August 31, 2016

Synaxis of Panagia Lykourisiotissa in Skoutera of Agrinio

It is unknown when the original Monastery was built or how it functioned. The history of the Holy Monastery of Panagia Lykourissis includes some very impressive events, such as the "coincidence" that the wonderworking icon of the Theotokos as well as the relics of saints were both found by hunters centuries apart. The history we know begins in 1638, during the Ottoman Occupation, when the village of Skoutera had ten houses and was opposite the location of the present Monastery, up in the mountains to escape dangers from invaders.

In the first case a hunter in 1638 found the icon of the Panagia that was guarded by a wild dog (in Greek called a "rissos"), which as soon as the icon was discovered fell down dead. It seems therefore that the name "Lykourissis" comes from a combination of the Greek words "lykos" and "rissos," both of which imply a wild dog or wolf.

In 1917 a plague ravaged the village. For this reason a procession took place with the icon of Panagia Lykourissis around the village, and the plague with the death it brought ceased from that moment. Quite often clouds of locusts would also ravage the crops of the village, but as soon as the icon was taken out for a procession, the locusts would depart. She was also a protector of the people during the war with the Germans and the Greek Civil War that followed, and during this time the Monastery was burned to the ground, but the icon survived, suffering minor damage on its back side. After this the Monastery was rebuilt. Also in 1917 a holy priest known as Papa John the Exorcist served as a priest near this Monastery for about one year when he escaped the communist takeover in Odessa and had returned to his homeland of Greece with his two surviving children (his wife was killed by the communists). It was at that time that he performed a famous exorcism over a forty day period of strict fasting and prayer by the entire village. From here he went to Peloponnesos and served somewhere as a priest. He had also foretold the following: "One day the relic of a Saint will be revealed at the Monastery of Panagia Lykourisiotissa, and then the monastery will gain a great reputation."

The relics of the saints and other treasures of the Monastery were found by Barba-Haralambos Yiannokostas in 2010, who was the guardian and keeper of the Monastery, and who was also a hunter and had seen the Panagia on November 20th, the eve of the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos, in a vision dressed in black, indicating to him the place where the relics could be found. He was told that in the morning he should go to the Monastery and light the oil lamps before the icons, and then when he was to drive  to go hunting he would hear something hit his car, and at that spot he was to dig and bring what he found to her Monastery. When this happened he recalled the vision and began to dig at that spot. At first he found a small metal cover, under which was a wooden one that contained the treasures of the Monastery. Among the relics are those of St. Kyriaki, St. Theodore the General, St. Merkurios, St. Tryphon, St. Paraskevi, St. Panteleimon, St. Haralambos, St. Marina, and two other unknown saints. Among the other treasures found were some priestly vestments and lamps.

The Monastery celebrates its feast on the last day of the ecclesiastical year, August 31st, at which time the Church celebrates the Placement of the Holy Girdle of the Theotokos, which the church of the Monastery in Skoutera is dedicated to. It also celebrates the miraculous discovery of its relics on July 6th, which is the eve of the feast of Saint Kyriaki, whose relic was discovered among the ten others. It should be noted, that no one knows why the icon, relics and treasures were all hidden, but the Panagia once again helped her Monastery recover them over the period of 400 years by chosen local hunters. It is also written somewhere that some time in the future, near the Monastery, an entire body of a holy person will be discovered, at the appointed time by Christ and the Panagia.