Monday, August 19, 2013

A Moving Testimony of the Annual Miracle of the Holy Cloud of Mount Tabor


Summer 2002

It is with great devotion that I begin to write about the magnificent things of God that occurred this year in the Holy Land! I feel that any expression is very poor to describe the magnificent Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we lived on God-trodden Mount Tabor.

I will try, as far as humanly possible, to acknowledge the great miracles that happened there this year, on August 6/19 according to the Old Calendar, of the year 2002 (as we know, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem goes by the Old Calendar, but co-liturgizes with the priesthood of the Church of Greece who go by the New Calendar). We left Athens on 08/18/2002 with the group of Mr. Mystakides for the 4:00 PM flight to the Holy Land. We arrived in about two hours (1 hour, 15 minutes) in Tel-Aviv. From there we went by bus, with the help of God, to God-trodden Mount Tabor.

During the beautiful bus ride from Tel-Aviv to Mount Tabor, the owner of the Agency, Mr. Mystakides, politely asked me to speak to the pilgrims from the microphone about the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior, and generally do a tour. Indeed I spoke with the microphone about this great Despotic Feast as well as about the annual miracles which takes place at Mount Tabor, especially about the Holy Cloud, which just about every year after the Vigil it occurs by covering Mount Tabor. Specifically it usually comes from Nazareth, an all-white cloud at a very low height, and it stays above the Church of the Transfiguration covering all the people, and it often descends to the earth.

This only happens when the Orthodox Christian pilgrims chant. When they don't chant, nothing comes. I told them also about other miracles that took place last year which will be written about in a book to be published in the near future, by the power of God.

We also chanted some relevant hymns. The pilgrims were thrilled. They were all very pleased and happy until we arrived at the gorgeous Mount Tabor. The word Tabor is a Hebrew word that means "touch the light", which is not a random interpretation as we will see below.

So we arrived at Mount Tabor - singing and chanting spiritual songs - where we stayed until the next morning. In the evening the Festal Vespers and Artoklasia took place, out in the Courtyard of the church, because many people came from various nations, and it was officiated by His Eminence Metropolitan Kyriakos of Nazareth. At the time of Vespers there was an effulgence in the air of the Divine Light. At 10:20 PM the Vigil began for the Great Feast of the Transfiguration of the Savior. The Divine Liturgy took place again outside in the Holy Courtyard on a wooden platform. Pilgrims gathered from Greece, Russia, Romania, Palestine, etc. - from different parts of the earth.

The Miracles

Just as Matins began at 10:20 PM there began to come from Heaven an effulgence in the air of the Divine Light. I was standing next to the wooden chanter's stand - which was not being used - and I chanted silently. The chanters chanted at a nearby chanter's stand. They were very good chanters from the Holy Sepulchre - Fathers and Palestinians. There was also a Palestinians girl who chanted with the Palestinians. They chanted alternately between Greek and Arabic. From where I was I could see the entire wooden platform on which was celebrated the memorable Festal Divine Liturgy.

During the Great Entrance when the Holy Things came out, the Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Athens, Metropolitan Damaskinos, was followed by some Russian Bishop and of course by the Priesthood of the Holy Sepulchre, who stood before the Beautiful Gate of the wooden platform holding the Holy Things. When he said: "And our Patriarch Irenaeus, remember Lord our God in Thy Kingdom forever..." then the miracle took place. The Heavenly Light came and shone over the entire facade of the church - the roof of the wooden platform and the entire front area of the church was filled with Light! This Light is uncreated, immaterial, brilliant, and not like electric light, but it had the color of fire. It was the Fire of the Godhead, the Holy Light!

When he said: "And for Hieromonk Hilarion, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Tabor", it again came, but only half the Light.

When he said "Thomais" and other names of monks who lived there, no Light came. This Divine Liturgy was unique. I prayed with my nous and my soul. My entire nous became God-seeing. At one point I said to the Lord: "My God, this is what expresses me. I am so happy to be found here at this Holy Land. This was my great desire: to be here and chant. I desire nothing else." There you feel the complete joy of the Lord. There are no words for it, to see the Uncreated Light. You feel sacred bliss. As the Fathers say, nothing could be bought that is beyond the Father of Lights. To worship the Lord truly without passions, to have your entire nous, heart and soul rendered to God, is the fullness and complete happiness which does not exist on earth, because its origin is Heavenly. Worshiping the Lord within the Divine Liturgy you feel His Divine Presence. Then you feel what Saint Peter said was very correct: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." The heart is filled with Divine Love.

God through the Mosaic Law asked for our mind, soul and heart. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Deut. 6:5). The God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the New Testament responded to the Samaritan woman, and through this woman to the whole world, that: "The time is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth." In this way the same Lord established the rule for the true and correct worship of God. And we, having regard for these Two Commandments of the Lord (love towards God and neighbor), which are the wings of the soul, like the wings of a bird, went to the God-trodden Mount Tabor and venerated the dirt on which the legs of the only sinless one, Jesus Christ, on this spot, this holy rock, His Divine Transfiguration took place. We came with an absolute faith to live or die for the Lord and for a love that is as far as the sea from the sky, as the universe. The thermometer of Divine Love reached its zenith. It is enough to tell you that I am burning just thinking that the Lord walked there, passed there, and He transfigured that place and sanctified that dirt.

There, according to the Holy Gospel, He ascended with His three disciples (Peter, James and John) for the purpose of prayer, whom He chose because they were ready to die for Him. And He was transfigured before them. His face shone as the sun and His clothing became white as light! He showed them, forty days before His Passion, His divine glory! And His disciples saw Him having a conversation with the Prophets: Moses the Law-giver, who received from God the Divine Law - the Ten Commandments, and Elijah, who was a strict observer of the Law. Then Saint Peter said: "Lord, it is good for us to stay here and make three tents - one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (St. Peter did not care for himself). At that time a brilliant cloud (the Holy Spirit in the cloud) overshadowed them, and a voice was heard from the cloud - the voice of the Father - saying: "This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased", just like at the Jordan River. Then the disciples all fell to the ground, and when the vision of their Lord ended He told them not to say anything to anyone, before His Ascension into the Heavens.

When the time came for the people to Commune, a little before "With the fear of God...", a large line formed from one side of the Holy Courtyard to the other. Then the following miracle took place: throughout the line where the people gathered to Commune, a white cloud like vapor steamed up from the earth and went up. Many pilgrims saw this. And many times during the Divine Liturgy the Holy Cloud passed to the right of the church to the middle of the Mountain. At the time the people were Communing, the Lord found me worthy to chant from the microphone the "Virgin Pure" of Saint Nektarios. After me a Romanian girl chanted it nicely in the Romanian language.

As long as we chanted the Holy Cloud continued among the people who Communed! I then went and received Communion and felt great joy. Again I went to the chanter's stand and chanted on the microphone the "I Will Confess the Lord" in the first tone, while the people took antidron and grapes for the Feast. As I chanted I simultaneously saw the Holy Cloud coming out as a white vapor from the people (Romanians, Russians, Greeks, Arabs, Cypriots, etc.) who all showered in the Holy Cloud. The Vigil ended around 2:00 AM, and around two hundred people from various countries gathered in front of the church, and chanted in their own language. We who had planned to chant did not go immediately, out of courtesy.

After waiting about a half hour and the Holy Cloud did not come, I encountered a friend, a pious pilgrim from Cyprus named Fotoula, and went to the middle of the Holy Courtyard where we chanted hymns for the Feast.

Soon there gathered beside me other women who were very faithful. We were two girls and six married women, eight altogether. They obeyed my singing direction, since there was no one else. Even though they did not know all the hymns, and they had no books, they followed along with me. I told them from the beginning that we decided to chant all night, and the women agreed. We all chanted with faith, often with hands held high, like Moses, with the eyes of our soul and body directed to Heaven.

We chanted for about thirty minutes, the foreigners had stopped, since they had been chanting for about an hour and a half and nothing came. Then a good girl-pilgrim, came, named Katherine, who said to me: "Joanna, unfortunately this year we will see nothing." I said that if we have patience, the Holy Cloud will come, only if you come and chant. But she did not join us, and went to the roof to see when the Holy Cloud will come. We continued chanting with absolute faith in the Lord. I had brought with me my books (Psalms, Menaion for August, etc.) and a flashlight to see.

I was prepared for this wonderful Vigil. We were determined to stay there until morning to chant the rest of the night whether the Holy Cloud would come or not. We thought ourselves unworthy to see the Holy Cloud, unless the Lord wanted to make us worthy by his great compassion.

With this humble mindset and the faith that moves mountains we chanted with all our hearts and all our love. And the Lord made us worthy to see and live the Great Miracle: one hour passed since we started chanting and a Heavenly Light from Heaven projected to the earth and shrouded us. And all eight of us were found to be in HIS LIGHT!

The happiness cannot be described with words. But let me recite it in order. From the time the eight of us began to chant the hymns of Matins for the Transfiguration the following wonders took place:

1) Above us came at a very low height (the height of the church) three small white clouds above our heads (a type of the Holy Trinity).

2) The all-white Holy Cloud came from Nazareth to the middle of the Mountain.

3) Such great solemness came over us that we wanted to moanfully cry to the Lord.

4) Opposite us in Nazareth we saw as we chanted a full-white veil like a curtain throughout the city.

5) The Icon of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which was at the entrance near the candles, gave off a fragrance, together with the three Tents behind the Altar made by Father Hilarion. They were fragrant from the chanting until 7:00 AM. At one point I also felt a fragrance like incense coming from the church in bursts, even though no one was censing inside.

The Great Miracle

While we were chanting with full devotion to the Holy Trinity, we knelt and chanted with boundless adoration towards God's name, the "We Hymn Thee" three times, and then stood and said the "Meet It Is". Then the Great Miracle took place: a huge Heavenly Light descended, with the color of fire, Heavenly Fire, like a projector, bathed us, and above our heads fires of lightning bolted. It was not only one lightning bolt, but we saw lightning strike the entire area of the Holy Courtyard, from the center outward. They were not lightning as in rain storms, but many lightning bolts which struck in the air above us and all those fires were found in a Heavenly Projector! It was really fantastic, unprecedented.

I did not feel any fear, but rather great joy, because we were in the Fire of the Godhead!

"I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled," said the Lord. And this took place in our present case, because the divine fire was first lit within all of our hearts - the eight of us - who were inflamed with faith and divine love for the Lord, and we also saw it in the air! It encompassed the whole area where the eight of us were. It did not go to those who sat a little further off on white chairs, nor to those standing. Nor to those who were standing and not chanting. It was only revealed to those who chanted. And the important thing is that the Heavenly Light did not immediately leave. It remained there for about a half hour! Also, this Uncreated Light fell upon the cypresses of the Holy Courtyard. At that time I also saw, unworthy as I am, the largest cypress tree become fire. It was inflamed in fire without being burned, like the flaming and unburned Holy Bush that Moses saw. Everyone was surprised with this great miracle.

All the Russians stood up. Others went yelling to those asleep to wake up. There was great excitement among the people. It was 4:00 AM. The eight of us knelt to the earth and venerated the Lord. We said the "I Believe", the "Our Father" and then chanted "Who Is So Great A God", the Evlogetaria, the entire "I Will Confess the Lord" in plagal of the first tone, the long "Lord Have Mercy", etc., and the Heavenly Projector was there! That sacred hour, in which we were found in the Heavenly Light chanting "Lord Have Mercy", I told the women to continue saying it and I prayed to the Lord to have mercy in His infinite compassion on: my relatives, my acquaintances in Lamia and in Fthiotida in general, the Holy Mountain, and generally to have mercy on all of Greece, all Orthodox Christian people throughout the world, the heretics to abandon their heresies and approach Orthodoxy, the Palestinians, as well as the Jews for their repentance to walk on His path, and I generally prayed for the entire world.

We chanted with great solemnity, with hands raised and tears that were not ashamed of the people watching us. We did not chant wildly, nor with yelling, but modestly, with sweetness and great respect to the Lord and the Heavenly Powers! We chanted with true love and with worship towards the Lord of Glory! We were in the Holy Light for about a half an hour! This is something that has never happened in the twelve times that God has made me worthy to come to Mount Tabor specifically for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Some pilgrims were so enthusiastic about the scent which poured out through the air, that they did not go back to their rooms to sleep, as John Sopelidis said, a pious new pilgrim from Athens. At that sacred hour Fotoula from Cyprus saw a fiery Cross in between the three small clouds, Angelica from America saw a bright star, and I saw the cypress tree which was on fire yet did not burn!

Some other pilgrims who were on the terrace next to the church saw a bright star leaving from the three small clouds and from the three Tents behind the Altar of the church. The eight of us chanted continuously until the Heavenly Light disappeared.

What a great blessing! There were no men with us. Only eight humble women, like the Myrrhbearers, who loved the Lord and were determined to sacrifice their lives for Him. Eight women sacrificed their night and chanted all night to the Lord, from throughout the earth. And see what a great reward they were made worthy to see! Because God is Light, as Saint John the Theologian says. And as Saint Symeon the New Theologian says, God appears in the following circumstances:

1. At the Holy Sepulchre once a year, with the Holy Light, which symbolizes the resurrection of souls, the spiritual resurrection which occurred with the descent of Christ into Hades.

2. To the ascetics of the desert.

3. Because of the faith of people.

4. To those who love Him.

In the following circumstance the Same Lord approved the chanting. Let some of those out there hear this, who are unfortunately people of the Church and only leave it to men. They misinterpret the "be silent" of the Apostle Paul, which the Divine Chrysostom explains has to do with women not talking (gossiping) in the Church, especially the married ones, but to ask questions to their husbands at home.

It does not say women are not to chant.

The same Great Father of the Church, Saint John Chrysostom, says elsewhere: virgins should occupy themselves solely with hymnody. God has shown us many times in Jerusalem that He is pleased not only when devout men chant, but also women. Even now some say that this miracle occurred because we were only women and God does not want chanting to be mixed. This also is wrong.

In the year 1999 there were about fifty of us pilgrims who again chanted outside in the Holy Courtyard, and there were many men with us, including three Archimandrites (from Canada, France and Greece). Everyone was Orthodox and then the great miracle took place: the Holy Cloud came upon us, it encompassed us in an all-white cloud, like snow the bright cloud fell on us many times, with the color of fire!

Then the Holy Cloud descended to the earth (and God made me worthy to direct the chanting, because the Fathers were so humble and since they were in the Holy Land for the first time, they insisted on giving me the lead, and I obeyed). And when the Heavenly Projector left we continued chanting until the sun came up at 7:15 AM. When we were finished there were six of us women left, and divine inspiration came to me and I called them Myrrhbearers! They were the following most pious women: Angelica who was from Cyprus but lived in America, Fotoula from Cyprus, Helen from Athens, Marianna with her mother from Cyprus, and myself from Lamia. Note that three times they tried to stop this beautiful chanting, apparently moved by the eternal enemy on the pretext that they wanted to sleep, but to no avail.

We continued the work of the Lord without any debate. The result is that the Great Miracle occurred! That so many souls were benefited, those thousands of souls found at Mount Tabor in the Summer of 2002, who traveled and spent a lot of money to go. All of them will remember this and narrate it to succeeding generations - the Great Miracle from God and the descent of the Holy Light from Heaven! And the foreign Russians, Romanians, Arabs, etc. will always rejoice for living the Presence of God at Tabor. Sleep can be found at some other time, but miracles never happen. Every year it is different and unrepeatable. 

I would be remiss to not say anything here of the great and selfless hospitality, to Greeks and foreigners without distinction, given to all the pilgrims by the good and thoughtful Abbot Fr. Hilarion, as well as the entire Brotherhood of the Holy and Respected Monastery of Tabor, and I think they always need our support.

The Fathers of the Holy Sepulchre generally, who guard the Hot Gates, are heroes, and Greeks everywhere throughout the earth should help and support them materially and spiritually, because they protect the sacred shrines of the Holy Land in the midst of many dangers.

The night we spent on the God-trodden Mountain

We felt great joy that we saw the Holy Light. I told the women that it was a free gift that we saw the Holy Light, and that we were not worthy. All agreed. But the Lord saw our goodwill, and maybe that's why He showed us. As many of us went as pilgrims this year to the Holy Land were determined even if we had to die for Christ. We went with great faith and trust in Divine Providence.

To live or die for Him, the beloved of our souls, the sweetest Jesus Christ. Some told us: Where will you go with all those bombs? Why are you going to a place of war? But we went with full knowledge of the facts.

But we were determined pilgrims, if it was the will of God, to become Martyrs for Christ. But we firmly believed that the Lord would preserve us, as He did. The Lord did not allow for anything to happen to any of us. We all returned to our homelands strengthened. We thank the Lord who protected us. May God have the glory!

This is why the Lord sent us His Light! May He allow us to live that we may glorify Him! After this wonderful Vigil with the amazing miracles that happened on this memorable Holy Night on God-trodden Mount Tabor, we left at around 7:00 AM with the group and headed to other shrines.

Lamia - November 20, 2002

The humble and worthless servant of the Lord,

Joanna P. Tsekouras, Civil Servant and Author

To my friends, with the love of Christ our God.

But as the thief I will confess Thee,
remember me, O Lord,
in Thy Kingdom.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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