After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Icon of the Three Hands

from Russian Church History translated by Br. Issac:

While governing Damascus, John also worked zealously for the good of the Church, defending it against various enemies by the power of his authority as well as his discourse.  Apropos of the iconoclastic controversy which was developing in Constantinople, he wrote several epistles to the Christians there, in which he defended the ancient dogma of the veneration of icons with power and eloquence.  The Emperor Leo the Isaurian, desiring to wreak vengeance upon St. John, ordered his scribe to learn how to copy St. John's handwriting.  He then had a letter forged, supposedly addressed by St. John to the Emperor, in which the saint allegedly expressed his readiness to betray his ruler and surrender Damascus to the Greeks; this forged letter was sent to the Caliph, who believed the slander and commanded that John's right hand be cut off.  After this was done, St. John prayed and wept before the icon of the Mother of God, and through her miraculous aid his severed hand grew back onto his arm.

Enraptured over his miraculous healing, St. John sang the hymn in honor of the Mother of God: "In thee rejoiceth all creation, O thou who art full of grace...."  This hymn is still chanted by us during Great Lent instead of the usual hymn "It is truly meet to bless thee...."  Furthermore, in memory of his healing, St. John had a silver representation of his hand made and affixed it to the icon before which he had prayed.  News of the miracle spread rapidly throughout Damascus.  The icon was venerated as wonder-working, and many arranged to have copies made of it.  The iconographers who made such copies depicted the third hand also, and hence that particular type of icon of the Virgin Mary became known as the icon "of three hands."

The Caliph also learned of the healing of St. John, and, convinced of his innocence, desired to shower the saint with all manner of good things.  But St. John, having learned from personal experience how unstable were all the good things of this life, did not wish to remain in Damascus and withdrew to the Monastery of St. Sabbas the Sanctified in Palestine.  There, at first, neither the abbot nor any of the brethren wanted to take such a famous man in as a mere novice.  Finally, one elder agreed to take St. John, but, in order to humble his intellect, he forbade him to engage in writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment