By George Sotiriou
In the year 1832, a terrible and deadly disease, the plague, hit the population of Mytilene. Deaths occurred each day and were increasing in number. Residents were forced to abandon their homes and flee to the surrounding hills in the hope that they would not get the disease. And even the city authorities left their offices in the city and took refuge in the mountains. The government had sent for teams of doctors from Constantinople and medicines, none of which had any effect.
But where human efforts failed, the grace of God was successful, by the prayers of the Holy New Martyr Theodore of Byzantium.
In these critical days, on the Friday night of the first week of Great Lent, the Saint appeared to the then Chancellor Fr. Kallinikos (who later became the Metropolitan of Mytilene and Patriarch of Constantinople), and urged him to tell the Metropolitan to gather the Christians from the surrounding areas where they had fled, to have a vigil in the Metropolis Cathedral of Saint Athanasios and to remove his relic from the church’s crypt. The Chancellor gave no attention to the dream, but after a week, and again on Friday night, he saw the same dream but more lifelike, and the Saint more austere. This time he immediately ran to inform the Metropolitan of the Saint’s will. The Metropolitan immediately met with the Turkish Governor and requested the permission to call the Christians to come to the church by any means and for everyone to ask God to save them from the disease. The Turkish doctors, who came from Constantinople, objected. They did not want such a gathering to take place for fear of transmitting the disease further. But the Governor, seeing that everyone was dying despite all the measures that were taken by the doctors, even when the inhabitants fled from their homes, gave permission to gather and hold a vigil.
All the Christians with faith and hope ran to the temple, which was filled within, outside and around the streets. They cried, beseeched God, and sought the help of the Saint, whom they learned had appeared in a dream to the Chancellor. They rose early and they prayed. In the morning hours, the Metropolitan and the Chancellor descended into the church’s crypt, and removed the Holy Body of St. Theodore with reverence, and had a short procession around the church.
Since that time, no one else, neither Christian nor Turk, died from that plague. The city named St. Theodore their patron, that is, the protector of the city and of our island [Lesvos]. Turks and Greeks in every way confessed the miracle and showed their gratitude to God and their guardian Saint.
Since then (1832) the venerable relic of the Saint was not returned to the crypt of the church, but was clearly and visibly placed (and as a sign to the Turks) in the Metropolis church, where it is found today, and now, as stated in the Apolytikion of the Saint, is a "valuable treasure" for our place.
As its patron saint, St. Theodore protected the island during the last war in 1940, and while the Italians bombed several targets, including the telephone antenna of the city, the factories of Sourlaga in the Gulf of Gera, the ship “Arntena” in the port, no bomb had achieved its objective and many of them hit the ground without exploding.
In remembrance of the miracle of rescuing the population of the city from the plague, since the year 1936, at the initiative of Metropolitan Iakovos of Mytilene from Durrachiou, a new feast day was established in Mytilene on the Fourth Sunday of Pascha [Sunday of the Paralytic], on which with great splendor and the participation of thousands of the faithful, the procession with the venerable relics of the Saint takes place.
Apolytikion for the Translation of the Relics of St. Theodore of Byzantium (Fourth Sunday of Pascha) in the Fourth Tone
The all-honorable relics of Saint Theodore, O faithful, let us gloriously honor as a precious treasure, and let all cry out: Save us from dangers, those who faithfully hymn you, as when you delivered the city from the plague, and preserve all of us through your intercessions.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.