|Processional icon of Sts. Constantine and Helen from the 17th century, in the Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen in the village of Sarandi.|
By His Eminence Metropolitan Neophytos of Morphou
To understand the magnitude and strength of the Service of a Consecration of a Temple, I will tell you a story from five years ago that took place in a village of our Metropolis, in Sarandi. There Saint Helen appeared to a woman who lives in that village, and the church there is dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helen.
The woman faced a difficult illness and one day Saint Helen appeared to her and said:
"I will make you well! But I also have a problem that I need your help with."
"What problem do you have, my Saint?"
"In your village, a church was never consecrated. I want you to tell this to the priest, that he may take care of the consecration."
As the feast of the Saints was approaching, May 21st, she went and found the priest of the village, the now late Father Stylianos, and told him. The priest responded as follows: "Go back to your work, my daughter. Our church is 400 years old. How could it be that it has not been consecrated. It has frescoes. If you saw a saint in your dream, what, will we now believe in dreams?" Indeed, we must be cautious with dreams.
So the woman, humbled, was silently obedient and left.
A year passed, and as the feast of the Saints once again approached, Saint Helen appeared to her for a second time. This time it was not in her dreams, but angered she said to her: "When the bishop comes, tell him."
So, therefore, during the Vespers for the Saints, at the time of the procession, I saw this woman crying. I asked her why she was crying, and she told me she would tell me later. After we said the "Through the Prayers of our Holy Fathers" she told me about her experience.
Then I entered the sanctuary together with the priest and we lifted the coverings of the holy altar, to see if it had an "omphalos" ("navel") - just like we have a navel, so does the holy table, because it is a living body - in which we place relics of martyrs at the consecration of a church. We also wanted to see if it had the four holes of the Evangelists. We saw that it had nothing. It was plain marble! We even looked beneath the holy altar to see if there was a "phyton" ("plant"), as it is called, because some old holy altars placed the relics of the holy martyrs in this hole, the "phyton". There was nothing to indicate that the church was consecrated, so we set a date for the consecration.
How the saints are alive in our lives! How caring they are for their churches and how much they care that everything takes place according to the order set by the Fathers of the Church. We also understand by this the Prayer Behind the Ambon, which the priest says loudly before the dismissal of the Divine Liturgy: "O Lord, Who blessest those who bless Thee, and sanctifiest those who put their trust in Thee, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance; preserve the whole Body of Thy Church and sanctify those who love the beauty of Thy Temple. Do Thou glorify them by Thy Divine power, and forsake us not, who set our hope in Thee."
Let us not forget that we consecrate churches in order to reconsecrate ourselves. Churches in and of themselves are stone and clay. But at the moment these stones and this clay partake of the energies of the Holy Spirit and the created is united with the Uncreated, the creation with the Creator, we also can be changed, reconsecrated and transformed. And this takes place slowly over time. The grace of the Holy Spirit transforms us subtly and imperceptibly. And we are transformed when we participate in the Mysteries of the Church, especially the Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. Let this be the concern of our life, that our life may be eternal. Amen!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.