March 25, 2015

Saint Senouphios and the Wondrous Icon of Christ of Latomos

The Wondrous Icon of Christ at Latomos

The following information comes down to us from the Narration of Ignatius of Smolensk, concerning the wondrous icon of Christ in Latomos Monastery of Thessaloniki, known today as the Monastery of Hosios David.

About St. Theodora and the Origins of the Icon of Christ at Latomos

St. Theodora was the Christian daughter of Maximian (286-305), co-emperor with Diocletian (284-305). She was baptized a Christian by the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander (May 28), who was later a participant in the First Ecumenical Synod. Taking on her new Christian responsibilities, she was troubled by her idolatrous parents, so she told them that she suffered from some sickness, and she as a result sought (for health reasons) to build a house and a bathhouse for herself in the northern part of the city. The place was named Latomia because there were stones there that were used for building. Immediately after the workers finished the buildings, she converted the bathhouse into a church, under the guidance of the Bishop of Thessaloniki, St. Alexander. She ordered an iconographer to create a mosaic in the eastern apse depicting the Most-Holy Theotokos. When he was finishing the icon, he was struck with amazement, for the next day, the face of the Theotokos no longer appeared, but that of Christ on a light-bearing cloud, surrounded by the four symbols of the Evangelists, and the Prophets Ezekiel and Habbakuk.

This miraculous occurrence the iconographer shared with Theodora, who wanted to keep it a secret. However, one of her servants informed her mother of what had happened. She called Theodora to give an explanation for what had taken place, and also to participate in sacrifice to the goddess Artemis for the salvation of her father Maximian, who was away at war with the Sarmatians. Theodora refused to reveal the existence of the icon and also to sacrifice to the idols. When her father had learned this, he ordered her locked in prison, where she received a martyr's death. The church that she built was burned, however, the icon remained unharmed, as St. Theodora had previously had it covered with plaster.

Read more about St. Theodora here and St. Alexander here.

St. Senouphios of Latomos (Feast Day - March 25)

About St. Senouphios and the Rediscovery of the Icon of Christ at Latomos

Sometime in the reign of the iconoclastic emperor Leo V the Armenian (813–820), a monk named Senouphios “in the hills of Nitria in Egypt” heard a voice from heaven directing him to go “to the monastery in Thessaloniki called ‘of the Stonecutters’ (Latomon).” Senouphios “had been begging God for a long time to be allowed to see Him as He would come to judge the earth”; and having heard a clear answer to his prayer, he set off at once with only his cloak and staff. After many adventures he arrived in the distant metropolis, only to be told by the monks that there was no image in Thessaloniki like the one he was seeking. Dejected by the thought that he had been deceived by the devil, the old monk returned to Egypt, only to have the heavenly oracle repeated more urgently.

Once more he trudged the long way back to Thessaloniki. This time he was rewarded. As he sat alone one day in the sanctuary of the Stonecutters’ Monastery, “Suddenly there was a storm and an earthquake and, moreover, thunder and such a disturbance that it seemed the very foundations of the sanctuary were shaken. And immediately the mortar and the brickwork with the ox hide that overlay the sacred representation of the Lord were stripped off and fell to the earth. Those sacred features of Christ appeared, shining with a fiery appearance like the sun in the midst of the cloud. When the old monk, standing in the midst of the sanctuary, saw this, he cried aloud, 'Glory to you, O God, I thank you,' and relinquished his blessed soul.”

Read more about St. Senouphios here. Often he is given the title of "Standard-Bearer", but this name more likely applies to another fourth century monk named Senouphios who is commemorated on June 28. This St. Senouphios is commemorated on March 25th, and he was buried in the church of Latomos Monastery, which is today named after Hosios David. Ignatius of Smolensk tells us that originally it was dedicated to the Prophet Zechariah.

About the Wondrous Icon of Christ "Not Made With Hands" in Latomos Monastery

Christ sits on the rays of a gold rainbow in an aureole of blue light. Youthful, he wears a golden chiton and raises his right arm while holding an open scroll in his left hand. His scroll reads, "Behold our God in whom we hope and rejoice in our salvation, he will give rest to this house" (Isa. 25:9).

His hands and feet bear the marks of the Crucifixion. Next to his head is the inscription, 'Jesus Christ of the Miracle of Latomos." The halo of blue light surrounding his figure is composed of seven rings. The four apocalyptic symbols of the Evangelists emerge from the fifth ring of the mandorla. Clock- wise from the top left, these are Matthew, John, Luke, and Mark; their initials are inscribed above their heads.' Below this vision is a mountainous landscape that gradually descends into a water basin, where seven fish swim. On the two sides of the rocks stand the figures of the prophets Ezekiel and Habakkuk, identified by inscriptions above their heads." Ezekiel is depicted as an elderly man dressed in a chiton, standing with arms raised and palms open to the viewer in a gesture of awe and amazement. Habakkuk is represented as a youth seated on the rocks; he has propped his chin in his right hand and on his lap holds an open book with the written message, "Son of Man, eat this scroll" (Ezek. 3:1). The whole scene is imbued with a blue light that emanates from the halo above and highlights the draperies, the rocky mountains, and the waters. The setting, lyrical with gold and blue light, conveys the essence of the scene: a theophany.