Tuesday, 12 November 2013

November 8 – Where is the divine helping hand?

(A painting of Saint Michael from the Taxiarchis Church in Ypsolometopo)

Today it’s another local holiday: as many as half of the inhabitants of Lesvos (all Michaelis’, Gavriela’s, Angelo’s etc) celebrate their names day today. But even more important: it’s also the day that the archangel Michael, who is the patron saint of the island, has his yearly celebration. This chief angel not only has Lesvos under his protecting wings, but also the cities of Brussels and Kiev, regions like Cornwall and Umbria and countries like Germany and Ukrania

To the Greeks, the archangel Michael is also named Taxiarchis (brigadier, chief), so monasteries and churches bear that name if they are built in the honour of Saint Michael. On Lesvos there are many of them, like in Kagiani (suburb of Mytilini), Molyvos, Mandamados, Ypsilometopo, Agia Paraskevi, Napi, Parakila, Asomatos and probably many more of those small churches that decorate the Lesvorian landscape.

It’s easy to see into which church you have come. Go to the front to the iconostase (the icon decorated panel that hide the altar and shrine). To the right of the central door traditionally there is a painting of Christ (Pantokrator) and to the left one of the Holy Mary (Panagia). At the left side of Mary you will find a picture of the saint to whom the church is dedicated. Archangel Michael, who is said to have thrown Satan from Heaven, is mostly depicted as a strong and handsomely dressed warrior with large wings, killing a dragon. The dragon here is a symbol for the Devil, so don’t confuse him with Saint George who also is known for killing a dragon.

Perhaps the world’s most impressive Michael-church is to be seen in Normandy, at Mont Saint-Michel. The largest Taxiarchis church on Lesvos belongs to the monastery in Mandamados and is easily recognizable because of the jetplane that has been placed at its entrance by a grateful believer. Although the church might not be as impressive as the one on Mont Saint-Michel, it is one of the more important monasteries in Greece because of its icon of the archangel Michael. This icon apparently keeps on producing miracles (see: The wondrous world of bleeding icons and the most recent miracle, of this week).

So Michael must be a busy man, because not only is he the much appreciated patron saint of many cities and countries but he’s also the patron saint of bakers, pharmacists, paramedics, artists, bankers, grocers, the sick, the poor, the dying, as well as of horsemen, soldiers, policemen, hatters, radio mechanics, glaziers, masons and painters. He probably has to run up and down and be present at all the wars in the world.

But there are many believers who hope that he also will have time for their private misery. For example in Mandamados they place a pair of iron shoes before Michael’s icon and hope that he will resolve their problems. After some time they look at the soles of the shoes and if they are worn, it will be a sign that Michael has gone off to solve their problem. When the shoes remain unworn they simply believe that Michael has not yet found time to help them. But the numbers of people visiting the monastery in Mandamados on November 8th proves that many people firmly believe in the miracles of this Saint Michel. And by the way, in religions other than Orthodox, Saint Michael Day is celebrated on September 29th.

If you are interested in having a little time with this saint, there are certain ways to recognize that you are, in fact in contact with dear Michael instead of somebody else: of all angels Michael seems to have the loudest and clearest voice, he always speaks straight to the point with a sense of humour and love: so no voice to ignore. When there is contact, you immediately will see the truth, even if this seems an impossible truth. You will feel surrounded by peace and feel safe and sound. You might find a sign in the form of a feather, or see shimmers of blue and purple. Women may think they have menopausal-like hot flashes because of the heat you may experience. You may even meet a person named Michael who can help you.

Well, now we know who we have to deal with when suddenly we will hear a strange voice, become paralyzed with fright, see strange light flashes or grow hot through fear. I am wondering if the monks also communicate with him. As I previously mentioned, Michael is the saint patron of the banking, a profession incidentally also practised by monks. The Mandamados monastery is one of the richest of Lesvos (possibly not as rich as the monastery of Vatopedi with the banking-monks on Mount Athos) but none the less all its money could be of great help in the Greek crisis.

The problem is that this ready-to-fight Michael has to protect the bankers to accumulate money. Is it not now time that God has a good chat with Michael, telling him that this profession no longer needs any protection and that Michael should tell the monks – who in a way take advantage of him – to start paying the same rate of taxes that all other Greeks pay? Now that would be a real miracle, helping the country in one fell swoop out of the crisis.

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2013

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