August 19, 2010

The Church and Relics of the Prophet Samuel in Constantinople

The Holy Prophet Samuel (Feast Day - August 20)

1 Samuel 25:1 says the Prophet Samuel was buried in his own house in Ramah, and over his tomb a sanctuary was built. This place housed the relics of the Prophet until the early fifth century.

According to the historians of the time, especially through the Chronicon Paschale, the arrival of the relics of the Prophet Samuel in Constantinople was a joyous and reverential event and he was received as if the living Prophet himself made his way into the city. His ashes, deposited in a golden vase, and covered with a silken veil, were delivered by the bishops into each other's hands. There had been an uninterrupted procession from Palestine through the highways leading up to Chalcedon by “one great swarm of people”; the emperor Arcadius himself, at the head of the most illustrious members of the clergy and senate, advanced to meet his extraordinary guest, who had always deserved and claimed the homage of kings. According to the Chronicon Paschale, the prophet’s body arrived in Constantinople “with Arcadius Augustus leading the way, and Anthemius, pretorian prefect and former consul, Aemilianus, city prefect, and all the senate.” When the prophet finally arrived at the ‘Chalcedonian jetty’, his body was carried to the Great Church, where he was “laid to rest for a certain time”. This occurred on May 19, 406. A few years later, on 5 October 411, the relics were removed from Hagia Sophia and laid to rest in a sanctuary dedicated to the name of the Prophet Samuel newly built near the Church of St. John the Baptist at the Hebdomon. The church collapsed during the earthquake of December 14, 557 and it was probably never repaired after that as it does not appear in any other historical records.

The horn which the Prophet Samuel had used to anoint David was stored in Nea EkklÄ“sia which was a church built by Roman Emperor Basil I the Macedonian in Constantinople between the years 876–80.

Below is an excerpt of a letter of St. Jerome to Vigilantius in which he defends the veneration of holy relics, and in which he mentions the transfer of the relics of the Prophet Samuel from Judea to Thrace in his lifetime:

Are we, therefore guilty of sacrilege when we enter the basilicas of the Apostles? Was the Emperor Constantius I guilty of sacrilege when he transferred the sacred relics of Andrew, Luke, and Timothy to Constantinople? In their presence the demons cry out, and the devils who dwell in Vigilantius confess that they feel the influence of the saints. And at the present day is the Emperor Arcadius guilty of sacrilege, who after so long a time has conveyed the bones of the blessed Samuel from Judea to Thrace? Are all the bishops to be considered not only sacrilegious, but silly into the bargain, because they carried that most worthless thing, dust and ashes, wrapped in silk in golden vessel? Are the people of all the Churches fools, because they went to meet the sacred relics, and welcomed them with as much joy as if they beheld a living prophet in the midst of them, so that there was one great swarm of people from Palestine to Chalcedon with one voice reechoing the praises of Christ? They were forsooth, adoring Samuel and not Christ, whose Levite and prophet Samuel was.

Apolytikion in the Second Tone
As we celebrate the memory of Thy Prophet Samuel, O Lord, through him we beseech Thee to save our souls.

Kontakion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Thy hallowed mother dedicated thee unto the Lord even before she had conceived thee; and when thou wast born thou didst serve Him from thine infancy like an Angel. And, O Prophet of the Most High, for thy fervent faith, thou wast granted to foretell things that should come to pass. Hence, we cry to thee: Rejoice, O ven'rable Samuel.