to the hierarch and commanded the venerable relics of the previously unknown Sts. Cyrus and John be transferred to Menouthis from Canopus where the two martyrs were buried in a mass grave at St. Mark the Apostle's. Patriarch Cyril did the angel's bidding and the relics were transferred on June 28, 414 and placed in the church of the four Evangelists. St. Cyril eventually had the Temple of Isis destroyed and established a shrine dedicated to Sts. Cyrus and John, perhaps in 427/8.

From that time Menouthis began to be purified of demonic influence, and by the prayers of the holy Martyrs Cyrus and John there began to occur many miracles and healings far outshining the power of Isis. Ammonius, the son of Julian the mayor of Alexandria, was healed of scrofula; a Theodore healed of blindness; Isidore of Menouthis was cured of a decaying disease of the liver; the wife of Theodore from poisoning; a Eugenia of dropsy as well as many other people were healed of various diseases and torments by the relics of these saints. As was done with the cult of Isis, many Christians would sleep near the tomb of the martyrs hoping to receive a vision of Cyrus and John (a practice known as incubation), and many Christians did. When the saints would appear, they would either prescribe a special treatment for the afflicted or heal them at once. With all this, it did not take long before the cult of Isis was replaced by the holy martyrs Cyrus and John. Thanks to the numerous healing miracles that occurred through the prayers of the martyrs, many people renounced paganism. The name of the city was changed to Abukyr (or Abu Qir), a name that it keeps till this day in honor of St. Cyrus. It was also during the reign of Cyril that the Archimandrite Shenoute of Atripe led a great campaign in uprooting paganism and destroying its temples in Upper Egypt, including the last remnants in Menouthis (which is recounted by the historian Zacharias).

So many remarkable healings took place at the shrine of the Holy Martyrs Cyrus and John that in the seventh century St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (Mar. 11), after he was cured of ophthalmia, which physicians had declared incurable, by an apparition of the two Saints, in order to show his gratitude, wrote a detailed account of 70 of their miracles as well as an Encomium in the saints' honour. Miracles 1-35 concern natives of Alexandria, 36-69 are about Egyptians and Libyans, and 51-70 are about 'foreigners'.

A favorite among the many is the 53rd miracle. This was told to Sophronius by a man from Eleutheropolis (Beyt Guvrin), about 50 km south of Jerusalem. It concerns a boy called Theodore, the servant of Procopius of Eleutheropolis. The boy had a growth above his nose. He went to the sea, seeking a cure from Cyrus and John. While swimming, he was seized by a shark (canis marinus), which grabbed him by the heel in its jaws. He called upon Sts. Cyrus and John to save him, and he was cast up on the dry land and cured of both the wound to his foot and his facial deformity, leaving us to wonder whether the shark bit the tumour off Theodore's face, and was thus an unwitting agent of divine intervention.

The relics of Sts. Cyrus and John were transferred to Rome in 634, and placed in the suburban church of St. Passera (a corruption of Abbas Cyrus) on via Portuensis. This fact offers a clue to another purpose for the writing of St. Sophronius. At that time, Sophronius was in correspondence with Pope Honorius (625-638) over the monoenergist controversy, in which he hoped to gain Roman support against the Emperor Heraclius and Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople. Alexandria had gone over to 'the dark side' with the signing of the pact of union by its patriarch Cyrus in June 633, endorsing monoenergism. The text of the Miracles may have accompanied the relics to Rome in 634, a perfect gift to Pope Honorius, underlining the orthodoxy of these two Alexandrian martyrs, in stark contrast to the heresy recently embraced by the Alexandrian patriarch Cyrus. In that year, too, Sophronius may have been in Rome with John Moschus, who died in that city. In the same year, Sophronius issued his Synodical Letter, which contained a strong rejection of the imperially-sponsored doctrine of monoenergism. Unfortunately Honorius missed the point entirely and ended up initiating a new heresy, monothelitism, through his careless use of the term 'one will'. This term appeared in his letter of congratulations to Sergius for obtaining theological agreement with the Eastern churches on the basis of the pact of union. Thus the monothelite doctrine was born, and was only finally put to rest at the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680-681.


Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Since Thou hast given us the miracles of Thy holy Martyrs as an invincible battlement, by their entreaties scatter the counsels of the heathen, O Christ our God, and strengthen the faith of Orthodox Christians, since Thou alone art good and the Friend of man.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Second Tone
With a great voice, O ye faithful, let us hymn the great physicians of the world, the pair beloved of Christ, the luminaries who are radiant with the beams of healing; and as we stand in their temple, we cry out: Cyrus and John, the bestowers of miracles and healers of the ailing, shine forth to the ends of the world.

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