Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saint John the Cave-Dweller, Who Lived in Asceticism in Sia of Cyprus

St. John the Cave-Dweller (Feast Day - September 26)

About three kilometers northeast of the village of Sia in the Nicosia district of Cyprus, towards the direction of the village of Alampra, there is a ruined church next to a river, which is dedicated to a "Saint John". North of this ruined church there has recently been built a new church dedicated again to a Saint John. The local residents dedicated the latter to Saint John the Theologian.

However, the original church which is now in ruins was built in the name of a local saint, Saint John the Cave-Dweller or "Spileotis" (sometimes also known as the River-Dweller or "Potamitis"). Over the years this church was demolished and the residents of the nearby villages rebuilt the ruined church that survives to this day. The church was built in 1870 and its a simple stone building of square shape and its roof was covered with red tiles. Inside, at the center of the church, there is an arch which may have been once used to put the remains of the local saint which were keep there to be venerated by the faithful. Today this church has been abandoned and is no longer in operation.

Thus it was for the local Saint John the Cave-Dweller that the first church was built and not for Saint John the Theologian. To the east of the church, about ten meters, there is a cave carved in the rock near the small river. Within this small cave, which looks like a shelter, on the left, there is a low stone wall which was used by the ascetic dweller as a bed, carved in stone. To the right of the cave there is a small oblong seat. The cave was used by the hermit John the Cave-Dweller as a shelter for his protection from rain, but he used it mainly as a shelter for the cold of winter. Even today a visitor to the cave can still see the stone bed of the Saint and even the knife with which he dug the cave.

During that time, five holy hermits came to this area. Three of them have been identified. Therapon, Eutychios, and John the Cave-Dweller. In 700 AD there was a Roman settlement in the area, known as Pampoula. It is at this settlement that some Alaman Saints arrived to after coming from Palestine, and those included these five Saints. John the Cave-Dweller passed through the village of Sia, dug a cave in which he lived and was named Saint John the Cave-Dweller.

In 2002, after a fire in the region, three priests ran to look at how the churches in the area were affected by the fire. When they came to the site of the ruined church and visited the cave, somewhere in a corner, they found a wooden board not only thrown away but also forgotten. They picked it up and took it to an icon painter. It was cleaned fairly well, and everybody present was amazed at what they saw painted on the icon. This wooden board was a valuable old icon of Saint John the Cave-Dweller. This icon is considered to be of major importance, so it has been safely put away. It is put for veneration only during the day of the feast of Saint John the Cave-Dweller. On the elongated strip of handwritten manuscript which the Saint is holding, the following is written: "My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protector is the Holy Spirit."

In recent years Saint John the Cave-Dweller has done several miracles, some of which are presented below:

a) Saint John the Cave-Dweller cured a fifteen-year child from the village of Kornos who suffered from leukemia, after his parents came to the Saint's church and asked for his help.

b) A young man from the Kokkinochoria area, who fell from a high scaffolding, was paralyzed due to damage to his spine. Right after he saw Saint John the Cave-Dweller in his sleep who said to him: "Come to my cave and lay on my bed and you will be healed." So, he went to the village of Sia, and after paying his respects at the ruined church, he went to the cave and lied down on the stone bed of the Saint and asked for his help. He got up healthy praising God and thanking the Saint.

c) A Christian from the village of Lymbia had a car accident at the old Mosfiloti - Alampra road near the bridge that leads to the Church of Saint John the Cave-Dweller. He had also with him his two children who were still infants, and who had suffered fractures and were in a bad condition. At the time of the accident, the driver saw an old man with bright white clothes who grabbed his two children and lifted them up and thus they did not suffer more damage. Later on, he learned that nearby, there was the Church of Saint John the Cave-Dweller. He went there and payed his respects to the Saint, and then he went and visited his cave.

Recently also the skull of Saint John the Cave-Dweller was discovered at Kykkos Monastery. The current bishop of the Monastery of Kykkos, Nikephoros, gave some of the remains of the Saint to the community of Sia. The remains are kept in a special relic holder in the central village church of Panagia Chryseleousa and are taken for veneration outside the church only on the commemorating day of Saints John the Theologian and the Cave-Dweller, which is on the 26th of September.

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