October 25, 2015

The Great Miracle of Panagia Prousiotissa on October 25, 1918 During the Spanish Flu Pandemic

In October 1918 Agrinio had no more than 15,000 inhabitants. A plague of influenza, known as the Spanish Flu, had broken out in the city and spread to the surrounding area. There was no family to be found that did not lament its victims. The entire region was gripped in fear, because the situation was no better in Messolonghi and Aitoliko.

Science was unable to stem the course of the deadly disease. In Agrinio alone there were 40 to 50 deaths a day. Porters would carry the dead on two-wheeled carts to the cemetery, where the priest would read a short prayer, sometimes not, and they would be buried. Residents did not attend to the dead, for fear of the disease being transmitted.

All were mentally exhausted as they awaited their fate with folded hands. All hope seemed lost. Everything but faith was lost. But even this has weakened before the unrelenting pestilence. Yet within this maelstrom of despair, some of the elders remembered. Their memories go back 64 years, to the year 1854, when cholera had spread throughout Agrinio and decimated its population. It was then that they remembered the miracle of Panagia Prousiotissa. The "plank of salvation" was found. It was faith in the protection of Panagia Prousiotissa.

The Miracle

When the elders of Agrinio recalled this miracle of 1854, the people immediately requested for the icon to be brought to them. Everyone believed that once the icon arrived, the city would be delivered from its tragic ordeal. But there was no one who dared go to Prousos Monastery to request of the abbot to bring the icon. Everyone was afraid. They believed that this plague of influenza was a trial of purification sent by Divine Providence against a people who had gone astray from God's will. They were therefore afraid that if representatives traveled to the Monastery, divine wrath would be sent against the representatives.

It was therefore decided for representatives to go to Nafpaktos, to ask authorization from Metropolitan Ambrose to have the icon transferred, who would then go to the Monastery and accompany the Prousiotissa to Agrinio. That same day three representatives were chosen, but after they resigned another three were chosen for the committee the next day, who went to Metropolitan Ambrose to transfer their request.

With the blessing of Metropolitan Ambrose and the document of authorization in their hands the committee left the Metropolis. Instead of going to the Monastery, however, they went to the port of Nafpaktos, where they sat in silence and self-condemnation. They wondered if they were worthy to present themselves before the miraculous icon? Although they received the permission of the Metropolitan, would the Panagia forgive their sins? These thoughts tormented them for hours in their silence.

The committee finally reached Prousos Monastery in the evening of October 22nd. All three knelt before the holy icon thanking the Panagia for bringing them there. When the fathers of the Monastery, with Abbot Constantine, arrived in the church to chant the Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos, they saw the men from Agrinio on their knees before the icon with tears in their eyes. These were tears of repentance.

The next morning there was a Doxology and the that night an all-night vigil. On the morning of the 24th of October preparations were made for the transfer, and after Matins the procession began.

Meanwhile Agrinio was advised of the transfer. Thousands of believers gathered and processed through the mountains overnight, with tears of repentance pleading their deliverance. In the morning they arrived at the highest peak of Arapokefalon, and survivors till this day describe this moment as elusive to the imagination and one full of devotion. Here is made the first in a series of Prayer Requests to the Panagia, where an estimated five thousand believers prayed on their knees on the mountain. The procession then continued, where they hoped to arrive the next morning at the village of Prostova, where a Supplication Service would be said, and at night it would arrive in the suburbs of Agrinio.

When the sacred procession arrived in Agrinio, it was deserted, except for a few children and who were joyfully ringing the church bells.

The procession went to the Church of the Holy Trinity, where a Great Supplication Service took place, to release the people from the scourge of this illness. From the time the icon entered the church, priests did not stop chanting Supplications for the people for 24 hours, while others received the Immaculate Mysteries.

After the initial hours of the entrance of the icon of Panagia Prousiotissa, the pestilence ceased. The sick and bedridden who could not get out of their beds, now by the dozens were completely healthy and rushed to the church to thank the Panagia. The miracle had taken place. Life in Agrinio resumed.

But only the city of Agrinio was delivered from the pestilence. The surrounding areas of Agrinio, where the icon did not pass, were still in the grip of the disease, and it was increasing. The plague reached the point that the priests could not even manage to read a prayer over the dead bodies. A representative committee from the two towns of Messolonghi and Aitoliko arrived in Agrinio to request the icon be transferred to them as well, but the people of Agrinio refused to do so until everyone in Agrinio venerated the icon and a great Doxology was chanted in thanksgiving. It was then that the Abbot with the calmer residence intervened to compromise.

Negotiations lasted until October 27th, giving enough time for the locals to venerate the icon, but from the Church of the Holy Trinity the icon was to be brought to all the local parishes first. So the icon was transferred to the old Church of Saint Christopher, outside of Agrinio, where a Great Supplication was chanted. After 24 hours of the people venerating the icon, it was then brought to to the Church of the Life-giving Spring and the Church of Saint Demetrios. Meanwhile the people were confessing their sins and receiving the Immaculate Mysteries. Wherever the icon went, reports of sickness and death ceased.

In Messolonghi and Aitoliko, however, the disease is still decimating the population, with 25 to 30 people dying a day. The icon finally arrived in Messolonghi on November 1st, and despite the torrential rain thousands came to venerate the icon through the night. Scientists and city officials warned the people that doing so would only spread the influenza more, but the people didn't care. After praying all night with the wind blowing over trees, the miracle took place. On November 2nd there were no reported cases of the disease nor any deaths reported. Residents came in droves to the icon to make an offering of gold, silver, etc. in gratitude to Almighty God and the Mother of God.

The same took place in Aitoliko. Dozens were dying. The transfer of the icon took place from the city of Messolonghi. Everyone but a few arrived at the train station, waiting for the sacred procession at the end of the great east bridge. The diseased ceased after the procession.
Countless miracles are reported by the residents.

This account is based on that of the late Mayor of the city of Agrinio, George Pastra.