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July 26, 2013

Saint Hermolaos, the Protector of Children

Saint Hermolaos is considered to be one of the Unmercenary Saints, having taught Saint Panteleimon the medical arts through Christ, that is, to perform miracles in the name of Christ.

Though honored by Orthodox Christians for centuries, St. Hermolaos is little known today and there are few shrines dedicated to him in Greece. The most important is to be found on the island of Skyros in the Sporades. This island has 365 churches and chapels surrounding the Monastery of Saint George, the patron of Skyros, and St. Hermolaos is among the most celebrated. There St. Hermolaos is considered the patron saint of children, and he is honored with a great celebration on July 26th.

The festivities begin the day before on July 25th. Mothers of various ages travel to this uninhabited section with small wooden fishing vessels from the shore of Molos in order to clean the chapel dedicated to St. Hermolaos and decorate his icon with flowers. They do this every year in order for St. Hermolaos to protect their children during the year. In the evening they are joined by the people of the island and the priests to celebrate the feast. On the way while on the fishing boat the people sing songs dedicated to St. Hermolaos, such as:

"On the island of Saint Hermolaos there is a chapel, they call it Saint Hermolaos the gem of Molos. It celebrates in July, the month of Alonaris, and all go to his grace, young and old. The fishermen of Molos carry the people, and on the road on which they go they tell them to sing."

"Στ' Αγι' Αρμολάου το νησί είναι ένα εκκλησάκι, το λένε Αγιε-Αρμόλαε, του Μώλου στολιδάκι. Γιορτάζει τον Ιούλιο, το μήνα Αλωνάρη, στη χάρη Του πηγαίνουνε όλοι, μικροί-μεγάλοι. Του Μώλου τα ψαράδικα τον κόσμο κουβαλούνε, στο δρόμο που πηγαίνουνε τους λέν' να τραγουδούνε."

During the Divine Liturgy, which takes place outside the chapel, the mothers walk with their children and infants around the chapel three times, they cut their nails, then remove a garment of clothing from their children and they place it, according to custom, in a hole on the east side of the cliff in order for the wind to blow it far away. The blowing away of the garment symbolizes the blowing away of all sickness and disease. The ritual ends when the pilgrims venerate the icon of St. Hermolaos.

Following the Divine Liturgy the pilgrims are offered various local treats to eat, prepared by these mothers. When the pilgrims return to the shore of Molos there is a feast waiting for them with traditional songs and dances, fish soup, and much seafood, and this lasts for many hours.

According to local tradition, this chapel was built by a fisherman captain from Chios to fulfill a vow when passing Skyros.

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Thy Martyrs, O Lord, in their courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since they possessed Thy strength, they cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by their prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion in the Third Tone
O wise Hermolaos with the God-bearing Hermippos, and august Hermokrates, as sacred priests of the Most High, ye who offered the Unbloody Sacrifice rightly were yourselves stained with your own blood as sacrifices offered up to Christ the One God; and now with boldness ye pray that all may be saved.