Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Wondrous Appearance of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr on Mount Athos

The wonderworking icon of Saint Stephen which is in the chapel of the same name in the konaki of the Monastery of Dionysiou in Karyes, on the Holy Mountain.

Saint Stephen, the first martyr and archdeacon, is celebrated on December 27th and is especially honored on Mount Athos at the Sacred Monastery of Konstamonitou, whose katholikon is dedicated to the Saint.

He is also celebrated in Karyes by the representatives of Dionysiou Monastery, where there is a beautifully renovated chapel dedicated to Saint Stephen.

The academic, professor emeritus of the Theological School of Athens, Mr. Antonios Tachiaos, once spoke of the appearance of Saint Stephen to a Russian deacon, when he was called to liturgize in the chapel. This incident took place in the 20th century and was told to the Professor by monks from Mount Athos, during his first visit to the Holy Mountain in the 1950's.

The Professor narrates:


We arrived at the capital of the Holy Mountain, Karyes and, as we had to, we headed to the Holy Community. Here we had recommendations for the representative of the Dionysiou Monastery, Fr. Gregory, who took care of our accommodations and took us into the residence to host us. In the picturesque residence we worshiped in the solemn church of the holy Protomartyr Stephen. Here we heard about some miracle of the Saint. One year, on the feast of Saint Stephen, because they did not have a deacon, Fr. Gregory asked the representative of the Russian Monastery in Karyes, Fr. Nikostratos, who was an elderly, modest deacon, to come for the Liturgy.

Indeed, the good Fr. Nikostratos came on time, but as soon as he entered the church, where the fathers were gathered, he looked towards the sanctuary and said to them: "Why did you call me, since you have a deacon, who has already worn the sticharion?"

They all looked at him with surprise and asked him: "Where do you see the deacon, Fr. Nikostratos?"

Fr. Nikostratos was speechless for a while and then, with tears in his eyes, he told them: "That was him, I saw him fully alive, bright with his vestments and the censer in his hand," and he showed them the icon of the Protomartyr Stephen. The fathers marveled at the miracle, glorified the Lord and with great enthusiasm began the Divine Liturgy.

Source: From Antonios Tachiaos, "Saints, Citizens of Paradise", periodical Panchalkidikos Logos, issue 29, October-December 2016, p. 33). Translation by John Sanidopoulos.

The same story was narrated with more detail by Monk Lazarus of Dionysiou in his book Narrations of Dionysiou, as it was recorded in 1958 to be kept for preservation by Dionysiou Monastery. There we read as follows:

When our holy Abbot, Archimandrite Gabriel, had gone to Karyes for the Double Sacred Synaxis to which had been called by the Holy Community, on his return he told us about the appearance of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen, which occurred in the chapel in our representative’s residence [konaki].

On the previous Sunday, 14 July, the feast of our Holy Father Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, the Monastery’s representative [at the Holy Community] invited the very devout Hieromonk Fr. Nikostratos to celebrate the Divine Liturgy at the konaki. He was also the representative of his own Monastery, the venerable Russian Monastery of Saint Pantele├»mon.

The Divine Liturgy was to be held on the occasion of the double feast and for the monks who had been sent from the Monastery to gather hazelnuts.

According to the testimony of our representative and other monks, this hieromonk came to the konaki at about the end of Matins, just when they were chanting the doxology.

He looked into the church from the door, but didn’t enter. Instead he stood there at the stasidia [stalls] outside the chapel, lost in deep contemplation, as if in ecstasy at what he was seeing secretly.

Our representative saw him and didn’t know what was going on, so after a while he said: "Come on in, Father, and do the kairos." [The ‘kairos’ is a short service celebrated by priests before they enter to serve at the Divine Liturgy].

The hieromonk answered: "What do you mean, elder? You already got a priest serving in the altar. What’s the point of me going in?"

Our representative wondered at this in surprise: "There’s a liturgy going on with another priest?"

"Of course there is a liturgy going on. The deacon’s just censed everyone and the icons and now he has gone back into the sanctuary. Is he serving by himself, without a priest?"

When they heard this, the representative Elder Dometios, and the rest of the monks, as well as some others from neighboring cells, all realized that Fr. Nikostratos had received a divine vision of the Archdeacon Saint Stephen, to whom the chapel is dedicated.

They begged him to enter the sanctuary and celebrate together with the deacon, who, of course, they couldn’t see, but he wouldn’t agree. In the end, by various means of persuasion, they managed to get him to go in and celebrate the Divine Liturgy, as normal.

When he recovered and had regained his full capacities, he realized that what he had seen had been a visitation and appearance of the Protomartyr Archdeacon Stephen. After the liturgy was over and those present were enjoying refreshments in the guest-quarters, Fr. Nikostratos, of his own accord, confessed and said to the assembled monks:

"Fathers, you should know that you have a great gift in your church. Saint Stephen loves you very much. It’s no small thing for him to come in and cense you."

We note this down to preserve the memory and knowledge of it for later generations on 22 July 1958.

Source: From Monk Lazarus of Dionysiou in his book Narrations of Dionysiou. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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