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November 10, 2021

Saint Milos and the Miracle of the Paschal Egg (Two Testimonies)

Saints reveal themselves in marvelous ways, and in the Fall of 2004, while in Patras, Greece, researching an interview on St. Andrew’s journeys, Road to Emmaus staff had coffee with Mrs. Smaragda Pavlou, a Patras native, whose surprising Pascha story was a highlight of their visit. Hesitant at first to have the story recorded, at the urging of her spiritual father, Smaragda agreed:

It was Great Thursday, 1939, and my sister Photini and I were young girls. Great Thursday was the day we dyed our Pascha eggs, and we had saved many eggs during the fast. Patras was not crowded in those days; we had land behind our house for chickens, and that year we had a new young hen among our brood. On the morning of Great Thursday, she laid her first egg and immediately died. We were very surprised and felt great pity for her, so we took the egg and included it with the others we were dying red for Pascha. On Great Saturday, the eggs were blessed in church, the parish of St. Dionysios on Astings Street, and after the Pascha liturgy, one egg was selected to be put into the icon corner as a blessing for the year. That Pascha we chose the egg from the little hen that had died, and set it in the icon case. A few months later, on the morning of November 10, for no obvious reason, the egg fell from the icon case and broke with a loud crack. Amidst the fragments of the shell, we found a tiny black wax-like oval medallion, with a figure in a phelonion and omophorion with the Holy Gospel in his hand [typical of an icon of a Bishop], and the name “Agios Milos” [Saint Milos] etched around the figure in capital letters. On the opposite side, without words, was the familiar image of St. Stylianos, holding an infant [feast day on November 26]. It seemed to us that the dried up contents of the egg had shaped themselves into an Icon-Not-Made-By-Hands. I asked everyone I knew who St. Milos was, but no one had ever heard of him, not even the priest. Everyone in our family saw this wonderful icon from the egg. We knew that St. Milos had come to us, and we all prayed to him. For a whole year afterwards, people came to our home to venerate the tiny icon; our house became like a public shrine. Then, Greece was invaded.

It was 1940, and the Italians bombed Patras. Many people fled to our home for safety, because of the presence of the icon. And indeed, our house was one of the few left standing after the bombing. All of the men in our family had gone to fight the Italian and German invaders, and each took with him a bit of the broken egg-shell sewn into little pieces of cloth as a protection. During the war, our neighbors lost one, two, three, sometimes all the men in their family, but not one of our relatives was killed in World War II or in the Civil War that followed. Bombs fell around them, bullets and explosions hit soldiers next to them, but they were unharmed. More than once, they were the only ones left untouched in their company, and we knew this was only through the saint’s prayers. In Greece at that time, our women were still having babies at home, and because the doctors were needed for the army, we often had to help them ourselves. When neighbors were having hard deliveries, my sister and I would take the little icon to bless them. We would pray to St. Milos and St. Stylianos and always the birth would become easier and the baby born well. Many times, women hemorrhaging in childbirth were helped after being blessed with the icon. The hemorrhage would just stop. No one ever died after venerating the icon.

But who was this St. Milos? None of us knew. I asked many educated people and many priests, but none had ever heard of him, until twenty years ago when a pious Christian from Athens, who had come to venerate the icon, told the story to a young theologian. The theologian heard this story on the night of November 9, and he was filled with a desire to know who this saint was. The next morning, as he read the names of the saints of the day from the Menaion for November 10, he saw: “Also celebrated today is Saint Milos (or Melisios) the Wonderworker, Hieromartyr of Persia.”

He found that St. Milos was a fourth-century bishop in Babylon, consecrated after years of asceticism in the wilderness by Bishop Gennadios of Persia (modern-day Iran). The Persian church at that time was deeply mired in crime, sin, and sloth, and Milos’ attempts to correct the people went unheeded. Warning that they were offending the state as well as God, he urged them to repent before their crimes brought the wrath of the civil authorities upon them. They derided him, and seeing that their situation was hopeless, he announced that he was departing and would return only after they had reaped a harsh punishment for their misdeeds. St. Milos then left for the Holy Land, where he lived for two years with St. Ammon, the disciple of St. Anthony the Great. The wayward population was soon punished – the ruler of Babylon put thousands to the sword and loosed a battalion of three hundred elephants that crushed everything in its path. When St. Milos returned, he set to work restoring the faith of those who had survived. His success was met with acclaim throughout Persia but also with jealousy, and in 357, he and four others from his diocese were imprisoned. Those with him were stoned to death, while St. Milos was first tortured, and then used as a living target for the sport of the local ruler and his brother. Before he died, pierced by their arrows, he prophesied that both of his executors would perish in the same way, and soon after, as they hunted in the forest, a deer leaped out between them. Each brother loosed his arrow, only to have it penetrate the other’s heart. The theologian was so moved by his providential hearing of the story on the eve of the saint’s own feast that he founded the Society of Saint Milos among the Orthodox of Patras, and is now building a church dedicated to St. Milos, to the glory of God.

The young theologian Smaragda refers to was none other than Nikolaos Sotiropoulos, who himself recalled his own testimony of the story in a sermon recorded on video on November 10, 2012, which I have translated below.

One day on November 9th, like last night, where I live, more than 15 years ago, a neighbor came who had traveled around the world, and he especially loved the saints and he had the tendency, I would say uncontrollable tendency, to talk about saints and miracles, a pious man. He tells me: "Remind me to talk to you some time about a paschal egg and a wonderful icon not made by human hands." Because he told a lot of stories and I had work to do, I always tried to avoid him. He was telling a story and as soon as the story was about to end, he switched to another story and another and I had work to do and I always avoided talking to him.

But that night I insisted on him telling the story, saying: "Now tell me the story." He was also an old man, there was no heating in this building 15 years ago, it was cold on November 9 that night, he was cold and he said "another time, another time, not now." "Now," I told him. "Another time" he said, "now" said I, and finally he gave in and told me the story he heard about the icon.

He traveled by boat around the world, as a radio operator on ships, and repeatedly when he anchored the ship in Patras he went to the family that had the icon and venerated it. "But we cannot find" he said "the name. Who is this Saint Milos?" There came upon me a strong desire, my brethren, a very strong desire to find this saint. "There must be one," I said "since it says 'Saint Milos'. There is definitely a saint named Milos."

On the morning of November 10, like today, I went up to the chapel of the Foundation to pray with other people and I read the Menaion, in the Menaion it contains many names of saints ("today is the commemoration of Saint so and so, on this day we commemorate Saint so and so, on this day we commemorate Saint so and so"), and reading the many names I reached the point where it said" On this day - the 10th of November - we commemorate Saint Milos or Melisios, Bishop of Persia, the Hieromartyr. The name was found on the day of his feast! I felt great joy and delight. It was a miracle that the Lord revealed to me, in my humility, because I had a strong desire to find the saint's name.