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Saints and Feasts of December 9

Friday, November 29, 2019

Holy Hieromartyr Philoumenos of Cyprus, Who Was Martyred at Jacob's Well in 1979

Icon of Saint Philoumenos (Michalis Koullepos, 1999).
In the church of the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas, Orounda.

Childhood Years – Departure for the Monastery

Saint Philoumenos was born on October 15th, 1913 in the parish of Saint Savvas in Nicosia. His parentage originated from the village of Orounda, a village of the Nicosia district in Cyprus. The Saint’s parents were George and Magdalene Hassapis.

They had thirteen children and raised them all, “… in the nurture and admonition of the Lord [1]”, taking care to give them, together with material necessities, a true Christian Orthodox ethos which was characteristic of their own life. They were people of God and their example was the best education they could give their children. They strictly adhered to all the fasts, praying frequently before the iconostasis [2] in their home, and on Sundays attending the Divine Liturgy without failure. George was especially persistent on church attendance. All, both young and old, had to go to church on Sunday whatever the case. But the main source of genuine religious ethos, which characterized the children of the family ‒ especially the twins Sophocles and Alexander (the future hieromonks Philoumenos and Elpidios) was Magdalene’s mother Alexandra.

The Saint’s family in 1910. Next to his mother on the left, Alexander (Father Elpidios) and behind her, Sophocles (Saint Philoumenos).

The holy life of this blessed grandmother established the foundations and preconditions for her grandchildren’s life in Christ. Alexandra knew how to pray, to fast, to attend the church services and do prostrations. Little by little all the children learned through experience how to do the same. They even learnt the prayers that their grandmother would say as she carried out her prostrations, and they would also say: “Lord Jesus Christ, help me. Most Holy Theotokos, help me”.

Saint Philoumenos’ family home in Orounda, which will undergo conservation and restoration in the Saint’s honor.

Every night they read the Holy Bible and the Synaxaria [3] of the Saints. Their grandmother would also light the oil lamp before the iconostasis, burn incense, then all would venerate the icons, and pray briefly before retiring to their beds. The twins, however, stood out from all the rest. Together they especially loved Orthodox services, and indeed their eldest brother, with whom they shared the same room, noticed how during the night the two children would wait until he fell asleep and as soon as they were sure about this, they would rise and begin to pray, which would sometimes last as long as two hours.

The Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni at the start of the twentieth century.

They particularly enjoyed reading the life of Saint John Kalyvites [4]. They were fascinated by his life and had a strong desire to imitate him by freeing themselves from the world to become monks. So, at the age of fourteen they made the final decision to flee for the Monastery of Stavrovouni [5] without saying anything to their parents. They arrived there by wagon and the abbot of the monastery, Elder Barnabas (Haralampides) accepted them as novice monks, discerning their pure desire for monasticism. Indeed, the twins easily managed to assimilate and become accustomed to this ancient type of monasticism. During the fifth year of their stay at the monastery the exarch of the Most Holy Sepulchre, Father Palladios, passed by the monastery and suggested to the young boys to return with him to Jerusalem in order to attend the Gymnasium of the Patriarchate and later stay there as members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. Both the Abbot Barnabas and their parents gave their blessing, thus they departed from their monastery for the Holy Land with the deep conviction that they had been called by the Lord.

Ministry in the Holy Land

The two brothers moved to Jerusalem in 1934 under the protection and care of the future Patriarch Timotheos Themelis (1935-1955). They attended the Gymnasium of the Patriachate and their attendance was characterized by a great zeal without neglecting the strict typiκon [6], which they inherited from Stavrovouni: the daily services, the prostrations and their monastic prayer rule [7].

Many times they remained in their rooms and locked the doors, in order to pray undisturbed. On occasion when their schoolmates visited, in order not to be distracted from prayer, they would pretend that they were about to begin the service and thus their visitors would leave immediately. Indeed, when they had school examinations, not only did they not relinquish their daily prayer rule, but on top of it they added a Supplication Canon [8] to The Theodokos. They would go to the Metochion [9] of Gesthemane and there they would chant the Supplication Canon to the Most Holy Theotokos, pleading to her to help them in the lesson in which they were to be examined.

At school the other children especially loved them. “We had many schoolmates”, the memorable David Tleel would state, “but with Philoumenos and Elpidios we felt different. We ate together, studied together…We were like family. Philoumenos especially had something in his behavior that made you love him, and everyone loved him… Really, everybody loved him. He was simple and without guile. Whatever occurred, he would accept it and was never angered. He forgave… We might laugh, play pranks on him and he would never become annoyed. He was good and pure in his soul, but above all humble. We realized early on that Philoumenos lived a holy life. That is why we loved and respected him at the same time.”

During the third year of their enrollment at the Gymnasium, in 1937, Sophocles and Alexander were tonsured monks by Patriarch Timotheos and according to Orthodox monastic tradition were renamed Philoumenos and Elpidios respectively, thus officially joining the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. During that same year they were ordained deacons. In 1940 Father Elpidios was ordained a presbyter and he zealously served different appointments and responsibilities assigned to him. In 1949 he departed from the Holy Land to serve the Patriarch of Alexandria and also following a path of spiritual service in many locations such as United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Greece to name a few.

His brother Saint Philoumenos was ordained as presbyter in 1943 and remained in the Holy Land serving humbly and mostly out of sight for forty five continuous years until his martyrdom in 1979. He served the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in many positions: as an assistant caretaker at the central kitchen (until 1946), as an Abbot in Tiberias (1946-1953), as an Archimandrite in Joppa (1953-1959), as the principal of the Patriarchal School (1959-1961), as typikaris [10] at the Church of Saints Constantine and Helen (1962-1965), as Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Transfiguration in Ramallah, as Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Theodosios (1967-1970) and for six years at the Monastery of Prophet Elias (1970-1976). After his ministry in Ramallah Saint Philoumenos was transferred to Jacob’s Well (May 8, 1979), where he served until his martyrdom (November 29 of that year).

Humble keeper of the commandments of the Lord

In his everyday service to the multitude of worshipers at the pilgrimages of the Holy Sepulchre, Saint Philoumenos never ceased to live the life of a monk that struggled with perseverance and patience in order to keep the commandments of the Lord. The commandments of God were his continuous in-depth study, not only expressed in his knowledge of the divine word, but also in painstaking ascetic life.

His presence was something that stood out among the brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre. He struggled daily to live in Christ and at the same time gave himself wholeheartedly to serving those on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, submitting with selflessness to the instructions of the Patriarch. The preservation and service of the pilgrims was, moreover, for him the fulfillment of a holy duty. His very close friend John Tleel stated: “Wherever he was sent, he willingly went, mainly to the abbacies in the outskirts, and he represented the monastery very well. Everyone who saw him, perceived him as a monk… a true monk.”

At the monasteries where Saint Philoumenos used to serve, he would always try to follow the monastic order of Stavrovouni, which he was taught as a novice monk. For example, he was very strict as far as fasting was concerned. “Saint Philoumenos”, Marilen Odeh remembers, “fasted very strictly, and we who witnessed this, and realized how he lived, benefited greatly from his example. All the feast days he observed with vespers, Divine Liturgies and fasting. I, a child of thirteen as I was then, had the impression that he fasted continuously. Indeed, most of the time, from what we could understand, he fasted without oil, only taking a little bread and water”. “Usually”, adds the memorable nun Eupraxia, “He ate very little and had no demands as far as the kind of food was concerned. I remember him saying very often: ‘Be happy when you fast. Fasting is beneficial at every time' [11]”.

Even though he was very strict with himself, with others he was lenient and accepting, but only to such extent that his leniency would be spiritually beneficial and not harmful. He insisted that children should also fast from a young age, but at the same time he wanted to instill the true meaning of fasting and to teach them to fast correctly. In other words, he didn’t emphasize the legalities in the rubrics, but rather the spirituality, without abolishing the spirit of the fast and the fast itself.

The Saint’s commitment to the monastic virtues that he had been taught as a child was to be observed in all facets of his life. He was patient, meek, forgiving and unresentful. Anyone who met him cannot remember him judging or blaming anyone, and never discussing things intensely. He was always with a smile, effortlessly forgiving, and never angered. Even if the world was in disorder around him, he was peaceful. More so, when he had difficulties and problems himself. He would face them with such blessedness, as if nothing was happening. “Truly, many times”, Father Narkissos attested, “when there was a chance that there would be misunderstanding within the brotherhood, he would always be the first to come and ask forgiveness, even if he was not to blame. This was a great lesson for us who were younger”.

Saint Philoumenos was not ambitious. “At his age”, John Tleel states, “he could have continued with his studies, he could even have become a Bishop, but he did not seek this. He remained as he was. He didn’t want to climb higher”. He lived so humbly and meagerly, that when someone saw him he could easily have been mistaken for a beggar. “Even in the Divine Liturgy and the consecration of the Divine Mysteries”, Father Ioustinos adds, “he was very humble, abiding in precision to the required ecclesiastical rule. He never wore aesthetically pleasing priestly vestments or expensive cassocks. Only when we had great feasts was he dressed formerly. When he celebrated together with other priests, it was always in simplicity”.

His conscious meagerness though, did not stop him from secretly exercising the virtue of almsgiving, just as he had been taught it by his blessed father. Though the people around him had a strong sense that he had no money, even so he always seemed to find ways and helped many monetarily. Indeed he knew who needed help and attended to their needs, before being asked.

St. Philoumenos reading

Saint Philoumenos greatly loved to study ecclesiastical articles, this is the reason why whoever knew him remembers him holding a book in his hand and reading continuously. The majority of the fathers would leave in the evening after Vespers and would stroll around the premises of the monastery. Saint Philoumenos however only knew his monastic cell and his reading. He studied ecclesiastical books, especially the Holy Bible and the Psalter, with the purpose of not only increasing his understanding, but also of entering into the deeper knowledge of God.

The serious and strict ethos which characterized the Saint, had an effect on people close to him causing them to behave differently. Before him they would talk reservedly, never jesting, or discussing ‘worldly’ matters. They felt that they were next to a man of God. For this reason they both loved and respected him. Close to him they found spiritual support. He would comfort, educate, but at the same time was careful when correcting people, not to crush their souls.

Moreover, the only spiritual concern the Saint had was the church, the services and his congregation. He never concerned himself with the things ‘of this world’. When he was met on the road, he always seemed to be in a rush. “What are you doing Geronda [12]” they would say. “I am in a rush, in a rush”, he would always say and leave. He would walk so quickly that you thought he was running. If he was to stop for a moment, he would never start a conversation. He would only say that which was essential, mainly he would listen. He had opinions, but never ambition. There “had to be God” in the conversation in order for him to talk. When, however, topics of faith or spiritual issues arose, he was knowledgeable. Then he would become very dynamic and strict, he would discuss and correct with zeal those who had diverted from the spiritual path, whoever they may be.

The same happened in regard to the safeguarding of the pilgrims. Father Ioustinos remembers, for example, a very characteristic event: “In 1948, as I heard from the Patriachate and locals, that Jews from Tiberias went to the Monastery of the Holy Apostles with a bulldozer with the sole purpose of tearing it down. They had already managed to pull down a small part (the room that one finds to the right one entering the area). When they tried however to progress further down, they saw to their surprise the Saint, who at the time was the Abbot there, throwing himself in front of the bulldozer, preventing them from progressing further! Thus, they were forced to leave without accomplishing anything”.

The spiritual exactness which characterized the Saint’s life can be shown by the way that he was never absent from a service or neglected his daily monastic rule. Wherever he was, however many responsibilities he had, he always made sure to carry out his spiritual duties and to perform the daily services. Needless to say, he always had the books next to him, they were his companions: the Horologion [13], the Psalter, the Menaion [14], and the Paraklitiki [15]. Even if he had visitors, when it was time for the service, he would cease whatever he was doing and would ‘run’ to the church. “Now it is time for Vespers”, he would say, and would start to read the “ninth hour [16]”. Yet other times, when he accompanied pilgrims outside Jerusalem, while they completed their pilgrimage, he would hide in a corner in order to read whatever part of the service was left undone during the specific day: part of the Psalter or another part of the service ‘rule’ for example.

Saint Philoumenos made sure to hide his spiritual struggles, yet being a vessel of Holy Grace, they were revealed many times through events in his daily life, but mainly in the way he performed and lived the Divine Liturgy. “I am forty four years a priest”, Father Issa Houri informs, “and I have never met another priest like him. He was always in a state of prayer. Many times we celebrated the Divine Liturgy and I can simply say that he was a very faithful man. When he prayed, he did so with so much reverence, that I felt that he was in direct communication with God, with heaven”.

With such a spirit and with such a lifestyle, Saint Philoumenos lived his life in Jerusalem. The people who knew him expressed great respect towards him, because he lived, according to his friend John Tleel, as if he was already a Saint. He lived with great asceticism and rigorousness in regard to fasting and prayer, with exact precision during holy services, with self-denial and devotion to serving people whom he helped spiritually, but also financially. In a few words he was, according to the blessed former Archbishop of Askalon, later Metropolitan of Skythopolis Arkadios, “a true monk in every manner”.

St. Philoumenos at Jacob's Well

The Martyrdom

His last appointment by the Patriarchate was in Neapolis (Naplus) as an abbot at Jacob’s Well. Saint Philoumenos faced many tribulations during his service there. The ministry at Jacob’s Well during that period was difficult because conditions there were very volatile. The Saint, however, did not refuse but went to serve there. Besides, the spirit of obedience which characterized him, his total trust in Divine Providence strengthened him on the road to martyrdom.

During his ministry, fanatical religious Jews would visit him often, demanding that the icons and the Cross be removed from the church, with the pretext that Jacob’s Well was a Jewish shrine. Often Saint Philoumenos would explain to them that the Christian element was present in that location for almost two thousand years and therefore their demands were unfounded. This, however, had no effect on their reasoning.

The Saint often spoke about these tribulations to people with whom he was connected. The Metropolitan of Vostroi Hymaenaios, for example, related that the Saint told him many times that they threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave Jacob’s Well. Sister Metrodora, a nun of the Monastery of Saint Lazarus in Bethany recalls: “He came to the monastery a week before the martyrdom and wanted prosforon [17] in order to celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Present also was our Geronda, Father Theodosius, to whom the Saint said: ‘What can I do, Geronda? The Jewish people threaten that they will kill me. What else can I do? Only martyrdom will save us.’”

Despite the threats, which he received, Saint Philoumenos had made the decision to remain at the Well. Father Eudokimos stated: “He was a man of sacrifice and duty. But he also had a deep faith in God and hope that even if they killed him, God would accept his martyrdom, because he showed obedience and went to serve at Jacob’s Well”.

In the afternoon of November 29th, 1979 - the day on which our Church honors the memory of his namesake Saint Philoumenos [18] (martyred in 270) “strangers”, according to the police report, trespassed on the premises of Jacob’s Well. There was heavy rain on that day, and for this reason - due to the fact that there weren’t any pilgrims around because of the bad weather ‒ they found the opportunity to hide and remain in the monastery after 4:00 p.m. when the guard had already left. Possibly while the Saint was performing vespers, they attacked him with an axe, and having fiercely abused him, they killed him. They hit him on the face, cutting concurrently the fingers of his right hand, which he most likely placed in front of him while trying to protect himself. They struck also his jaw, his eyes and his legs. After that, they desecrated the church, the Cross of the Altar and the Holy Altar itself and as they were leaving they threw a hand grenade destroying the place almost entirely.

The body of Saint Philoumenos was taken by the authorities of Tel Aviv for the autopsy and after six days they informed the fathers of the Holy Sepulchre that they could go to the morgue to receive it. Father Sophronius narrates: “I went with three other fathers of the Patriarchate and they gave him to us naked. When we inquired about his clothes they said: ‘They are in Neapolis.’ Fortunately, we had taken all that we needed in order to dress him properly. However, you cannot imagine how we felt when they gave him to us all cut up. His face was unrecognizable, bearing the marks of martyrdom. When I began dressing him ‒ since the others could not; they were unable to look upon him due to the marks of his suffering ‒ I spoke to him as if he were alive: ‘My beloved elder, now you will help me dress you, because as you can see, I am all by myself.’ When I started by placing the undershirt, he immediately lowered his first arm by himself, as he did with the other arm and his legs likewise. I would bend his legs in order to dress him and when I was done, he would extend them on his own.”

When the body was prepared, it was first transported to the Patriarchate and thereafter to the Church of Saint Thekla. The funeral service took place there, on December 4th, 1979, in the presence of the fathers of the Holy Sepulchre, relatives of the Saint and a multitude of people not only Orthodox, but also people of other faiths, including Muslims.

The body of Saint Philoumenos in the small Church of the Holy Trinity in the Holy Zion Patriarchal school.

The exhumation of the Saint’s relics

Four years after the death of Saint Philoumenos, on Tuesday November 29th 1983, the Patriarchate made the decision to uncover his relics and transfer them to the church at Jacob’s Well to be buried where he was martyred. Meanwhile, Father Ioustinos had received orders to prepare an empty tomb at the Well, in which they would place the relics of the Saint. However, on the day of the uncovering he was notified to stop the preparations and go to the cemetery of Holy Zion where the unearthing was taking place because everyone present had become witnesses to a remarkable incident.

The Archbishop of Qatar Makarios remembers: “A little wooden box was brought close to the Saint’s tomb, in which they were going to place the relics. After that, they started digging. When they had removed the topsoil, approximately fifty to sixty centimeters deep, there arose a pleasant fragrance. They therefore kept digging and when they reached the casket, Father Eudokimos went down and began removing things from it. In the meantime, the fragrance had become very intense. Finally, we saw that the body of the Saint was incorrupt. With care, other fathers went down and helped bring the body to the surface. It was whole, in a way that you could lift it up and bring it to an upright position.” The lower limbs were found in mud and had disintegrated because of the dampness (since over the grave was a faucet, which frequently poured out water). The part of the head, which had received the axe blows, had fallen off. The lower jaw though, as well as the rest of the body parts were incorrupt. The skin was dark in color and was wrinkled, but it preserved all of its characteristics. The beard and the hairs on his head and hands, on the legs, the chest and the forehead still existed. The clothes as well, in which the Saint had been buried had not fallen apart. It was, by all means, a holy body similar to those of Saint Savvas and Saint Katherine.

Subsequently, in keeping with tradition, the body was washed with wine. Then, Father Sophronios and the Archbishop of Qatar Makarios, who was still at that time a novice-student at the seminary, assumed the responsibility to take care of the body and to clothe it in new garments. Archbishop Makarios remembers: “We removed his old clothes without taking him out of his casket, and we began to dress him. We dressed him with an undershirt, a button-down shirt, a pair of trousers, even a cassock (‘zostikon’), robes (‘rassa’), priest’s stole (‘epitrachelion’) and the priest’s hat (‘kalimavkion’). We put all those on without tearing anything, because the body ‒ especially the arms ‒ were very supple.”

When the holy relics of the Saint had been prepared they were placed in a new casket in the Holy Altar of the Church of Holy Zion. There, a service especially for the Saint was celebrated for the first time by the attending fathers of the Holy Sepulchre. All the fathers present were overwhelmed with great joy and emotion, because at that moment all were thinking that they had just performed the unearthing of a Saint.

The holy relic of Saint Philoumenos stayed in the Church of Holy Zion for a period of time and subsequently was buried in a new tomb made of cement. On the 8th of January 1985, after the decision of the Patriarch, the second unearthing of the Saint’s relics took place. This time though, the relics were found floating in a large quantity of water because the tomb had absorbed and contained the water from the rain. As a result, the body, which again had a strong divine fragrance, had partially decayed because of the humidity. The fathers placed it in a reliquary, to the north of the Holy Altar in the Church of the Holy Trinity in the School of Zion, where it stayed for twenty four years.

The presence of the Saint’s relics in the School of Zion was a great blessing, not only for its students and the teachers of the school, but also for those who revere the Saint and journeyed there in order to venerate. Many times the relics produced the divine fragrance and the Saint never stopped helping those who with faith called upon him.

Many miracles were mentioned which are attributed to his intercessions; indeed, many of them were and are still witnessed today in different countries. Indicatively, the Archbishop of Qatar Makarios tells of a miracle that happened to a family from Ramallah who knew the Saint when he was alive, since he used to visit them regularly. “The parents ‒ permanent residents of Ramallah ‒ had four children, three boys and a girl. Their youngest son Samir Odeh had gone to Greece to become a dentist and soon after was diagnosed with cancer. When the diagnosis was confirmed, he and his father traveled to America for treatment. In the meantime, his mother and sister came here to Zion to venerate the Saint. They also brought presents for the children and they told me: ‘Father, can we celebrate a Liturgy and pray to the Saint for Samir, because the test results from America are discouraging, the doctors are worried, and so are we even more so.’ We therefore offered a supplication and celebrated the Divine Liturgy and when I communicated again with them a couple of days later, they told me: ‘Father, Samir went again for medical tests and the results were clear, even the doctors themselves are wondering how this happened!’”

The Church of Saint Photini the Samaritan at the pilgrimage of Jacob’s Well in Neapolis, which was completed in 2008.

The completion of the Church at Jacob’s Well

The situation at the Well of Jacob remained volatile and very dangerous even after the Saint’s martyrdom. Saint Philoumenos’ successor at the Well, Father Ioustinos, had to face, after the Saint’s martyrdom, many difficulties. He gained, however, strength from the Lord, but also from his martyred predecessor. Thus, with persistence he set as his goal the completion of the semi-completed church that had pre-existed at the Well and then the transference there of the relics of Saint Philoumenos. He believed without a doubt that he who had shed his blood at the pilgrimage site would help him find a way to build the church and console him with the presence of his venerable relics.

The completion of such a grand task, without the existence of the necessary regional planning permission, nor the bare economic means, seemed at the time a utopian dream. The miraculous interventions of the Saints at the pilgrimage, of Saint Photini the Samaritan, and the Holy Martyr Philoumenos, made the construction of the church possible.

In 2005, while the church had almost reached its completion, it was attacked by two Israeli tanks. “At the time of the attack at 3:45 pm”, Father Ioustinos remembers, “I was in the abbot’s quarters. Suddenly, I saw from the window a canon shell hit the church. 'Saint Jacob…, Saint Photini…,' I shouted. 'I built your house from the little the poor had to give. Protect it, because before tanks I can do nothing!' However when I heard the second blast beneath the belfry next to the cross I became despondent and said: 'Hey, Father Philoumenos, if you are a Saint, show me it now!' and then truly, with my sinful eyes I saw the Saint with his grey cassock on top of the cross in front of the church waving his hands, as if he were sending something away. Then I realized that what he was sending away were three canon shells, which fell down without exploding and rolled onto the cobbled floor below as if they were bottles. In this way the tanks departed without achieving anything and the church was saved”.

In 2008 the church was in full completion. An elegant church, that is in keeping with the liturgical character of the pilgrimage and reigns majestically over a non-christian environment, consolidating in the area the Orthodox Christian presence ‘unto the ages of ages’.

Holy Hieromartyr Philoumenos. Icon painted by the hand of Hieromonk Ambrosios at the time of the Saint’s canonization (2009).

Canonization

Saint Philoumenos according to blessed Elder Seraphim, of the Monastery of Saint Savvas, lived a saintly life from a young age and that is why God honored him with martyrdom. At the same time He gave him abundant Holy Grace, so as to perform miracles, cast away temptations and heal illnesses with the purpose of healing not only the body, but also the eternal soul. Many are the references to the miraculous interventions of the Saint in Jerusalem, Greece, Cyprus and elsewhere, which began from the time of his worldly life and increased after his martyrdom. The Saint responds to the prayers of people who call to him and he fulfills their requests which please God. Sometimes, however, he intervenes miraculously even in the lives of people who do not know him, and he becomes for them ‘known’, ‘a friend’, staunchly interceding to God.

One characteristic experience from the appearance of the Saint in her life, is described by Maria L., when she visited the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Orounda in Spring 2006. She entered the church and began with reverence to venerate the icons of the iconostasis. When she came to the icon of Saint Philoumenos, she stopped, and looked at the icon full of emotion and began sobbing uncontrollably. After a short while she recounted to one of the sisters who was in the church at the time that, “a short time ago I had gone through a great ordeal with my health. I had been admitted to hospital for some treatments, but the doctors did not give us any hope of my surviving. Yet while I was in this very difficult state, I saw in a dream a priest, who wore epanokalimavkion [19] just like the one here in the icon. The priest stood next to me, ‘passed’ over my body a black fabric that he had been wearing that was similar to a mantle and he left. The next morning I was totally healthy and even the doctors could not understand it, they gave me permission to return to my house. A few days later I was present at Mrs. G’s house and there I saw a small icon of Saint Philoumenos. I was shocked when I realized the priest that had visited me at the hospital was the Saint in the icon. Mrs G. informed me of the life of the Saint and that I could venerate the icon and his relics at the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Orounda and that is why I came here today”.

Saint Philoumenos was established as a martyr in the consciousness of the faithful, even from the first years after his martyrdom. It is characteristic that in his own country, Cyprus, he was revered very early on through Great Vespers, Artoklasia [20], and Divine Liturgy, both in the area of his origin, Orounda, and in the parishes of the Metropolis of Limassol.

Also, in 1999, through the initiative of Metropolitan of Morphou Neophytos, the compilation of events around his life began. This information was handed to the newly formed sisterhood of the Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Orounda [21], to which was given the task of fulfilling the study, the writing, and the overseeing of the publication of the life of the Saint [22]. Also at the monastery, the preparation for the construction of the holy church honoring the Saint has been set in motion. The architectural plans have been completed. The church will be southeast of the older buildings of the monastery and will have a cruciform design with a dome.

The due honor to Saint Philoumenos, both in his home country and also in Greece, Jerusalem, and elsewhere, was the beginning of the process of his official ecclesiastical inclusion in the order of Orthodox Saints. On 25th of August 2008, his relics were transferred from Holy Zion to Neapolis (Naplus), the place where the Saint was martyred. During the transfer, a divine fragrance came over the body. Some days afterward, on the 30th August, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos carried out the consecration rites for the Church of Saint Photini and the chapel of the Saint. The consecration of the chapels, which were dedicated to Saint Philoumenos and Saint Justin the Philosopher, were performed by the Metropolitan of Morphou and the Metropolitan of Capitolina respectively. Today, the holy relics of the Saint are kept in a reliquary and people have the blessing and the opportunity to genuflect showing due reverence to theme.

Thirty years after the Saint’s martyrdom, on 29th November 2009, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Theophilos, offered a great honor officially to the Saint by the canonization of Saint Philoumenos, placing him among the many Saints of the Orthodox Church. The holy ceremony took place in the Church of Saint Photini of Samaria in the presence and attendance of the Patriarch of Jerusalem and other Bishops, and also people from Cyprus, the Holy Land, Greece and many other countries.

The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas. In the far distance the village of Orounda, the Saint’s place of origin.

“Ye are my witnesses …[23]”

Saint Philoumenos, as the first martyr of ‘recent times’ in which we live - a time of little faith, confusion, doubt, disruption and excessive worry over the future - comforts us, supports us and calls us to martyrdom with him. He calls us to imitate the life of the Lord, who with His sacrifice on the cross, showed that the way to His kingdom is nothing more than the way of the cross. This is the way that was followed by all the martyrs from the first centuries till today, and to this he calls us to follow him.

Moreover, this is the spiritual inheritance that the Saint himself has left us with, through his own miraculous intervention. The following miraculous event happened a few days before the canonization ceremony of the Saint at the pilgrimage of Jacob’s Well. The abbot of the pilgrimage, Father Ioustinos, had gone to the church in order to prepare some priestly garments. To his surprise, he noticed that in one of the locked glass cabinets in the vesting sacristy, there was a maktro [24] that had been disturbed, underneath it was a small silver chalice. Shocked, he opened the cabinet and took the chalice upon which was inscribed the following:

“Chalice of the blood of martyrdom / shed for the house of the Lord / of Holy Martyr Saint Philoumenos of Cyprus, 16 November 1979. The chalice, which I drink; drink also”.[25]

The small silver chalice which was miraculously found at the pilgrimage of Jacob’s Well in November, 2009.

The small silver chalice contained remains of the Saint’s blood, shed at the time of his martyrdom in the area of Jacob’s Well. This miraculous finding was without doubt a great blessing of God for the pilgrimage. The inscription on it though, extended the divine blessing beyond this place of worship, calling all of us, but also those who are to come after us, to ‘co-martyrdom’; participation that is, in the martyrdom and witness of Saint Philoumenos. Martyrdom in Christ can be lived in many ways: it is experienced as patience in the face of sorrows and illness; as a tough struggle against the sinful passions that are at war with us; as repentance for our own mistakes and passions; as self-sacrifice, as denial of ourselves; as unwavering acknowledgement of our faith both through example and through word. The highest expression however occurs by martyrdom through the shedding of blood, with a death that eliminates the kingdom of death, in order that Life, the True Life may triumph, which is Christ.

As Father Eudokimos states: “Our Lord never forsakes us. He gives strength and His Grace to people, so today we can say that the consciousness of martyrdom is constant in the life of the Church. So we don’t forget that as members of the Church we have the common obligation to lay witness to the Light: 'What our eyes saw, what our ears heard and what our hands have touched upon: the only truth that is Christ.'"[26]

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1. Ephesians 6:4

2. Iconostasis: A screen or wall which serves as a stable support for icons and marks the boundary between the nave and the altar or sanctuary in a church. The name is also given to an area designated by many Orthodox Christians for prayer before icons at their home.

3. Synaxaria: An abridged collection of the “Lives of the Saints,” intended for reading in public worship and to nourish the personal prayer life of the faithful.

4. Kalyvites: Literal translation hut-dweller. The celebration of Saint John Kalyvites is on January 15th.

5. Stavrovouni: Literally meaning the mountain of the Cross. The same name is attested to an ancient monastery, built on the top of a mountain found in the district of Larnaca in Cyprus

6. Typiκon: Order of church services and the rule of monastic community life and rule of prayer

7. Monastic prayer rule (μοναχικός κανόνας): The personal daily prayer rule of each monk carried out alone in his cell.

8. Supplication Canon or Paraklesis: A service most often addressed to The Most Holy Mother of God, but may be used to seek the intercessions of any saint.

9. Metochion: The dependency of a monastery.

10. Typikaris: The monk responsible for overseeing the ‘Typikon’ (see footnote 6)

11. Taken from the Lenten Triodion, Aposticha of the Lauds, on Cheesefare Monday.

12. Geronda(s): (Greek, Γέροντα pronounced yeronda or staretz in Russian; both literally meaning elder) is a holy person who has received the gift of spiritual direction, often a monk or hermit (not necessarily a priest), in the Church.

13. Horologion: (Greek: ῾Ωρολόγιον), or Book of Hours, provides the permanent parts of the Daily Cycle of services used by the Orthodox Church.

14. Meniaion: Book containing everyday services for each month

15. Paraklitiki:Greek service book containing weekly resurrectional material for all seven days.

16. Ninth hour: Brief prayer service found in the Horologion, performed just before the Vespers service.

17. Prosphoron: Eucharistic bread.

18. Saint Philoumenos: Martyred in Ankara in the year 270, during the reign of the Emperor Aurelian

19. Epanokalimavkion: In Greek practice, a veil is placed, but is not attached, on top of a kalymavchion covering the sides and back of the head.

20. Artoklasia (Greek ἀρτοκλασία, meaning "breaking of bread"): A service held at the end of Vespers. Both Great Vespers and Artoklasia are usually both performed the evening before a Feast Day.

21. The Holy Monastery of Saint Nicholas can be found next to the village of Orounda, where Saint Philoumenos came from. The history of the Monastery probably began in the 12th Century. Up to about 1830 it was for monks only. In time it was ransacked by Turks and deserted. In 2001 it was rebuilt and has since then functioned as a monastery with nuns.

22, The first edition was published in 2003 and the second expanded edition in 2013. The service to the Saint was also published (2003, 2009), which was compiled by Mr Haralambos Bousias, the great hymnographer of the Church of Alexandria.

23. Is 43: 10

24. Maktro: (μάκτρο in Greek) Cloth used to wipe the lips of the faithful after Holy Communion and used to cover the chalice.

25. The date inscribed on the chalice is the Saint’s feast date according to the old Julian calendar.

26. Homily of Father Eudokimos of Saint Savvas Monastery.



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