October 11, 2017

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Icon of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Beirut

At the fourth session of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod in 787, Saint Peter, Bishop of Nicomedia, in defending the necessity of icon veneration, presented an account attributed to Saint Athanasius the Great about a miracle which occurred in the city of Beirut (Berytus) of Phoenicia.

In this city, near the Jewish synagogue, lived a certain Christian. When he moved to another place, he left behind an icon of our Lord Jesus Christ. A Jew, who moved into the house, paid no attention to the icon. Once, his friend noticed the image of Jesus Christ on the wall, and said to the homeowner, “Why do you, a Jew, have an icon in your house?” He then went to the synagogue and reported this transgression of Jewish law.

The Jews expelled the owner of the house from the synagogue. They took the icon from the wall and began to scoff at it, saying: “As once our fathers mocked Him, so we also mock Him.” They spit at the face of the Lord. Hurling abuses, they lashed at the icon, they placed thorns around the head, nailed it to a tree, and put a sponge with vinegar to the mouth. Finally, they took a spear, and one of the Jews thrust it into the side of the Savior. Suddenly, from the hole in the icon made by the spear, blood and water flowed. The Jewish rabbis, seeing the miracle, said, “The followers of Jesus Christ say that He could heal the sick. Let us take this blood and water into the synagogue and anoint those afflicted with infirmities. Then we shall see whether what is spoken of Him is true.”

A vessel with the blood was put in the synagogue. The inhabitants of Beirut, once they learned of the miracle, began to bring those suffering from various illnesses into the synagogue. They all were healed, after being anointed with the blood from the icon of the Savior. Then the Jewish people believed in Christ and exclaimed, “Glory to You, O Christ, Whom our fathers crucified, Whom we also crucified in the form of Your icon. Glory to You, O Son of God, for having worked such a miracle! We believe in You, therefore be merciful to us and receive us!”

The Jews went to the Bishop of Beirut. After showing him the wonderworking icon and the blood and water that flowed from it, they told him of their misdeed. The bishop, seeing their sincere repentance, accepted them, catechized them for many days and then baptized them. Then he consecrated the synagogue into a church of our Savior Jesus Christ. At the request of the Jews, he also consecrated other synagogues into churches dedicated to the holy martyrs. There was great joy in that city, not only because many people were healed, but because many were baptized due to the miracles worked by the icon of the Savior.

Later in the year 975, Emperor John Tzimiskes (969-976) brought the wonderworking icon of Christ from Beirut to Constantinople, to the court chapel of Christ near the Chalke Gate, where he was supposed to be buried.