By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
If God can bring forth water from a rock as a comfort to men, He is also able to send down fire from the heavens as a punishment. The fate of Sodom and Gomorrah is a classic example of God's punishment upon incorrigible sinners. That God can repeat this punishment was demonstrated over Constantinople in the year 472, during the time of Emperor Leo the Great and Patriarch Gennadius.
At noon on November 6 of that year, the sky became overcast with thick, dark clouds, causing darkness on the land. These clouds turned red as fire, then became dark, and alternated their appearance continuously. This phenomenon over Constantinople lasted for a full forty days. The frightened people turned to repentance and prayer. With the emperor and patriarch, they walked in procession through the streets from church to church and prayed to God with tears and lamentation. On the final day hot black ash fell like rain from evening until midnight, then stopped. The following day dawned clear and bright, but the sooty ash lay on the ground to a depth of nine inches. With great effort, the people cleaned their houses and streets of this sooty ash, but the crops in the field were utterly destroyed.
All who had understanding, understood that this was God's punishment, and that it was God's gentle punishment because the people hastened to repent before Him. Had it not been for this profound repentance for their great and accumulated sins, who knows what would have happened to Constantinople in those days? But the timely repentance of sinners, and the prayers of the Most-holy Theotokos, as well as the prayers of the countless saints and martyrs of Constantinople, greatly lessened the punishment.
HYMN OF PRAISE: The Lord's Mercy and Goodness
Our Lord is mercy and true goodness,
Yet He allows man to suffer for his sin:
Floods, sickness, earthquakes, droughts,
Horror and pains for body and soul.
He who does not see the Father when He offers gifts
Will see Him at the Judgment as the Righteous Judge.
The awesome Judge has many servants,
And employs them all for man's salvation-
The earth's thorns; serpents and beasts;
And floods, lightning, thunder from the sky;
And evil winds of illness; the sun, heat and darkness;
And the field, which gives either wheat or empty straw.
As many gifts await the faithful,
So many scourges are woven for the evil.
Adam's fields are watered with gentle dew,
But Sodom and Gomorrah are mowed with a flaming sword.
Above other created things, God loves man:
Therefore He forgives much; therefore He waits long.
But, when God's patience exceeds all bounds,
Then fire, not dew, does the work.
Read also: The Volcanic Ashes of Constantinople In 472 AD