August 17, 2015

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos Against the Saracens in 716 A.D.

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos Against the Saracens in 716 (Feast Day - August 15th)

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite


You are seen as a Champion by the citizens,
Shattering the unbelieving enemy Hagarenes.

At the beginning of the reign of Leo the Isaurian, who was also called Konon, in the year 716, there came a multitude of Saracens with boats numbering one thousand nine hundred, wanting to battle against the magnificent and God-protected Constantinople. Having overcome the kingdom of the Persians, who for many years fought against the kingdom of the Romans, they then went to Egypt and Libya. And deceiving with false promises the Christians there, that if they submitted to them they would not bring violence against the Orthodox faith, the unbelievers did not keep their promise. Thus many Christians were punished for refusing to deny Christ, making them Martyrs, because they did not want to trample on the honorable Cross of Christ. The Saracens, having dominated various nations, such as the Indians, Habeshas, Mongolians, Libyans and the Spanish, went then to Constantinople, wanting to conquer it. Emperor Leo was willing to pay them a tax, but the Saracens did not consent, rather they wanted his word to set guardians to protect Constantinople. Wherefore because the citizens came to a bypass, and did not know what to do, for this reason they fled to the Theotokos, the guardian and protectress of Constantinople, begging her to help and save her city that was in danger. And so the Theotokos heard them, and she taught the unbelievers a lesson, as she knows how.

At the time the Saracens were running outside the walls of the City, one of them with blasphemous words called the City Constantia, and the great Church of Hagia Sophia not Hagia Sophia, but only Sophia in contempt. Therefore this man fell to the vengeance of the Theotokos. He fell from his horse and justly did the unjust one fall down and cast away his unclean soul. And their herald, going up on a wooden platform to call all the heinous and unclean to prayer, also fell, and after being scattered to pieces he died. Then the Saracens fought against the Bulgarians, and the Bulgarians killed more than twenty thousand Saracens. And all their boats were scattered by the Theotokos, but in other places she brought them to complete destruction. Because the great iron chain of the City was spread out to the end of Galata, the Saracens were prevented from moving forward, but in the narrow strait called Steni they were destroyed by a storm. And their biggest ships were lit on fire by the Romans. As time went by and the Saracens ate all the food they had, they fell into such a great state of hunger that they began to eat human flesh, and mice, and unclean reptiles and dead animals. Then later, due to great need, they ate human excrement, mixing it with a little flour. For this reason many of those who were first and great among the Saracens fled to the City, submitting themselves to the Romans.

Then the Saracens raised the wall of the City, in the dry area in the place called Sykai in Galata, and there found a Roman condemned of various crimes, who ran to their assistance, and they proclaimed him Emperor of the Romans. And they gave him spear-men and bodyguards, and they made an agreement, to encircle the wall of the City, praising their newly-crowned king, and in this way they shamed the faith of the Christians. But this display was done in vain. The leader of the Saracens, named Suleiman, sought to enter the City to consider the area, and received permission. Hence the horseman came to the Bosporus, with the others, and they entered the City without harm, but only Suleiman was not allowed to enter, and even his horse ran upright, with his feet high up. Wherefore they could not enter through the gate. Suleiman was amazed that he was prevented from entering, so he lifted his eyes, and saw over the gate of the City the depiction of our Lady the Theotokos sitting on a throne, holding in her embrace our Lord Jesus Christ. So he came down off his horse, and walked into the City, blaming himself for the prior blasphemy he spoke.

In such a manner the Saracens turned back with nothing, having fought against God and the Theotokos, and they disappeared with famine and pestilence. Whatever boats and galleys remained, were scattered in the sea and on the port and on the shore. The greatest miracle took place in the Aegean Sea, where hail and fire rained down together, and the fire caused the sea to heat up, making it boil, causing the iron in the sea to bend. This caused the boats with the men to sink. Only ten boats escaped, which informed the other Saracens what had taken place.

Therefore the Saracens had gone against Constantinople around the fifteenth of August, and after a year had gone by they returned with shame around the fifteenth of the next August. Hence it is fitting to cry aloud the words of David: "What God is so great a God as our God. You alone are the God who works wonders," having granted redemption to Your people and Your City, through Your immaculate Mother.*

* St. Nikodemos notes that in certain places it is said that the Saracens entered Constantinople on August 16th and left on August 15th. He also says that the City fell to the Turks in 1453 due to the sins of the people, which is why the protection of the Theotokos was absent and abandoned the City and its people to its current fate. This is why all those who behold the City should sigh in their hearts for their wickedness and remember in like manner its former glory.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.