|St. George of Symvoulas|
The old icon of Saint George of Symvoulas was found in June 1992 within a cave in the area belonging to a British military base, near the sea, of the deserted "Monastery of Christ of Symvoulas," located near the District of Limassol in Cyprus. The locals honor the icon twice a year on April 23 and November 3.
A small church dedicated to St. George the Trophy-bearer is in construction to honor the finding of the icon and has been named the Church of Saint George of Symvoulas.
By Eleni Leonida Skourou
The Saints do not forget, even when people forget about them. The only thing they ask from us is to PRAY, and to have FAITH. Then they perform their miracle. That is exactly what happened in June in the year 1992 somewhere in an area named Symvoulas, which is located in "Happy Valley" Episkopi in a British Military Base, involving the long forgotten Church of Saint George.
The bells of the deserted church started to ring after hundreds of years of silence. Candles were lit, and hymns started to fill the air. The courtyard of the church was filled with religious pilgrims when the story of how the church was found spread amongst the Christians.
My name is Eleni Leonida Skourou, and I come from Limassol. I was 47 years old when the story of the Great Miracle that happened to me begun. At the time I was facing serious health problems. The tests from heart examinations that I got from doctors both in Cyprus and abroad, showed that only 15% of my heart was working. My heart arteries were partially closed so I was getting ready for an operation. My doctor had already sent my medical file to Nicosia so the hospital there could schedule my operation. The name of my physician was Dr. Nikos Tsangarides. I remember him writing on my medical file - "URGENT".
My heart problem forced me to visit the hospital emergency room more often. I also went to another doctor to get a second opinion before my surgery, and he told me that I "have a very serious problem" and that "it is a miracle you are still alive". He also said I "should have had the operation a long time ago", and that I "should have the operation as soon as possible." He also told me that he was very anxious to know my news after my operation. I immediately thought to myself that maybe he wanted to know if I had made it.
My husband Leonidas was shocked when he heard all these things and he could not stand on his feet. When we went home he started to ask God for His help. He was also trying to figure out a way to sell our home, so we could gather up money for an operation abroad. He kept saying, "Don't be afraid. You will have an operation and you will be well." I kept answering, "I am not afraid, and you must not despair. God might want to give me an extension of my life, so I can be prepared better spiritually when it is time for me to meet Him. He might even want to make me well without an operation." My husband did not believe that I could become well without an operation, because my problem was worsening as time went by. I also kept saying to him, "I am praying and I am hoping for the help of God to free me from this situation in a way that He only knows, before it is time for me to go into surgery."
A great miracle did take place, and I was freed from my illness, even though I consider myself unworthy before the presence of our Triune God who is our Creator. He cares for His creations you know, because He created us in His Image and Likeness. God wants the salvation of the souls of ALL people and wants all of us to "come to a knowledge of the truth." That is why he tests us, but only to the extent that we can handle. Then the Grace of God "steps in", as it did in the story of the blind man in the Holy Gospel. "Go in peace," He told the blind man, "and sin no more."
How the Great Miracle Took Place, in the Early Morning Before My Operation
It was 5:30 in the morning. My husband Leonidas was in bed half asleep and half awake. Two young men appeared, they were very bright and very handsome. "I knew their names," he later told me. The one on the right was George, and the one on the left was Andrew. They took Leonidas for a drive in the forest. While they were driving (Leonidas was driving), they ordered him to climb a very steep hill. Leonidas reacted to them by saying, "This is not an airplane I'm driving, but a car. How do you expect me to get up there?" "Give it a try my son," they replied.
Suddenly he found himself on top of the hill. From the peak of the hill they showed him the valley, and asked him, "What do you see?" Leonidas replied, "I see many ruins, and a church." Then George (Saint George) asked him, "Are you looking for a church?" "Yes I am," Leonidas replied. "Is this the one?" "Yes it is," said Leonidas. Then Saint George said to Leonidas: "The Church you are looking for is the Church of Saint George. You must go there and find it. There is also another church that belongs to Saint George that I want you to visit, that is located close to the house you live." Then the Saint pointed out to Leonidas the direction he should follow to find the church, and also advised him where to ask for directions.
Immediately Leonidas got up and came to my room. I had already been awake because I had been praying as I do every morning before he wakes up. Just before Leonidas came to my room I remember talking to God in my prayer and saying: "You did not cure me, my Lord, because of my unworthiness. However, I am still awaiting to receive Your help, my Lord." When Leonidas came to my room, he said to me, "Why are you kneeled down and crying? Get up. From this day on you will be no longer ill, you will no longer need to take medication, you do not even need to have the operation." "The blessed moment is here," I said to myself. I asked him what happened, and he told me the story.
I must mention here that I was begging God to make me well. At the same time I was asking Him to let it be known to me how my cure was accomplished through His intervention. I see now the reasons why our Gracious God chose to visit us and bless us through my husband, who was shown a deserted monastery that was forgotten by all.
I felt well immediately. I felt a certain calm and a certain sweetness going through me. This was a great relief for me because the pain I had continued latently. Sometimes the pain was so great, that it made me fall unconscious.
We immediately started to look for the small Church of Saint George in Limassol, following the directions of the Saint. We located the church near the Turkish settlement, behind the Church of Saint Anthony. The church is very very small, and it bears the name of "Saint George of the Poor". This church is unknown to a lot of people today, and it was also unknown to us at the time we found it.
It was the middle of the week. We had decided that the Sunday that was coming up we were going to visit the forest in Episkopi near "Happy Valley," to search for Saint George's Church, in the area that was pointed out by Saints Andrew and George. Before we started to search, we had asked a lot of people to help us with the location of the church. No one seemed to know anything or was able to assist us. We were determined to begin our search, regardless of the negative outcome of our initial inquiries. We were sure we were going to find it.
Sunday morning came. Before we were going to begin the search for Saint George's Church, we attended the Divine Liturgy as we do every Sunday. We wanted to attend Liturgy at the Church of Saint Andrew Charaki. Somehow we lost our way and found ourselves in the vicinity of another church that is dedicated to the Apostle Andrew, the one that is located in Mesa Geitonia. (Later it became all clear to us that the reason we lost our way and found ourselves in the Mesa Geitonia church was because Saint Andrew wanted us to). While we were in church I felt a hand touching me around the waist. I didn't give it much thought at that moment. I was passing in front of Saint Andrew's icon at that time that was placed on a stand in the front of the church. I moved on. I went to light a candle. I looked over my shoulder. I tried to see who or what touched me. I saw the icon of Saint Andrew. Immediately something like an electrical current ran through my body. I felt my body shivering. It is at that moment that I realized, that we got lost because Saint Andrew wanted us to attend Liturgy, pray and light our candles in his Mesa Geitonia church.
On the same day we attended a Baptism in the Church of Saint George in Ypsona. After the ceremony was finished we went in front of the icon of Saint George to honor him and pay our respects as we usually do. I felt a heart crisis coming on. My body was paralyzed. I began to beg the Saint to show mercy on me. I told him that my children and family still need me. I was begging him to not let me die in his temple. Suddenly the pain was gone and I came back to my senses.
We went home to get oil and candles and everything else needed when someone is going to go on a pilgrimage to a church. We were hoping that we would at least find the foundation of the church. We were hoping that we were going to be able to light our candles and pray there that day. The area that we went to was completely unknown to us. When we went to the spot that the two Saints took my husband, we found ourselves on a rural road. The valley was surrounded by tall hills and we felt as though we were in a tunnel. We kept searching for ruins on that main rural road regardless of the fact that we had options to follow other small roads joining that one. We both felt an invisible power guiding us and we were determined to continue the search till the last second of daylight. We slowly moved on for about a kilometer. Suddenly we saw some ruins on our left side that reminded us of a deserted village. On our right, hidden behind some bushes, we saw a church that was half ruined!
Words cannot describe our emotions. We quickly pushed the bushes to the side and entered the church. We stopped there in astonishment. Down on the floor on our left, stood an icon of Saint George the Great Martyr. Tears of joy filled our eyes and feelings of gratitude filled our hearts for Saint George who was our mediator to God. We eventually returned home. From that moment on I felt a great need to start a project on the side.
The next day, after I had lunch, I laid down to rest a little. I was thinking of the site we found, and the ruins. I could see in my mind the hill (I was now half asleep) and that I had to somehow walk down to the valley. I kept thinking that I was very ill. I knew that because I could barely walk up the steps of my own house. I kept asking myself, "How can I walk down this hill and how can I possibly return in the
condition that I am in?" I kept thinking to myself that I was not able to do it. Then, I found myself climbing down the hill. It was nighttime. I was standing on the dirt road across the ruins. There was also a water reservoir there. I started wondering
what the name of this deserted village was. On my left I could see a vineyard. Suddenly a young man rose above the ruins. He stood straight as a torch. He was tall and his hair was curly. He wore an officer's uniform. He also wore epaulets on His shoulders. He was holding a spear and he had it resting on the ground. Suddenly the spear lit up. He stood a short distance from me without saying a word. Then I thought to myself that the young man is probably going to wonder what I had been doing here in the middle of the night all by myself. I showed him the spot where the church was and I said: "I came to cut a few leaves off of this vine." He then responded: "Not just anyone can come here and cut leaves then leave." I responded: "Alright." I then awoke.
This ignited within me a more fervent desire to build this Church of Saint George in Symvoula and beg Saint George to enlighten me how to do it, because it required a lot of work. "I beg you Saint George, " I prayed, "remove from me my hindrances."
One afternoon the Saint again went to my husband, while he was working at the warehouse. When no one was around he heard a voice that was so sweet that he cannot describe it. The voice said: "My church is old, my church needs to be built." When I came home he was so moved he was crying and trying to explain to me what happened, and how he was willing to put all of his money for the sake of God and Saint George, and to even ask others for money, to make this happen, and that every stone would be uncovered and restored.
We then sought a meeting with Metropolitan Chrysanthos, thinking he knew of the existence of this church in this area. We showed him also an old map that indicated the location of the church in Symvoula. His Eminence was astonished, and after visiting the spot he was enthusiastic that this church had been revealed, having been unknown for so many years. We asked for a priest to do a Doxology, since it was in ruins. He gave us a priest, who wanted to know how this church was revealed in our land. We told him that everything was revealed by the will of God and the grace of Saint George.
Because I wanted to know what to tell the people about my health problems, then I went to the hospital before my surgery to tell them that a miracle took place. I asked to be re-tested in the hospital, because the doctors would have not believed me if I had told them that I am well because a miracle had taken place.
Dr. Nikos Tsangarides, who was my doctor, did not say no to me. After getting the results of a few of my tests, I went back to see Dr. Tsangarides. He kept reading the reports over and over. He kept looking at me. He was lost for words. "Take these papers to some other doctors. I cannot find anything wrong with you." Then I asked him: "What happened to the heart problem for which I needed surgery?" He kept saying to me: "Everything is okay. There is nothing wrong with you." I suddenly started to cry. Tears of joy replaced all those tears of pain and agony of past times. I told Dr. Tsangarides that "a miracle took place" and that "medical science has just verified it." When he heard the word MIRACLE he immediately jumped out of his chair and kept saying repeatedly: "The Grace of the Saints is great, the Grace of the Saints is great." He then wanted to know how the MIRACLE took place. From that moment on he became a testifying witness of the miracle. He visits us at the church very often. He knew my heart problems first hand so he was shocked when he realized that it was a miracle that had taken place. A few days later he asked me to stop all the medication that I had been taking for the past 5 years. (I was taking 13 pills a day).
From the moment I had been cured I had been begging God and Saint George not to allow for me to get ill with my heart again, because there would be those who would start to doubt that a miracle took place. I was also begging God to send me an angel, to let me know if my request was accepted.
Eight days after the miracle of my healing took place Saint Photini the Cypriot appeared in my sleep. (When this Cypriot Saint was alive, she lived an ascetic life in a cave in the area of Karpasi). I was trying to cross a street. I saw her standing inside of a bright circle. She was wearing a long gown and a veil on her hair. I said to her: "I knew that you had a dark complexion. When did you become so beautiful?" Saint Photini then answered: "I have learned that you are all well now." "The Glory belongs to God," I answered. I started to tell her that sometimes I have this uneasy feeling, and she interrupted me by saying three times repeatedly: "I am not feeling good either." As she was saying that she disappeared in a northward direction.
The Priest who explained my dream to me informed me that the Saint that appeared to me was Saint Photini the Karpassiotissa. (A Saint that lived in the area of Karpasi). He told me that the reason she was sad was because the cave that she lived in while she was a hermit was now in the territory of the Turks. (The Saint does not have anything personal with the Turks. She would have liked for the Orthodox to have possession of the cave she lived in, only because they know how to honor her there by holding Divine Liturgies and prayers honoring the Saint). Two or three days later I heard that an Orthodox Priest that lived in the occupied part of Cyprus managed to bring back all of the Holy Relics of Saint Photini. I found out that the Church had taken the Holy Relics of Saint Photini to the settlement of Kolossi in Limassol. I went there and honored the Saint.
One of the following nights I saw this dream that I was taking a ride toward the Church of Saint George. Suddenly I felt that I had to throw up, so I asked my husband to stop the car. I saw a tangle like a black ball with yellow spots come out of my mouth as I bent down to vomit. I touched it. It felt like it was hairy. Then I said three times: "My Panagia, how could I have this thing inside me and still be alive?" I know now that Saint Photini heard my plea when I told her in my dream that I have these uneasy feelings and sometimes I am not feeling well. The dream where I vomit the illness was her way of showing me that I was well now.
The things that I write to you come from strength that God granted me after a lot of prayer. I write these things to you in order to be of service to my fellow human beings, in order to help you seek and find our Savior and Redeemer, the Triune God of Orthodoxy.
A year after the great miracle had happened to me we were finally ready to start with the restoration of the church. The tractor that we brought to clear the area around the church dug out a Saint's Holy Relics. I immediately took some parts of the Holy Relic to our Bishop to see them. During the same afternoon Leonidas and I returned to the ancient Church of Saint George, and carefully gathered from the ground all the remaining parts of the Holy Relics that we could possibly find. The next day while standing outside the church, I felt someone calling me to dig in the churchyard at a certain spot in order to recover a Saint's Holy Relics. I took a lath hammer that happened to be around and started to dig. After turning up the ground a few times I found a human skull, and immediately after that I found the rest of the body. While I was doing this, Leonidas kept saying from a distance: "You are under the impression that you are going to find Holy Relics buried so shallow in the ground?" I called out to him to come to see my finding. He thought that I had probably found a small part of a Holy Relic. When he saw the skull he broke out in tears. Immediately after that he took the lath hammer from my hands and began to carefully remove the Holy Relic from the ground. After we finished carefully removing the Holy Relic from the ground we placed it in my apron and took it home. The beautiful aroma that emanated from the Holy Relic of the Saint was immense. (When an aroma emanates from a Holy Relic it means that the Saint is present). We were very happy. We also notified the Bishop. A year later we found by a miracle again another Holy Relic. We wanted to place the Holy Relics under the care of the Metropolis, so we brought Father Stylianos to read some prayers. After the prayers we took the Holy Relics to the Bishop. We couldn't believe our ears when we heard the Bishop telling us that we can take the Holy Relics home while the church is being built.*
Many miracles continuously take place here in the newfound Church of Saint George. After talking to some monks from the Monastery of Stavrovouni we found out that a long time ago on this side there used to be a Monastery called "Council of the Lord" (Symvouli tou Kyriou). In this church the Cypriots used to hold their councils, or "symvoulia", here. In a book titled Villages and Cities of Cyprus there is mention of the name of the Abbot of the Monastery. His name was Theodoros. In another book is also mentioned that Saint Nicholas and Saint Theodoros stayed here in this Monastery for an extended period of time.
According to ecclesiastical history, Theodoros later became the Bishop of Paphos. Bishop Theodoros was also the first person to write the biography of a great Cypriot Saint named Saint Spyridon.
We hope and pray to God that we will soon be able to rebuild the Great Monastery of the Council of the Lord soon. I thank the Triune God of Orthodoxy and Saint George the Triumphant, who helps us through his grace every time we come across difficult circumstances. Saint George helps us by being our mediator to God when we are in need, and especially helps us in those trials where we are called to save our souls.
With spiritual reverence, the humble and worthless servant of the Lord,
* The Holy Relics of Three Holy Fathers of the Church were found recently in the immediate vicinity of the newfound Church of Saint George the Great Martyr. Many faithful have already received revelations related to the lives of these Saints. With the help of God and when the time is right their names will be revealed.