February 23, 2010

The Right Hand of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp is the patron saint of Nafpaktos, because his right arm is treasured in the Holy Monastery of Panagia Ambelakiotissa-Saint Polycarp outside Nafpaktos at the foot of Mount Ardine, which also treasures the miraculous icon of Panagia Ambelakiotissa (miraculously discovered in Constantinople in 1455).

The wonderworking relic was brought to this Monastery from Smyrna a few decades after the Fall of Constantinople in 1479 by the Monks Arsenios and Samuel with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The relic before that time had been in the possession of a certain widow as part of her inheritance. It was only after much labor and expense that the Monks were able to acquire the relic. The relic consists of the elbow down to the fingers, with the hand in a position of blessing. It is kept in a costly reliquary, adorned with the image of the Annunciation and the words of the Archangel Gabriel inscribed: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee" (Lk. 1:35). There is another inscription on the side which reads: "May of 1792 - the hand of the Holy Hieromartyr Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna - treasure of the Ambelakiotissa Monastery of Kozitses. Inlaid with silver at the expense of the most reverend Hieromonk Gregory the Plataniote, and smelted over again in gold by Panagiotis Damianopoulos the Kozitsian."

The photograph below depicts Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos leading a litany with the relic of the right hand of St. Polycarp on May 2, 2009. Annually this three day celebration and litany takes place on the movable feast day of the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers (Saturday-Monday) during the Paschal season.