October 11, 2010

Saint Jonah the Hermit of Pergamos

St. Jonah the Hermit and Wonderworker (Feast Day - October 11)

Saint Jonah came from Palestine, but when it was seized by the Saracens in the 7th century (capture of Jerusalem by the Arabs: 638), he along with other hermits departed for safety.

They arrived by ship to Cyprus, and some landed in Paphos while others landed elsewhere. After saying their goodbyes, they dispersed at various locations on the island and lived as ascetics.

Saint Jonah came along with his fellow hermit Kendeas, who stayed in Paphos while Jonah continued eastwards and arrived "at the area of Trachiada (located near Achna) at a village called Pergamos". In the beginning of his stay there, he had neither a hut nor cave. After having found a cave he settled there and became an ascetic living with fasting and prayers and lived an "exemplary ascetic life in the cave".

The ascetic Saint lived in the cave by eating every night stewed lentils and wild vegetables of the region. And for more ascetic exercise and suffering he wore a hard rope under his clothes, meanwhile making his body more heavy with the use of iron which was tied on his arms with the rope. With such labours the Saint submitted himself, and with restraint, prayer, humility and the fear of God in his heart, he was led to spiritual and divine gifts. As the Saint's biographer says: "And during his life and after his death he performed countless miracles". He cured every disease for everyone who took refuge to him, having faith and fighting off the evil spirits. It is written that once he even resurrected a dead child through prayer.

The Saint had a pupil who supplied water for him from far away because there was no water source nearby. The devil, however, took the form of Elder Jonah, and would meet him on his way back from the water spring, where he would grab the water jar from his hands and pour the water on the ground. This happened several times. The pupil believing that he was his Elder and was angry - that's why the devil did such a thing - and he stopped doing his service and did not transport water for several days, so the Saint ended up becoming realy thirsty. When the pupil finally went to get water, the Saint said to him: "What took you so long to go get water, my child, I nearly died of thirst?". The student in turn, told him about the case that allegedly the Saint himself took the water jar away from his hands and poured the water on the ground. Then the Saint told his pupil: "My child, this is a diabolical invention. From now on if you see me again before you, no matter how many times I try to stop you, do not obey and don't give me the water jar." Since that time the demon disappeared and never bothered the Saint's pupil again.

After this event took place, the Saint prayed and then hit the rock near the cave with his stick and from the rock clear water issued forth which he drank to the glory of God as well as those who came to him. This water existed until 1912, when fanatical Muslim Turks destroyed the cave of the Saint and the water, the holy water, as it was considered by believers after the death of the Saint.

The friend and fellow hermit of the Saint, Kendeas, meanwhile, left Paphos and also came close to the area where Jonah lived a life of asceticism and settled in a cave near the village of Avgorou. Sometimes they would meet each other, and the last time this happened, it happened during a miracle, as is stated in the life of Saint Kendeas.

Having lived a pious life, the Saint departed to God. The faithful buried his holy body near the cave. After his repose the Christians built a church at Pergamos and dedicated it to the Saint. Over the years, the church grew into a monastery. Today only the ruins of the monastery survive because it was also destroyed by the Turks in 1912. Until 1974 in the village of Lysi, the icon of the Saint dating from the 16th century survived, which was moved there from the village of Pergamos, Larnaca. And in the village of Xylotymbou survives a half damaged icon of the Saint which was brought there by the last Greek Christian inhabitants of the community of Pergamos. It is not known if the icon is the same as the one kept in Lysi and if it was transferred to Xylotymbou after the Turkish invasion in 1974. The cave of the Saint was also destroyed by the Turks of the village of Pergamos and was filled with concrete. A new church dedicated to Saint Jonah was built in the northeast of the village of Xylotymbou in 1983 and was consecrated on 7 October 1984 by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Kitiou. The Holy Altar of this church was built with the brick from the original church.

On 11 October 2010, for the first time in 98 years, a Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the location where the older church once stood.

Ἀπολυτίκιον Ήχος α'.
Της ερήμου πολίτης και εν σώματι άγγελος και θαυματουργός ανεδείχθης, Θεοφόρε Ιωνά πατήρ ημών νηστεία, αγρυπνία, προσευχή, ουράνια χαρίσματα λαβών, θεραπεύεις τους νοσούντας, και τας ψυχάς των πίστει προστρεχόντων σοι. Δόξα τω δεδωκότι σοι ισχύν, δόξα τω σε στεφανώσαντι, δόξα τω ενεργούντι δια σου πάσιν ιάματα.