August 22, 2022

Remembering When the Head of Saint Symeon the Barefoot Was Stolen During the Greek Civil War and How It Was Miraculously Found

By Fr. Elias Makos

Saint Symeon, who was also the abbot of the Philotheou Monastery on Mount Athos, is an ascetic figure of Orthodoxy, whose soul escaped from the finite world, was connected with God and remains immortal.

On August 22nd, the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of the finding of his head, which was stolen during the Civil War from the Monastery of Flamouriou in Pelion, of which the Saint was its founder, and then it was miraculously found.

As the crisis in our world grows, such events, not too long ago, show that faith saves and inspires.

And this is done not only with the uncircumcised word and the rich liturgical and patristic tradition of the Church, but also with figures, such as Saint Symeon, who with their passing spread optimism and courage and testify that God is not a privilege of one or of certain times, but of every time.

Two years after the Saint's death, in 1596, his remains were transferred from Constantinople, where he had been buried with honors, to Flamouriou Monastery.

As described in texts, the relics had such a strong fragrance that they showed that he had taken the life of Christ in him.

His body was placed, separately, in a precious canopy, donated by a tuberculosis patient who was cured by venerating it.

In fact, many miracles are described from the relics of Saint Symeon, such as the healing of a seriously ill patient in Evia, who was swollen all over his body and about to die.

During the period of the Civil War (1945-1949) two rebels stole the canopy with the Saint's head, as well as other relics of the Flamouriou Monastery, and hid them in a barrel, near the Monastery, in a wooded area, buried in the ground.

Three years after the end of the Civil War, in August 1952, they returned to the place, to take them with them and then sell them.

But their plan did not succeed. As soon as they opened the barrel, a swarm of bees, which had nested inside, swarmed upon them.

One was found dead, he died instantly from allergic shock, and the other was poisoned and in a critical condition and ultimately did not manage to survive, although he was taken to the hospital.

Shortly before he died, however, he was visited by the then abbot of the Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior Flamouriou, Dositheos Machairistsas, to whom he confessed and revealed the secret.

Saint Symeon, living with privations, ate little and prayed a lot, with a deep awareness of his weaknesess, and with true repentance and brokenness he sought God's mercy. And he was generously given various spiritual gifts.

He based his spiritual life on this mercy of God, and from this he drew strength and comfort. From this struggle his remains were preserved.

And through them countless aching souls find solace.

He knew well that with his human powers alone it was impossible to achieve his perfecting and his salvation.

That is why he humbly took refuge in God's mercy, in His rich mercy and thus managed not only to be saved and granted mercy himself, but also to save and have mercy on others.

Such is the power of taking refuge, with unwavering faith, in the protection of God. And no one was denied. If we want to find out, we just have to try.

Those who unwaveringly place their hope in Him, see in things true miracles, such as those which are performed through the relics of Saint Symeon.

The relics of the saints are one of our weapons in the spiritual struggle. And they reveal another world to us. A world which is not limited to the narrow frames of short-sighted human logic, but opens again to the light of faith.

And the "logic of faith" shows that our course is determined only by God. Above and beyond the temporary, which is usually gloomy, there is also the eternal and hopeful.

This is exactly what the sanctified relics of Saint Symeon confirm. The clouds will leave. The sun will shine again.

It is enough that God shines in our souls. It is enough not to doubt, but to be sure, of His almighty protection in our anxious troubles.

For the redemption of everyone, God calls us to cooperation. Without it, our redemption is impossible.

What God does, man cannot do. And what man ought to do, God does not do, unless man wills it.

Saint Symeon reminds us that the higher things, which have as a strong inner basis the will of God and not personal wants, are realized by truly great people, who do not crawl like lizards, but fly sky-high like eagles, who conquer the peaks.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.