September 27, 2014

Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos and the Discovery of the Relics of St. Akylina

By Angelo Paklaras, Theologian

The late Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos (1981-2012) immediately upon his enthronement in Arnaia, was interested in establishing new parishes and erecting sacred churches to honor the local saints of his Metropolis.

His first concern from the moment he visited the parish of Saint George in Zagliveri and was informed of the life and martyrdom of Saint Akylina was to erect a church and establish a parish in her honor.

Thus through the actions of the Blessed Hierarch the second parish of Zagliveri was established by presidential decree in honor of the Holy New Martyr Akylina.

He also set the revered levite Fr. Anastasios Theologos, the parish priest in Zagliveri, to assume the efforts for the construction of the sacred church with his prayers and blessings, but he also stood beside him in this endeavor, since the Blessed Metropolitan Nikodemos himself would come and oversee the entire project at regular intervals.

As the late Metropolitan said: "This church which is being erected will be a monument of the piety of the residents of Zagliveri and the surrounding area" (Fr. Anastasios Theologos, Saint Akylina of Zagliveri, p. 8).

With the grace and blessing of God and the Blessed Hierarch, the cornerstone was set in place on 27 September 1984 by the late Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos.

Three years later the sacred church liturgized in the basement, and with the favor of God and the Saint a resplendent church was able to be erected, again under the personal care of the late Metropolitan and Fr. Anastasios.

The consecration with all solemnity took place on 27 September 1994, with numerous Hierarchs in attendance.

In particular at the festal vesper service of the consecration the then Metropolitan Panteleimon (Bardakos) of Samos and Icarus was the main celebrant, who had served as a parish priest of the Sacred Metropolis of Ierissos. The next day there took place the consecration ceremony and the festal hierarchical Divine Liturgy, presided over by Nikodemos of Ierissos and eight other prelates.

The Holy Chancellor of the Sacred Metropolis of Ierissos, Fr. Chrysostomos Maidonis, with the venerable blessing of Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos, tried and managed together with the cooperation of Fr. Anastasios to make this new parish a panhellenic site of pilgrimage for all of Macedonia, so that crowds of pious pilgrims may flock to receive the grace and blessing of the Saint.

Fr. Chrysostomos himself visited this new parish very frequently, he would celebrate liturgy, preached and wrote articles about the Saint, about her life and martyrdom, and the great significance of the construction of her sacred church, and he also established at the same time the Youth Organization of the Sacred Metropolis called "Saint Akylina".

An ardent and lifelong desire and pious dream of the late Hierarch Nikodemos was to find the sacred relics of Saint Akylina. This righteous desire of around thirty years he expressed both privately, through his intense agony, fiery prayers and intimate prayer to the Saint for her to make them manifest, and publicly, in the annual celebrations of the commemoration of Saint Akylina, and he also did this in Ossa at the first Hierarchical Liturgy after the discovery of the relics of Saint Kyranna (Sept. 25, 2011).

Saint Akylina beheld the good and humble Hierarch's heartfelt desire, heard his soulful prayer and many years of supplications, and she fulfilled his sacred request, in response to the love and reverence he had for her venerable person.

It was her good pleasure to reveal her relics during his prelacy, just a few months before his repose, in order to cheer him up and give him consolation, and support and strengthen him during the terrible trial of the cross of his illness, and to discover it in a miraculous manner. The details are described in The Chronicle of the Discovery of the Sacred Relics of Saint Akylina, Ossa Langada, 2012, written by Metropolitan John of Langada.

After the festal events in honor of Saint Kyranna in October of 2011, where the late Hierarch was in attendance, in his sacred agony over the manifestation of the Saint, he asked the revered monk Fr. Maximos of Iveron, who had occupied himself with the lives of the Neomartyrs and the burial of their sacred relics, to devote his energy to the discovery of the sacred relics of Saint Akylina.

Indeed, Fr. Maximos with the cooperation of the Chancellor of the Metropolis Fr. Chrysostomos Maidonis, went to Zagliveri for a scientific study among the resident priests and pious inhabitants.

There a devout Abbess was staying in the house of Saint Akylina and she gave them a Synekdemos (Traveler's Prayer Book) in which was written: "September: The 27th of this month is Saint Angelina".

The name "Angelina" and Saint Akylina were associated miraculously in a dream of a pious woman from Ormylia in Halkidiki to whom Saint Kyranna appeared and said: "I am not alone here; my friend Angelina is with me."

Let it be noted that at the feast of Saint Akylina in September 2011, the Metropolitan of Ierissos gave the blessing for the icon of the Saints of Langada in which Saints Kyranna and Akylina appear together, and this is a copy of an older icon from the Sacred Church of Saint George in Zagliveri done in 1913.

These facts indicate that the two Saints were friends and that Saint Akylina formerly was called Angelina, according to the late Fr. Anastasios Theologos.

In this dream - as well as in a dream of a lady from Thessaloniki - Saint Angelina manifested her martyrdom and revealed the place of her burial outside the Sacred Church of the Archangels in Ossa, while at the same time ordering her to read the Supplication Canon to Saint Parthenios (patron saint of those suffering with cancer) "because Nikodemos of Ierissos was undergoing surgery" due to his illness, and the Blessed Hierarch didn't even know he suffered from this.

With the blessing of the late Metropolitan Nikodemos several studies and excavations were done in possible burial sites of the Saint in Zagliveri, based on older visions of the residents, and Fr. Maximos, but nothing of Saint Akylina was found.

Saint Akylina (Angelina) of Zagliveri was martyred in 1764 at the age of 18 after horrific tortures she suffered at the hands of the Turks, because she refused to betray Christ and her faith, like her renegade father did.

Her pious mother prepared her for martyrdom by presenting to her from a young age Saint Kyranna and her martyrdom as a model.

When the Saint reposed in the arms of her mother, her soul was lifted up into the heavens, and her fragrant body was buried in a Turkish graveyard.

Three young men, whose names have been preserved by tradition, unearthed the body of the Saint and buried her in an unknown location.

After all these testimonies, His Eminence the Metropolitan of Langada ordered the excavation of the soil in the area of the designated spot, which during the winter remained uncovered by snow and a light was shining above the spot.

The sacred relics of the Saint were found in an embryonic position, just as the Saint revealed in the dreams, a few meters away from the Sacred Church of the Archangels, where the relics of Saint Kyranna were also found.

After combining all the oral and written testimonies together, along with the forensic reports, it was proved beyond all doubt that these were the relics of Saint Akylina.

After the discovery of the sacred relics, Saint Akylina asked that the event be made known to Metropolitan Nikodemos, which was done by His Eminence Metropolitan John of Langada.

While Metropolitan Nikodemos of Ierissos was ill, Metropolitan John personally visited the bedridden Hierarch and produced for him a small piece of the sacred relic of Saint Akylina.

The late Hierarch with tears thanked God and the Saint who preserved him for this great honor and blessing to be made worthy to venerate after 31 years the grace-flowing relic of Saint Akylina and that his pious dream became a reality.

All the clerics present were witnesses to the fact of the great fragrance that permeated the place with the presence of the sacred relic of the Saint. "God is wondrous in His saints!"

The Saint visited the ill Hierarch and blessed him with her physical presence and honored him with the fragrance of her sacred relic.

Two hundred and fifty years after her martyrdom, Saint Akylina returned to her place of origin, to her home and her sacred church, on the day before her Sacred Commmemoration, on September 26, 2013.

The Saint came in exactly the same way the young men brought her from Zagliveri to Ossa, inside baskets on horses and on the same exact path.

The grace-flowing relics were transferred at the request of the presiding prelate of Ierissos Theoklitos, the Matropolitan of Langada, and they were deposited in a silver reliquary, in the presence of Hierarchs of the Church of Greece and thousands of faithful people who came to honor the Saint.

During the festal events that took place on the day of the translation of the sacred relics of the Saint from Ossa to Zagliveri, absent was the great Hierarch of Ierissos Nikodemos.

His blessed soul however rejoices, first because he saw and venerated through his physical eyes Saint Akylina a few months prior to his repose, and on the other hand because he saw noetically and blessed from heaven with his honorable Right hand the entire venerable ceremony.

He intercedes to the Holy God and to Saint Akylina, whom he is next to in the Triumphant Church, on behalf of all of us his spiritual children in the Militant Church. May we always have his prayers!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.