MYRRH STREAMING ICON OF ST. NICHOLAS
My dear brothers and sisters in the living Christ, Glory be to God.
This is the story of the miracle. On the morning of December 6/19, 1996, I, Fr. Elias Warnke, arrived with the reader Timothy Tadros at our Church of St. George the Great Martyr in Michigan City Indiana. It was the Feast Day of St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas is one of the major feast days in the ecclesiastical calendar of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was the Tsar-martyr Nicholas, of the same name of our Bishop that supported our Church in its beginnings with financial aid. He gave the Church our first icons for the icon screen including the icon of St. Nicholas and a gold missionary cross for the first priest of the parish, the Rev. Anthony Abu-Alam Farrah, my great uncle.On this snowy morning at about 6:30 a.m. when we opened the door of the Church and came into the narthex, the reader and I were engulfed in a sweet fragrance of roses that one finds during the hot summer months. I was curious about the fragrance. It appeared to be coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. We opened the door to the nave and the fragrance became even more powerful, but not overbearing. It was like it was inside of us so that we felt it. This was also evidenced by the fact that both Timothy and I had colds which left us congested and unable to smell much.
We turned on the lights and Timothy began to look around the Church for the source of the fragrance. I looked toward the Royal Doors of the altar area and saw that the icon of St. Nicholas was still on the icon stand from last Sunday’s Liturgy. It had three glistening streams pouring from it. My whole body became flushed and rigid, feeling as if my heart seemed to fall through the floor. Through my tears, I said, “its St. Nicholas.” I could not even tell if it was me saying it. I seemed to be rooted to the spot unable to approach the icon.
After a few minutes which seemed like an hour, I was able to join Timothy at the icon where he was already doing prostrations before the icon. I looked at the icon and determined what was happening and observed that from the very top of the Saint’s forehead liquid was streaming down over the face in three separate rivulets. One was coming down the center across the nose and two on either side, which appeared to go around the eyes and on to the bottom of the icon, which was slightly inclined for veneration. Though the fragrance was very prevalent, it still did not appear to be coming directly from the icon, but it permeated everything.
As I tried to discern what was happening before me, I went through a range of emotions starting with fear which turned to sadness and then to bittersweet joy. This was not the first time that our Lord had chosen me to be a witness to His glory. A little more than three years before, while serving the Divine Liturgy in another Church dedicated to the All-Holy Trinity, He blessed me to see myrrh beginning to stream from the wounds made by the crown of thorns in an icon of the Crucified Jesus. This manifestation transformed me from a Christian who rationalized Faith to a true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, eventually leading me to seek salvation for my wretched soul.
Because of my past experience, I was cautious, being careful not to allow demonic delusion to prey on me in order to draw me into the trap of rationalization. We should remember that our Lord is infinite and His determines all things that happen in our lives. I put on my priest’s stole and lifted the icon to examine the bottom of it which appeared to be dry. It is important to note that this icon is a simple paper print reproduction, sealed with plastic lamination and then glued to a wood board. That which makes this icon uniquely different from other icons is a relic of St. Nicholas which is attached to the lower right hand corner of the icon. This icon was given to our Church by the abbot Simeon of St. Isaac of Syria Skete in Wisconsin where the icon was made. The monks have very strict standards by which they produce the icons, this was one had not passed inspection and was put in the reject bin to be given away as a gift to visitors. This is how it was given to me when I visited the Monastery as a pilgrim. The liquid myrrh appeared to be coming right through the plastic laminate.
I questioned Timothy about his recent visits to the Church since Sunday the last time I was there and he told me that he had not been there for two days. I did not suspect any human intervention since only Timothy, reader George Mixis and I have keys to the Church. We praised God for the miracle of myrrh that was streaming from the icon. I went into the altar area and I took some cotton balls and I placed them at the bottom of the icon in order to absorb the myrrh that was collecting there. The myrrh appeared clear on the icon and yet on the cotton it appeared golden in color and very fragrant. I touched some of it to my tongue. It was very bitter and it numbed my tongue immediately.
Since it was so early in the morning we decided not to try to contact Archbishop until we could reach him after the Divine Liturgy. Later that afternoon, after I had privately said the prayers of exorcism over the icon and touched the blessing cross to it to assure myself of its divine manifestation, I was able to contact Fr. Andrei Sommer, the Chancellor of the Diocese and tell him of the incident. He informed the Archbishop and it was decided that we should bring the icon to the Cathedral for the Archbishop’s inspection the next day. It is about an hour and a half drive to the Cathedral.
Later in the day the Abbess and nuns from the local Serbian Orthodox Convent came to join us in saying the Akathist Hymn to St. Nicholas. During the Hymn the myrrh began to flow even more freely. All those in attendance witnessed this miracle unfolding before their very eyes. All of us, with tears in our eyes and joy in our hearts, as one, felt the presence of our Holy Hierarch Saint Nicholas and rejoiced in his wonder-working intercession and love for us. The myrrh has been streaming from the icon ever since. Remember now that these miraculous manifestations begin in December of 1996 and it continues to frame of copper and semiprecious stones for the icon. Recently during a visit to our Cathedral parish of St. Nicholas in Sao Paulo, Brazil the icon was presented with a silver frame which is how it appears today. The Icon has visited many Churches in North and South America and the myrrh has found its way to many countries in the world. Many miracles have been attributed to its anointing of many sick and infirm people.
P.S. Fr. Elias Warnke belongs to ROCR Orthodox Church in America. He is an Old Calendar priest and the miracle began on St. Nicholas Day the 19th of December Old Calendar style. This icon continues to flow profusely for sixteen straight years. It stops flowing during Orthodox Holy Week and starts flowing again the day after Pascha.
GLORY BE TO GOD IN HIS HOLY SAINTS ~ Fr. C. Simones