Although they had been blessed with children, the most-pious Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja of Serbia and his wife Anna, after twenty-five years of marriage, in ca. 1175, desired another child. However, Anna was sick and was fifty years old, while Stefan was sixty-one, but with faith in God they prayed for this with tears and fasting. The Lord hearkened to the imperial couple and granted them a third child, whose name was Rastko at baptism, but later became the famed Saint Sava of Serbia. After the conception of this beautiful child, the imperial couple did not have marital relations, since they had promised God that they would remain in chastity to the end of their lives.
Eventually the imperial couple separated and took monastic vows, and Stefan, who took the name Symeon, followed his son Sava to the Holy Mountain of Athos when he was eighty-four years old. The next year both father and son established the Hilandar Monastery, which became populated with Serbian monks. When Symeon was eighty-six, he reposed on the 13th day of February in the year 1199. Back in Serbia there was a dispute between the two older brothers of Saint Sava, Stefan and Vukan, for which Sava acted as peacemaker. Stefan, who was occupying the throne of his father, requested of Sava that he return to Serbia with the relics of their father Symeon, in the hopes that it would bring God's mercy on the land. Since it was also the dying wish of Saint Symeon to have his relics returned to Serbia, he arranged for their return. Thus in the year 1204, Saint Sava returned to Serbia with the relics of his father Symeon.
|Tomb of St. Symeon at Hilandar Monastery|
The monastic brotherhood of Hilandar was exceeding sorrowful when they lost the relics of their father and founder Symeon. Saint Symeon therefore appeared in a vision to Abbot Methodios, and clarified why the relics needed to return to Serbia. Saint Symeon comforted the grieving abbot by telling him that from the stone upon which rested his tomb, there would grow a vine. Indeed, even as the Saint foretold, a large grapevine miraculously sprung forth from the stone foundation of Saint Symeon's crypt. The grapes and branches of this vine, after more than 800 years, continue to grant healing to this day, as is well attested in the annals of the monastery. Presently, at Hilandar, behind the abbot's throne, among the elder's prayer stalls, is the silver tomb of Saint Symeon, from which the vine has sprouted. Its fruit, dried by the brotherhood as raisins, exerts miraculous grace to ward off barrenness for those who partake of it with faith and reverence. Even to the present day, many have begotten children in this manner.
The vine has been bearing fruit for more than eight centuries without special care and protection, except pruning. One can become acquainted with the contents of a great number of letters sent to the monastery by the thankful parents who consumed grapes from Saint Symeon's vine. Letters come from all over the world, including America and from throughout Europe, but especially from Greece and Serbia. There are testimonies from Protestants, Catholics and Muslims as well as Orthodox Christians. Even believing mothers with atheist husbands have given testimonials. Some of those who were not Orthodox before have been baptized Orthodox after, and children are often named either Nemanja, Symeon, Simon, Sava, Rastko, Anna, and Anastasia (this was Anna's name after becoming a monastic). Births have occurred after even twenty years of sterility, and some have given birth to twins and triplets. Those who do not receive children are encouraged to consider it God's will for them.
The first preserved written document of the miraculous nature of these grapes dates back to 1585, when the Turkish Pasha of Thessaloniki begot a son after partaking of the grapes of Saint Symeon. After ten years he and his son visited Hilandar Monastery, and the Pasha said to the monks: "This is the child I received from you, and now I give him back to you." A monk responded: "This is your child. God has given you a gift from our father Symeon. Let him stay with you, and you can express your gratitude to our monastery in some other way." Then the Pasha gave a large estate outside the Holy Mountain to Hilandar, where the Kakovo Monastery was established.
Officially, the world’s oldest vine in the Guiness Book of Records is called Stara Trta (Old Vine) and comes from Slovenia. Slovenian scientists and geneticists from Paris have confirmed the authenticity of Stara Trta, which is estimated to be more than four centuries old. Based on the manuscript describing the above miracle from 1585, this vine would rival its age, but seeing that it is traditionally dated to the year 1204, the vine of Saint Symeon claims to double the age of the oldest vine in the world that has been so far confirmed by scientists. No doubt that such news that a Serbian monastery is home to a grapevine which is twice older than Stara Trta would come as a big surprise in the global wine world.
Instructions from Hilandar Monastery in
Partaking of the Gift of Saint Symeon
Those who wish, by God's blessing, to have a fruit of their womb need to pray to Saint Symeon the Myrrhgusher, who was a great ascetic of the Holy Mountain of Athos.
Saint Symeon, who was a king in Serbia, abdicated his throne and became a simple monk. With his son, Saint Sava, he built the Monastery of Hilandar in which he later reposed. For all his efforts he received from God a gift of miracle working - namely to be able to help barren parents who, with faith, ask mercy of Him. This is the reason why grapes and pieces are cut from the vine which has grown from the very tomb of the Saint.
The way to use the grapes of Saint Symeon is as follows: the piece of grape vine is put into 650 mil of holy water and then each spouse drinks of this sanctified water before each meal, during a period of 40 days. After this the husband takes one grape while the wife takes the other two (three in total are given).
During the 40 days the husband and wife are to observe the following rule: to eat only fasting foods and to make 50 prostrations every day, 25 in the morning using the prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on us;" and 25 in the evening with the prayer: "Most holy Theotokos save us."
Spouses need to abstain from the marriage bed while the 40 days come to pass. After 40 days they need to confess their sins, receive Holy Communion and then, according to their faith, and by God's blessing, they will receive the fruit of their womb.
After conception, during the time of pregnancy and breastfeeding of the child, the spouses must live in abstinence and purity. From the life of the Prophet Samuel we can see that his mother Anna had suckled Samuel for three years, living in total separation from her husband and than had even more children, because "if it's God's will natural laws are broken." Children are God's gift, not a human invention. The Lord says: "I am the One Who creates a man and builds his spirit."
The apostle orders parents to be in fasting and prayer and to subdue bodily pleasures, striving to achieve a higher goal. In other words, having wives but really not having them (Cor. 1:57). Then he emphasizes the importance of being not the slaves of the body but to walk in the spirit because all Christians are called to holiness - not uncleanness.
Observing the animals we conclude that according to the law of nature given by God at the creation of the world, we find them strictly abiding by it. They abstain from bodily relations not only after birth but also during the breastfeeding period. And man, as you can see, is sometimes worse than an animal surrendering to passionate desires.
Forgetting the dignity given to people by God who created them according to His likeness, they break the law of God thus drawing upon themselves the wrath of God. The results of this wrath are the following: an unfaithful spouse, absent-mindedness and every trouble, incurable illnesses from which children suffer, and even untimely death of a person. Who could even describe the anger of God caused by spouses who lose the fear of God and start walking the way of bodily thinking which is an enemy to God, as well as at those who don't subject themselves to God and His laws. Such individuals kill themselves and their offspring to the third and fourth generation and lose the heavenly Kingdom forever.
The spouses need to abide by the Church rules even before their release from barrenness, which are as follows: the marriage bed needs to be separated on the night before feast days and Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, all four fasts regulated by the Church and especially during Great Lent. The rest of the year may be used according to their natural inclinations. God has given man a wife as a help-mate for their life together; not passionate sins that know neither time nor abstinence.
Therefore we entreat you brethren, you who are blessed in Christ Jesus, our spiritual children, and our brothers according to baptism: keep your marriage in the purity and justice of God and then the Heavenly Healer of the soul and body will visit your barrenness and you will see a blessing bestowed upon your family.
As for the works of mercy towards the poor brethren you will receive the Kingdom of Heaven promised to those who love God and will be in communion with all those who pleased Him by works of mercy, in which our True God Jesus Christ helps us by the intercessions of His All-pure and All-blessed Mother the Theotokos and Saint Symeon the Myrrhgusher and Wonderworker and all the Saints of Mount Athos.
May we all inherit a blessed ending of this life, and step from a temporary existence into a life everlasting, where we will celebrate the All Holy Name of the Most Holy, Life giving and Inseparable Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom is due glory unto all ages. Amen
We ask the spouses, whom the Lord, through the use of the grapes of Saint Symeon blesses with offspring, to notify our office so that we may occasionally announce this, and further the faith of other couples.