The Icon Of The Lord Jesus Christ, “Not Made With Hands” At the time when our Lord preached the Good News and healed every illness and infirmity of men, there lived in the city of Edessa, on the shore of the Euphrates, a prince named Abgar, who was completely infected with leprosy. He heard of Christ, the Healer of every pain and disease, and sent an artist, Ananias, to Palestine with a letter to Christ in which he begged the Lord to come to Edessa and to cure him of leprosy. In the event that the Lord was unable to come, the prince ordered Ananias to portray His likeness and to bring it to him, believing that this likeness would be able to restore his health. The Lord answered that He was unable to come, for the time of His passion was approaching. Instead, He wiped His face with a towel–and the image of His face remained on the towel. The Lord gave this towel to Ananias with the admonition that the prince would be healed by it, but not entirely–He would send the prince a messenger who would complete the healing of his disease later on. Receiving the towel, Prince Abgar kissed it and the leprosy completely fell from his body, but a little remained on his face. Later, the Apostle Thaddaeus came to Abgar, preached the Gospel, and secretly healed and baptized him. The prince then destroyed the idols which stood at the gates of the city. He placed the towel with the likeness of Christ–with a wooden backing, framed in a gold frame, and adorned with pearls–above the gates. The prince also wrote beneath the icon, directly on the gateway: “O Christ God, no one will be ashamed who hopes in You.” Later, one of Abgar’s great grandsons restored idolatry, and the Bishop of Edessa came by night and walled up that icon over the gates. Centuries passed. During the reign of Emperor Justinian, the Persian King Chozroes attacked Edessa, and the city was in great hardship. It happened that Bishop Eulabius had a vision of the All-Holy Theotokos, who revealed to him the mystery of the sealed wall and the forgotten icon. The icon was discovered, and by its power the Persian army was defeated.
The Holy Martyr Diomedes [Diomidius] Diomedes was a physician of prominent birth from Tarsus. Healing the people, Diomedes taught them the Christian Faith. Emperor Diocletian ordered him beheaded in Nicaea, in the year 298 A.D. Those who beheaded him and brought his head to the emperor were blinded, but when they returned the head to the body and prayed, they were healed.
The Venerable Joachim Of Osogovsk Joachim lived a life of asceticism in the second half of the eleventh century on Osogovsk Mountain, in a cave at a place called Sarandopor. Later in this place, another ascetic, Theodore of the Sheepfield, to whom St. Joachim appeared in a dream, built a church. Throughout the centuries, many miracles occurred over the relics of the Venerable Joachim, and still do today.
The Holy Martyr Stamatius Stamatius was a peasant born in Volos, in Thessaly. When an inhuman Agha [Aga] collected the royal tribute from the people and greatly mistreated them, Stamatius departed for Constantinople with several of his companions to complain to the Vizier [Vizir]. By his sharp criticisms of the Agha, Stamatius offended the sultan’s noblemen and they arrested him. At first they tried to convert him to Islam by flattery, promising him riches, glory and honor. But the martyr cried out: “Christ is my riches, glory and honor!” The Turks tortured him, and finally, in front of the Church of Hagia Sophia [Divine Wisdom], Stamatius was beheaded. That is how this soldier of Christ was crowned with the martyr’s wreath, in the year 1680 A.D.
Hymn Of Praise
O gentle God, Who reveals mysteries,
Wonderful mysteries, never before heard of–
Once by the lake, You proclaimed
That many pagan peoples
From the east to the west,
With Abraham, would sit at table,
And that the unbelieving sons of the Jews,
To utter darkness, would be banished (Matthew 8:11-12)
Because of their hardened hearts.
This mystery, You spoke, and it came to pass:
The Jews at Your face looked,
But behind Your back prepared death.
But from a distant land, Prince Abgar,
Leprous in body, as well as in soul,
From the false faith of the pagans,
Heard of You by word of mouth,
Heard of Your words and miracles,
Heard of You and, in You, believed.
And when, the likeness of Your most-pure face, he saw,
With tears, he kissed it
And in soul and body was made whole.
His soul to Paradise went,
With Abraham to rejoice eternally.
The Orthodox Church surpasses all other Christian groups in the richness of her Tradition. The Protestants want only to adhere to Holy Scripture. But Holy Scripture cannot be interpreted outside of Tradition. The Apostle Paul himself commands: Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The tradition of Prince Abgar, without doubt, is of Apostolic Tradition, even though the apostles do not mention him in their writings. The Apostle Thaddaeus did not write anything at all (and according to Protestant thinking, that would mean he did not say anything and or teach the faithful). According to what, then, was he an apostle of Christ? St. John Damascene [Damaskin] cites the tradition of Prince Abgar in his defense of the veneration of icons. How wonderful and touching is the letter of Abgar to Christ! He wrote, first of all, that he had heard of His miraculous power–that Christ cured the sick. Then he implored Him to come and to heal him, and continued on to say: “I also hear that the Jews hate You, and that they are preparing some evil against You. I have a city, not large, but beautiful and bountiful in every good; come to me and live with me in my city, which is sufficient for the both of us for every need.” Thus wrote a heathen prince, while the princes of Jerusalem were preparing death for the Lord, the Lover of Mankind.
To contemplate God’s wondrous help to Jonathan, the son of Saul (1 Samuel 13-14 [also known as 1 Kings 13-14]):
- How the Philistines rose up against the Jews, and the army of the Philistines was as the sand which is on the sea shore (1 Samuel 13:5 - 1 Kings 13:5);
- How Jonathan, with his young armor-bearer [the man who bore his armor], attacked the Philistines, trusting in God–and how he confused and defeated them;
- How even we should know the truthfulness of Jonathan’s words: It may be the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6 - 1 Kings 14:6).
About the divine branch from the root of Jesse
“And there shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).
With such clear prophesies about Christ the Lord, why did the Jews not believe in Him as the Messiah? Because of their insane pride, and their insane crimes against holy and righteous men. Who is that Rod from the stem of Jesse, other than the Lord Christ? Jesse was the father of King David: the Messiah was expected from the lineage of David. He appeared from the lineage of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David. The Rod out of the stem of Jesse signifies the physical descent of the Lord through the Virgin Mary–a descendant of Jesse and David–and the Branch out of his roots (Jesse’s roots) signifies the revelation of that righteousness in Him which had been trampled down by many kings from the house of David. Trampled-down righteousness is like a dry tree stump: from the root of such a tree stump, a green branch sometimes sprouts. The Lord Jesus is such a self-sprouting Branch. From His mother, He is of the lineage of David; by His righteousness, He is of the lineage of David; and by His Divine Conception, He is of the Holy Spirit. In eternity, He is of the Father without a mother; in time, He is of a mother without a father. In eternity, the concept of becoming man [incarnation] remained hidden under the covering of Divinity; in time, His Divinity therefore remained hidden under the covering of humanity. Pilate gazed in vain at this Rod from the stem of Jesse and cried out: Behold the Man! (John 19:5)–the same as when one looks at a wire conveying electrical current among many ordinary wires and cries out: “Behold the wire!” Such a one does not recognize electrical current in the wire, nor did Pilate recognize God in the man. O Lord Jesus, mankind-loving God-man, make us to love God, and save us. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.