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Archive for Μαΐου 2013

 

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I saw the Holy Light

Answers of Elder Metrophan on apropos questions by Mr. Roimba.

       Elder Metrophan, would you bless telling us a few things, that they may be recorded, since, as the Latin say, «scripta manent, verbe volant», meaning, the written stays, the words leave. How old are you?
        –
I am 93 years old and 2 months. What else do you want me to tell you?
       –
It is said that you had been many years at the All Holy Sepulchre, how many approximately?
       
-I was at the All Holy Sepulchre, I the sinner, the unworthy and the wretch, 58 whole years in the Church with 54 years spent at the All Holy Sepulchre I spent 54 Paschas at the All Holy Tomb of the Lord and I admire His mercy for me, the penniless one, the wretch and worthy of tears, I the sinner. The Lord had me from 1923, 1st November, when I arrived at Jerusalem
      
-All these years you were at the All Holy Sepulchre, what experiences did you have, what did you see, how did you live there? How were the people, what were the miracles done by the All Holy Sepulchre?
        –
What could I tell you, they have no end! Only that you tell me the name «All Holy Tomb». Do you know the meaning of the «All Holy Sepulchre?» The Tomb of our God and you wish me to tell you of miracles? Every hour and moment miracles happen but only the worthy see them. Here, I the wretch, 58 years, 58 Paschas I remained at the Church, with 54 years at the All Holy Sepulchre but only once I was judged worthy to see the Holy Light!
       –
Holy Elder if it is blessed, tell me what plan did you follow to see the Holy Light?
      
And the ever memorable Holy Elder told me of «the boldest plan of his life!» Don’t be anxious, he told me, but just listen and glorify God (this he narrated also to others). It was better preserved by Archimandrite Fr Savvas Achilleus in his book «I saw the Holy Light» from where I borrow it).

        -«I was then in my youthful years. My faith – though shaken for the Holy Light – remained always alive in Christ. I believed a lot, despite if within myself were continuously created questions of doubt. In the depth of my soul peace reigned. A heavenly grace overshadowed me always. But my desire to see with my own eyes what was happening inside the closed cabin of the Sepulchre never ceased. It was something that I persistently wished to achieve! It was very difficult though! Humanly impossible except through unexpected occurrences that I never thought of.
      
These thoughts and struggles were known by God! He who knows the depth of our heart and the thoughts of every man. He was seeing my agony and knew my desire. That is why he provided me  unbelievable occasions. He allowed events to strengthen my faith. He created circumstances for me to see what I desired and to proclaim His magnificence. My thoughts would always end up with the same conclusion! Since I am responsible for the All Holy Sepulchre and the guard of the Life giving monument, I should ask permission to remain inside the Holy Cabin of the Sepulchre. But it is impossible! Unachievable! The rules are strict! It is therefore foolish to dare express my thoughts. The person who would hear my foolish desire would have sent me away sternly.
      
Should I hide then arbitrarily inside the All Holy Sepulchre? It is totally impossible since there is no place, not even a corner to avoid the attention of the responsible ones. They scrupulously perform the checks two or three times, a short time before the Holy Light.
      
Another huge obstacle would be my absence. How could I be absent, since I am the one responsible? Even if an unbelievable way to hide within the Life giving Sepulchre could be found, it would still be impossible to be absent as one with responsibility. I had to leave last and go in first inside the Holy Cabin.
      
With these thoughts I tormented myself day and night. The password always stayed the same. Steady and unchanging, absolutely no change.
      
I must see it with my eyes.
       I must confirm what happens inside the closed Sepulchre. I must …… I must…..
      
All these «I must» always stayed unfulfilled. There was no way to satisfy or to send it away from myself. This struggle and agony only one knew, God. He, in front of Whom even the strands of the hair on our heads are each counted.

       Even if my desire was outside reality, unfulfilled and undoable, I believed. I would say that God will not let me be tormented with such type of agonies. He will answer my query and will let me see what this Holy Light is.

 

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The unexpected event. 

        The days would pass by and I continued living with my unfulfilled dreams. Always an alert guard of the Most Holy Sepulchre, faithful to my duties but also tormented with my thoughts about the Holy Light. When I held in my hands the consumed, extinguished candles of the pilgrims, and the thick «candle» of the Sacred Pamphlet, they would come to my mind. And different thoughts, one after the other, would hit and torment my mind.
     
Listen to me now, I would say to myself, what has the Most Merciful God stored for me? 
      
One day, an unexpected event changed my whole life. Above the Lifebearing Tomb, that is covered by 43 lampadas (hanging oil lamps) something frightful happened. Divine grace, God granted that the strong cable that supported the rows of lampadas would break. The situation was very serious. It caused great turmoil. Great disturbance. Except however, after the fall of the lampadas, a gap in my soul was filled. This unexpected event, gave the solution to my agony. The most daring action in my life could happen. The unending «musts» would become fulfilled.
      
Behind the lampada bearing parapet I noticed there was a vault within the cabin of the All Holy Sepulchre. And in the middle of the left side, opposite of the Lifebearing Tomb, between the vault and the floor, a small space created a sort of a crypt. It was so small, that could fit a person after great exertion. So, I thought, every query of my soul will be answered, without anyone becoming aware. If I manage and hide in this crypt, I shall answer all my queries and I shall adequately satisfy all my questions that torment me. This crypt is unknown to all. Only I know of it.
      
On the occasion of discovery, I noticed something else very significant. After the impenetrable heaven that was formed by the 43 lampadas, the whole area of the cabin of the Sepulchre was covered by a thick layer of «soot». This black «soot» had formed over 150 years. The uninterrupted flame from the lit candles formed a hopeless situation. Billions of candles, that burnt as a least offering to the Sepulchre of Christ, would add to that undesirable picture. The opportunity of the black «soot», I used as a basis for my plan. It was a solution to solve my query and strengthen my faith, or to make disappear anything standing within me.
      
After this unexpected event and the unique chance that was being offered, I approached my elder Fr. Anatolios. I explained everything in detail. I then revealed my thoughts. I expressed my desire to clean the «soot»- if he would grant me the opportunity – the invisible part of the sacred cabin of the Sepulchre. It is impossible, I told him, to imagine the extent of the dirt that is there! All this unacceptable situation exists because it is hidden behind lampadas. It is extremely dangerous, I added, because there is the fear that a section of the soot build up could break and fall on the Life giving memorial. And if this happened at a time when the Divine Liturgy is not being performed, it will be fine. However, if it happens during the Divine Liturgy? I added many other excuses, however always with the intent to succeed in my plans. Except though! At the hearing of my desire to clean the ceiling of the Holy Cabin of the Sepulchre, my elder rebuked me with a firm denial.
      
Never such a deed, he said with a stern look. Never a single minded activity. The heretics, Armenians, Latin, Copts will launch protests. They will raise non-existent matters. They will demand rights and illogical rights with this opportunity, which may bring unexpected and undesirable consequences from the present. They seek an excuse to create problems.
      
At the refusal of my elder who bore the main responsibility, I was just a helper, I apologized, kissed his hand and left.
      
I left of course not with the intention to give up my goal, but left to return with greater determination. My second request for the same intention had the same firm and unchanging negative response. My plan at the first step was to clean the «soot» in all the hidden parts of the Holy cabin of the Sepulchre. The second part of my plan that was covered by an innocent wish, was different! I wished to lay down a plan, to hide inside the All Holy Sepulchre. I needed to confirm, to see with my eyes what happened around the legend of the miracle of the Holy Light. To speak and preach the Truth or join those who declare that everything is a «trick», a «joke», «fairy tale» and much more.

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My newest step for the success of my final plan.

        Finally, after a string of days begging my elder Fr Anatolion who would then send me away with the expected refusal, I came up with a new way to succeed in my plan. It was a desperate step, very daring and very dangerous but also very effective! A Divine Liturgy was performed daily at the Life-giving monument. It is performed continuously to this day, and will always continue. The Holy and Sacred utensils are placed to this day on the marble tile that covers the empty tomb of the Resurrected Christ. Other times the All Holy Sepulchre was used as a place of the Proskomidia of the Holy Gifts, namely as a Holy Manger, symbolizing the birth of Jesus Christ, while the Holy Stone – a part of the Stone that the Angel rolled off the Tomb – as a Holy Altar. Other times the whole empty memorial, the one half is used as a Holy Manger, while the remaining half as a Holy Altar. In this occasion the Holy Liturgy is performed by the officiating Hierarch or a priest, on his knees.
      
In this unique opportunity – since there was no other solution- I prepared with all possible secrecy a piece of cloth. I prepared it in such a way so that it would have the area – length and breadth – to separate the Life-giving monument from the existing oil lamps above it. I then placed special nails, ready to receive the hanging cloth with the necessary hooks. I then got from the black «soot» that was abundant in the vault of the Holy Cabin and dropped it on the oil lamps. I placed it in such a way that during the hour of preparation or during the Divine Liturgy, the «soot» would start falling on the priest. My plan was to force my elder – having been convinced about the situation – that it is necessary the cleaning up of the black dust. He would subsequently be convinced by himself to allow me to do the cleaning of the vault of the Holy Cabin. In the mean time I would be preparing the hiding spot, to determine what was happening during the Great Saturday, during the ceremony of the Holy Light.
      
When everything was ready, the Orthodox priest entered to start the Liturgy. The priest that day was Fr Vasilios Carapapas. When he started preparing the Divine Liturgy, then, by Divine grace, my plan performed with mathematical accuracy. A slight movement of the oil lamps was capable of moving the black «dust» which then fell on the All Holy monument.
      
The performing priest started to complain. He started to accuse – whom else but me? He demanded to place the responsibility and his anger on my shoulders, using the excuse that I was the responsible one and should have taken care of the situation.
      
I, with calmness and apathy accepted all rebuke. I did not argue at all. I run immediately, as if I knew nothing, to find what happened. When he showed me the «soot» that was falling from the oil lamps on the All Holy Sepulchrer, I remained for a while thoughtful. Then as if I thought of the situation, I run and brought the prepared cloth. With great ease I separated the hanging oil lamps from the All Holy monument.
      
Speaking to myself I added while walking away, «you have the responsibility, all, one after the other, for not allowing me to clean the black «dust». In the mean time the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox finished.
      
Soon after came the Armenians, to perform their Divine Liturgy. I in the mean time I removed and took away the cloth. The 43 oil lamps were left free, full of the «soot». Then, like an invisible hand started to move the hanging oil lamps, with black «dust» falling continuously. The Armenian priest, faced by this situation was forced to leave. He could not perform his Liturgy. Now the Latin were left. The heretics having determined that it was difficult to perform their Divine Liturgy, cancelled it. These situations became the reason to make some decisions the following day. Everybody in common, the Orthodox, Armenians, Latin, Copts decided to have the Holy Cabin cleaned. My joy was indescribable. My plan started to form.
      
Its success was certain! My elder called me, without asking him, and told me: «You were right. It was not however easy to have the initiative and allow such an action. You know very well that the heretic heterodox have rights and privileges. It was not easy to decide such things alone. Now that everybody agrees that it is necessary to clean the place, proceed in your duty!»
      
I thanked him, kissed his hand and departed. Inside me reigned joy, that is impossible to describe. The success of my plan was certain. Without losing time I applied myself to the task.
      
Should I display by words the picture I faced? Or should I describe the quantity that was squeezed in place as a chimney? The whole vault of the Holy Cabin would disappear in thick, totally black «soot». Only when one considers that for 150 years no one tried to clean that place, may somehow be able to guess its state. After my superhuman attempt and much toil that I applied, a great surprise and admiration awaited me. In the depth of the «soot» a most beautiful Byzantine mosaic picture-of the Resurrected Lord- most rare work of art that while cleaning the area, I lay down with utmost detail a very daring activity that needed only completion.
      
Of all the visitors, the greatest joy was expressed by the Patriarch. That time the Patriarch was Damian 1st who invited me and bestowed on me, in recognition of my work, the Medal of the Patriarchate. It was a very rare ordination, because this medal bearing the image of Constantine and Helen, is given very seldom for very impressive situations. That medal in 1926 gave me great joy, but also more power for the difficult task.
       After the first emotional expressions subsided, time went on. One day followed the other and the months paraded by when finally the Great Tessaracoste (40 day) of the year 1926 arrived. My plan – no matter how dangerous and daring it could be – it had to be executed with all secrecy and every sacrifice. A great snag however emerged. It was the case of my absence. How was it possible to be absent on Great Saturday, since I was the one with the responsibility for the whole ceremony. Who would put together the procedure of the required order? Of course there was my Elder Fr Anatolios. Except that the day when I received the duties of the guard of the All Holy Sepulchre, he departed. He took over other duties in other sectors. He took over other duties that were not easy to drop them. How could he leave his own function and take over my duties?
      
If however, -I would say to myself- something unexpected happened? If during those days I was visited by an unexpected illness? If I were not in a position to move and leave the hospital or my cell? If it became impossible for me to serve during the ceremony of the Holy Light – for whatever serious reason – what would he do? Would he not take over and cover the created need and fill the gap?
      
The different thoughts, one after the other, tormented me terribly. My plan however had to be put to action. The crypt was ready and was capable of keeping me totally invisible. The only thing left was to announce without delay the case of my absence during Great Saturday. My elder Fr Anatolios had to be informed. I needed however a serious excuse. I had few thoughts, I studied few improbable cases that appeared to me somehow justifiable, and finally, I went to my elder with great fear and hesitation.
      
My holy elder, I told him, I received a letter from my country. They told me that during the Holy Week a colonel relative will be visiting us. He will remain a few days and he will leave on Great Saturday. He put me in a difficult position his request. He asked me to help him realize his departure as he is not familiar with the language nor the area. I promise that during the time of the celebration of the Holy Light, at least close to the end, I shall be present. I shall however be absent from the morning of the Great Saturday until that time. Is it blessed, my holy elder?
      
When he heard my request, he stood up from his seat and with unprecedented severity he told me, «You demand the most difficult and impractical requests. The day of Great Saturday we drown completely with work and you demand to be absent? The only thing I ask you – in my turn- do not repeat what you have asked me now.
      
His words were severe. The tone of his voice did not allow further discussion. And I, facing such refusal, departed. The next time however I returned with great hesitation. During our discussion that dealt with other topics, I repeated my request. His reply was a firm refusal. However this topic was repeating daily, until about the end of the Great Tesseracoste (40 Days). Then my requests began to be followed with tears. And my tears followed warm prayers. I would beg God warmly asking that He enlighten my elder to give me permission to be absent.
      
In the following and continuous requests I won! One day instead of the refusal, he told me: «Do you promise that at the time of the Holy Light you’ll be present?» «Yes» I answered him with conviction since I was sure about it. «Then go with my blessing. God be with you».
      
What could I add to the decision of my elder? My sentiments? My joy? The fear that I had? For after this decision, started the execution of the final stage of my plan.
      
That time was the start of the Holy Week. The crowds of pilgrims had already started to flood the Holy City. It was something similar that was happening every year during those days. And while everything was ready, my anxiety was increasing to an unbelievable level. The final point of my plan was still unsolved. The thought of how and by which way I could climb up the crypt, without being noticed, tormented me. They must use a «ladder». But then who would remove it? It was not possible to climb and at the same time remove the «ladder». This difficulty would be solved only if someone removed the «ladder» after I climbed up the crypt. He would however know that I remained in the All Holy Tomb. He would know that somebody hid in an absolutely forbidden place! The result would have been terrible. He would tell, willingly or unwillingly the secret. Immediately the superiors would know. My plan would unravel. The thwarting of my plan would be followed with unforeseen consequences. The heretics would get the opportunity to drag down Orthodoxy. The world would be shaken in its Faith. My opportunity would pass. And I would be shackled in questions, anxieties, doubts and why not also in my faith, in whatever concerned the Holy Light.

 

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The unexpected solution to the impasse

      In all the thoughts, that I would see closing around me threateningly to cancel my plan, I received a solution. I thought of a person. He was a simple, good and unsuspecting person. It was impossible for him to imagine my plans. Much more so, to conceive the daring step of my life. It was impossible for him to uncover my intentions. It remained therefore to approach him.
      
It was the «porter» of the Church of the Resurrection.
      
He who through the use of a «ladder» opened the very tall «door» of the Holy Church and ensured its closing. It was Fr Nikandros. He was loyal to his diaconate and was respected and honoured. He was very obedient and of exemplary humility. It was the simple character of an invisible monk. He never refused any service request. He was always willing and dear. I approached him, relaxed and with exterior calm demeanor, I said: «Father Nikandros, the Holy Friday at night after the completion of the Divine Liturgy of the Latin, I need your service. Bring your «ladder» to check the oil lamps of the All Holy Sepulchre. I also wish to ensure the good state of the oil lamps of the entrance vault of the Holy Stone. I am responsible and wish to avoid anything unexpected. Unexpected and unbelievable things do happen during the celebration of the Holy Light.
      
I have a hunch and I must check all the oil lamps, by using the «ladder». You do not need to wait until I  finish. You’ll bring the «ladder» and you can go. When I finish the checking, my descent is easy. I know how. Do not worry how I descend».
      
I was aware that with a small jump I could come down from the crypt. No one would notice me. In the sea of joy of the Holy Light, in the disturbance and the shouts of the crowd, in the indescribable joy, no one would notice. I would be able undisturbed and without sound appear without anyone noticing my movements.
      
Father Nikandros, without a shred of suspicion for my plan was absolutely agreeable.
      
It was exactly 12:30 after midnight of the Holy Friday to Great Saturday of the year 1926.
      
My preparation consisted of a small lens «light torch» and a bit of water in a small container. It was as little as absolutely needed, to quench my thirst at the time of my anxiety. Nothing else bothered me. My attempt, I was certain will succeed. I would solve my query and I would know every secret that no one else knows or can know easily.
      
When I completed every detail, I called Fr Nikandro. He quickly and without delay brought over the «ladder». I placed it and climbed, without anyone being present. When I climbed I told Fr Nikandro, «Take with you the «ladder». When I finish I shall come down». So it happened. I am not in a position nor have I the strength to describe to you my sentiments. To describe my psychological state I was in. It is absolutely impossible. Those hours I lived in an unforgettable state, full of fear and terror.
      
In the beginning I was drenched in cold sweat from head to toe. Then my body started to shake. I was not different to a condemned man who was being led to the place of his execution. Then I felt an unprecedented fear, unforgettable that I never felt before in my life. And until today when I sought to find the reason for that fear, I could not find any explanation. That terror was unprecedented. Within me an intense, strong, terrible imagination, would disturb me continuously.   
      
Who else dared something similar during the passage of a long period of Christianity? You, how have you decided such a daring enterprise? If for any reason they discover you, what are you going to do? What excuse would you give?
      
And between these terrible thoughts that tormented me, my tenacity would rise. I must solve my query. Why should I live with my daily doubts and queries? I must confirm to myself whatever happens, whether it is a miracle, or a fallacy. I must become sure, so that I may live the rest of my life without thoughts. However, after this insistence I was visited by regret.
      
I started to regret for everything I did until then. I felt as if somebody was pushing me, saying «Get down quick! Why did you get involved in such adventures? You still have time. Soon the Orthodox Divine Liturgy will start. It will end at 4 in the morning. Immediately the Armenians will follow. They will have more time to spend with their Divine Liturgy. You will be forced to be continuously motionless, quiet and undisturbed! What if you can’t manage? After the Armenians, the Latin will follow. Until 6:15 in the morning when they will finish their Liturgy you’ll be motionless! And what if something irritates your throat? What if you have to cough? Eh! Then woe to you, thrice woe to you. What you’ll have to suffer Fr Metrophan»!!
      
So I started alone to deplore myself. I started spitting at my plight and my immature decision. I would say these continuously to placate my lack of faith. All the people believe. Only you Fr Metrophan don’t believe. Suffer therefore the consequences if you are found where you are hiding. In what terrible and difficult place you’ll find yourself then.
      
During all these thoughts that tormented me I would look and look again at my watch. The minutes felt like days and the hours like years. The hour arm would refuse to go forward. One would say, it did it purposely to avenge my daring action.
      
Finally, 2 am after midnight arrived, of Good Friday to Great Saturday. The Orthodox priest entered the All Holy Tomb and started the Holy Liturgy. After the end of the Orthodox worship, exactly at 4 am arrived the Armenians. They immediately started their Liturgy. They would shout so loud that I could not endure to listen. I was forced to plug my ears with my hands so that I could not hear their penetrating sound of their voices. It was a continuous monotonous chant. No interruption. No change of sound. It would resonate as a strong thud to the depth of hearing. I did not have the strength to withstand it. The anxiety, the sleeplessness, the toil as much of that night as of the other days of the Holy Week, started to cause me an unbelievable headache. I thought that my whole body burnt with fever. Finally the Armenians finished. When they left, in came the Latin.
        
I was forced to follow and see from very near whatever they did during their Divine Liturgy. I would see the unleavened bread, that they were very small round and thin pieces that were used as the Body of Christ instead of the bread that the Orthodox use. I waited and practiced patience with my breath in my mouth. What need of cough when I was afraid to breathe. My mouth was extremely dry from anxiety   Only now and then I would place some water on my lips to wet them. I would do what they did to the sick, when they wet their mouth and freshen them, to withstand the agony of death.
      
Six fifteen in the morning of Great Saturday. The last of the Latin left and the All Holy Sepulchre was delivered back to my elder Fr Anatolios. Assuming that this saint elder knew that his subordinate, Fr Metrophan who was supposed to be absent, was almost close to him and in such a place and observes everything in detail, what would happen, truly? Let us hypothesize that he knew that my supplications and my tears were a great lie, a lie, that I was forced to use to satisfy my lack of faith!
      
Immediately and without any delay, he started the assigned preparations. These preparations that under different conditions would have been me doing them. He started one after the other to put out the 43 oil lamps of the All Holy Sepulchre. Then he proceeded for the same purpose to the ante-vault of the Life-giving monument, where is the Holy Stone and then continued in the preparations, to have ready the Wax Seal, the clean wax that was Liturgized for 40 whole days at every Divine Liturgy. It had to be ready without fail at exactly the 11th hour in the morning.
      
No delay was allowed for the preparations. Because on 11th hour in the morning the check would be performed, and then the doors to the monument would be sealed. At 12 noon exactly the All Holy Sepulchre would be reopened. It was a program that was executed in every detail every Great Saturday during the ceremony of the Holy Light.
      
I would observe all the movements in every detail. When in the 11th hour of the morning the door to the Tomb was sealed, inside the holy cabin darkness reigned. Then I lit the lens that I brought with me and I saw over the All Holy and Life-giving monument, the Holy Lampada (oil lamp). I saw it waiting for some «invisible hand» to give it the light. Next I saw the Sacred Pamphlet enclosing a candle, forming an opening that was there to receive a finger of the hand to open the Holy Book. I turned off the lens. My anxiety peaked! In that sea of anxiety I prayed to Christ.
       «My Lord, You know the conditions and my decision that brought me to this place! Everything springs from a query and from a shaken and weak faith. I imitated Your elect and beloved Apostle Thomas. He did not wish to believe, when the other disciples would confirm to him Your resurrection. He waited to first see and to touch Your wounds and then believe. 
      
I, being much more weak than Your disciple, ask to see with my eyes what happens! My faith, whatever it is, You know Lord. My love, does not elude Your All-knowledge. My Lord and God, make me worthy to see what happens, so that my shaken faith be restored! Anyway, Your disciples would say the same, and begged You «to increase our faith (Luke 17:5). They incessantly asked for faith. Lord, even when they saw so many of Your supernatural miracles!»
      
When I completed my prayer, I turned on again my small torch and shed its light on the All Holy Monument. The spotlight fell exactly on the «candle». Ah! This candle, I said. What is the use of this candle? At some point I cut my monologue because I perceived the door to the All Holy Sepulchre opening. I glanced quickly at the time and I saw that it was exactly 12 noon! My anxiety started to increase greatly. My heart beats kept multiplying. It beat so hard and so fast that I thought it would become dislocated from its place. A tightening started to threaten me. I was close to fainting. I tried to control myself with all my strength. I struggled to resist and encourage my shaken self. I heard the first steps inside the Holy Ground of the Holy Stone. Then I perceived the figure of the Patriarch, who bent to enter inside the Life-giving area of the monument.
      
During that same moment, that my anxiety was at a very high intensity inside the immense deathly silence, that almost I could hear my breathing, I heard a light hiss. It was similar with a gentle breath of wind. And immediately – an unforgettable sight – I saw a sky-blue LIGHT to fill the whole Sacred area of the Life-giving Sepulchre! That sky-blue LIGHT started rotating like a strong tornado that with its intensity could uproot huge trees and transport them miles away. What great disturbance had that sky-blue LIGHT! 
       
In that LIGHT I could see clearly the Patriarch, whose face would drip with big drops of sweat. As he was kneeling, he brought his hand and placed his finger in the open space of the Sacred Pamphlet that was done by the «candle». In the mean time he placed on the Life-giving monument four bunches of white «candles», each having thirty three «candles». And as if illumined by that mysterious LIGHT, he started to read the blessings, that somehow calm sky-blue LIGHT started again a disturbed motion. It was an unbelievable and indescribable whirlwind, stronger than the first. And immediately it started to turn to  pure white LIGHT, as the Evangelist describes the Transfiguration of Christ the Saviour. That pure white LIGHT then started to transform into a more brilliant than the sun disc and placed itself exactly over the head of the Patriarch. Then I saw the Holy Elder, Patriarch, take in his hands the bunches of the 33 candles. He raised them and gave the picture of expectation. He waited the invisible LIGHT to come from God. And as he slowly started raising his hands, they did not yet reach the height of his head and immediately at a blink of an eye, as if he touched a burning chimney, the Holy Lampada (the hanging oil lamp above the Life-giving monument) and the four bunches of candles lit up! Suddenly then, without realizing it, that most brilliant disc disappeared in front of my eyes.
      
My eyes filled with tears. My whole body was burning and I felt that I was surrounded by wild fires of a burning chimney. My sweat drenched me from head to toe and my anxiety paralyzed my whole body.
      
The Holy elder Patriarch, full of holy satisfaction and obvious emotion in his face went out. He stepped back two – three steps, respecting the Holy place and exited the ante-vault of the Holy Stone. He had in his hands the Holy LIGHT! The lit bunches of thirty three candles witnessed the Heavenly joy! The Patriarch gave one bunch of the lit candles to the Armenian – according to tradition – who was waiting quietly at the exit of the Holy Elder!
      
He then turned towards the right opening of the Holy Cabin and gave FIRST the Holy LIGHT to the Orthodox Priest who was waiting outside the Holy Cabin. Being held on the shoulders of the faithful, he was brought to the Church of the Resurrection.
      
The rule of privileges forbids the passing of the Holy LIGHT to the crowd of faithful, except by the Orthodox Patriarch. From his hand the heretics receive it first. First the Armenians and then the Latin who enters the Holy Cabin, after the passing of the Holy LIGHT to the faithful! This testifies to the intimate blessing, that the All Good God illumine their deceived souls, to the truth. And what they manage to see every year on Great Saturday, let them believe it. It is a continuous blessing of the Orthodox Church, that they may discover that only one is the true and unblemished faith, the faith of the Orthodox! Then «you shall be one flock under one shepherd (John 10:16).
      
Straight after the passing of the Holy LIGHT, the whole crowd of the faithful, started to sing hymns and glorify the Resurrected Christ. The bells of the Holy Church of the Resurrection started to peal joyously. The joyous sound of – the trumpet of Heaven – passed on to all the faithful people of the world the message of Resurrection – «that the Lord is truly resurrected».
      
During that joyous period of the Holy LIGHT and in  the delirium of the enthusiastic people, I got the opportunity, without wasting any time and as I cast a quick look, I jumped from my crypt in the area of the Holy monument. Immediately I took into my hands the Holy Lampada (oil lamp) and the Sacred Pamphlet. I was holding in my hands the thick «candle» that was only used to facilitate the opening  on the page of blessings. And immediately I appeared to my elder Fr Anatolio. Greatly surprised by my unexpected appearance, he asked me.

       -How have you appeared here Fr Metrophan?

       -Have you not paid attention my elder? I was close to you, here. I was by your side. I promised you and I kept my promise. Let me describe what the Pascha of 1926 was to the rest of my life! Every listener, as many as there are here, can surmise after he manages to get into my position and feelings. As much as was my sadness during the previous Pascha, that much was my joy the following year. As much as my faith was shaken the previous Great Saturday, that much more alive and strong was it the following year. Wherever my eyes glanced, no matter what place, inside and outside of the Church of the Resurrection, everywhere I would see in front of me the Heavenly sky-blue LIGHT. I would see it impatiently whirling, alive. Everywhere I would hear the sharp and penetrating hissing. I would feel its sharp breath. Its invisible gentle breeze of its presence would refresh me. Heavenly grace would overshadow me. The visit of the Holy Spirit would fill me up because I was blessed to see His presence.
      
Immediately, my whole inner spiritual world would be transported to the attic of Sion, there, where the disciples were assembled and were waiting the on High Power of the Holy Spirit! I could have no other thought. The awe that overwhelmed me and my indescribable joy that filled my soul would always bring me to the same spot. Amazed I would follow through my fantasy, the Heavenly vision. I would continuously see the movement and the transformation of the mysterious and supernatural sky-blue LIGHT! Its restless presence. The flooding of the Holy Cabin! Its unique illumination, that lit up the whole sacred place! Its transformation to pure white! Its transformation into a most brilliant sun on a summer day!
      
And I would return again to the attic of the disciples. I brought to my mind the great silence and their waiting. Suddenly, I would hear the breath and the sound «from which came a forceful breath». It was then, I would say, something greater, more intense than what I was blessed in my silence and anxiety, since it affected the whole City.
      
Then I would say again, the attic was changed to a place of learning of the Holy Spirit. To me the Holy Cabin replaced the attic. There in the form of flaming tongues, here in the Holy Light. There to the disciples, here to the crowd of the faithful His Grace was shared.  
      
A period of time passed. However, I did not have the power to stop from my thoughts the Heavenly vision. My indescribable joy could not depart from my soul and I would revisit it continuously: «Glory be to You oh God». Other times I would consider the longsuffering God and I would say: How He persisted in following me with my doubts! My persistence in asking to see so that I would believe! Again I would think of the abyss of His love. And finally to grant me what I wished and reward me with the desire of my soul!
      
Others have also seen the Holy LIGHT in the Holy day of Great Saturday. And they are blessed to see it until to day. But of course not the same way. Each according to the degree of his faith, is blessed a corresponding vision! Others see the Holy LIGHT as a glow of light like lightning! Others see the whole Holy Cabin engulfed by flames of fire as a burning chimney. Others as a small LIGHT, similar to a bright star that descends on the Holy Cabin.
      
There are also the unbelievers who come on Great Saturday to the Church of the Resurrection and have the expectation to see the Holy LIGHT. They have not learnt these good people that everything in life depends on faith. And since they do not believe, they only misrepresent and mock, to satisfy their immense emptiness that exists in their spiritual world and fight the believers by all means.

From: Agiotaphite Elder Metrophan, by Mr Roimba – Philologue. Publication by : «Orthodox Kypseli » – Thessaloniki 

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Το πρωί της Μ. Παρασκευής ψάλλονται στους Ναούς οι «Μεγάλης Ώρες» (Πρώτη, Τρίτη, Έκτη και Ενάτη).
Λέγονται «Μεγάλες» και για το μήκος τους και διότι αναφέρονται σε μεγάλα και θαυμαστά γεγονότα. Λέγονται ακόμη και «Βασιλικές», γιατί κατά τη Βυζαντινή εποχή τις παρακολουθούσε και ο βασιλιάς.
Οι ώρες περιέχουν Ψαλμούς, Τροπάρια, Προφητείες, Αποστόλους, Ευαγγέλια και Ευχές.
Στον εσπερινό της Μ. Παρασκευής, που τελείται και αυτός το πρωί, ψάλλεται ως Δοξαστικό των Αποστίχων το εξής τροπάριο:
«Σε, τον αναβαλλόμενον το φως ώσπερ ιμάτιον, καθελών ο Ιωσήφ από του ξύλου συν Νικοδήμω και θεωρήσας νεκρόν, γυμνόν, άταφον, ευσυμπάθητον θρήνον αναλαβών, οδυρόμενος έλεγεν – οίμοι γλυκύτατε Ιησού! Ον προ μικρού ο ήλιος εν σταυρώ κρεμάμενον θεασάμενος, ζόφον περιεβάλλετο και η γη τω φόβω εκυμαίνετο και διερρήγνυτο ναού το καταπέτασμα. Αλλ’ ιδού νυν βλέπω σε δι’ εμέ εκουσίως υπελθόντα θάνατον. Πώς Σε κηδεύσω, Θεέ μου; Ή πώς συνδόσιν ειλήσω; Ποίαις χερσί δε προσψαύσω το Σον ακήρατον σώμα; Η ποία άσματα μέλψω τη Ση εξόδω οικτίρμον; Μεγαλύνω τα πάθη Σου, υμνολογώ και την ταφήν Σου συν τη αναστάσει, κραυγάζων: Κύριε δόξα Σοι».
Η απόδοση του τροπαρίου έχει ως εξής:
Όταν ο Ιωσήφ, μαζί με τον Νικόδημο, κατέβασε από τον Σταυρό Εσένα, που φορείς το φως ως ένδυμα και Σε είδε νεκρό, γυμνό, άταφο άρχισε θρήνο γεμάτο από συμπόνια και κλαίοντας έλεγε: Αλίμονο σε μένα, γλυκύτατε Ιησού! Πριν από λόγο ο ήλιος επειδή Σε είδε κρεμασμένο επάνω στον Σταυρό, ντύθηκε βαθύ σκοτάδι και η γη συνταρασσόταν από τρόμο και το παραπέτασμα του Ναού σχιζόταν στα δύο. Αλλά να τώρα εγώ βλέπω ότι Εσύ δέχτηκες να υποστείς τον θάνατο με τη θέλησή Σου για χάρη μου. Πώς θα σε κηδεύσω, Θεέ μου; Ή πώς θα
Σε περιτυλίξω με σεντόνια; Με ποια χέρια θα αγγίξω το αμόλυντο σώμα Σου; Ή ποια θρηνώδη άσματα θα ψάλω κατά την εκφορά Σου, εύσπλαχνε Κύριε; Δοξολογώ τα πάθη Σου, εγκωμιάζω με ύμνους και την ταφή Σου μαζί με την Ανάσταση Σου και κραυγάζω: Κύριε, δόξα Σοι!
Πρόκειται για ένα από τα κορυφαία ποιητικά δημιουργήματα της εκκλησιαστικής μας ποίησης.
Οι πιστοί το απολαμβάνουν μέσα σε ατμόσφαιρα μεγάλης κατάνυξης, η οποία ενισχύεται και από το τελετουργικό της Αποκαθήλωσης. Στο συγκεκριμένο τροπάριο υπάρχουν επιδράσεις από τον Δαβίδ («αναβαλλόμενον φως ως ιμάτιον») Ψαλμός 103, 2, από το κατά Μάρκον Ευαγγέλιο 15, 46 («Ο Ιωσήφ καθελών αυτόν ενείλησε τη συνδόνι») και από το κατά Ματθαίον Ευαγγέλιο 27, 51 («Το καταπέτασμα του Ναού εσχίσθη … και η γη εσείσθη»).
Κυρίαρχο στοιχείο είναι η αντίθεση ανάμεσα στο φως το οποίο σαν ιμάτιο περιβάλλει τον Ιησού και το σκοτάδι με το οποίο ντύθηκε ο ήλιος. Τη θεϊκή γαλήνη και το μεγαλείο διαδέχεται μια νέα κατάσταση. Υπάρχει το πρωθύστερο σχήμα ανάμεσα στο «καθελών» και στο «θεωρήσει». Η θέα του νεκρού με το γυμνό άταφο σώμα προκαλεί τον θρήνο και τον οδυρμό.
Το σχετλιαστικό επιφώνημα «οίμοι» σε συνδυασμό με την προσφώνηση «γλυκύτατε Ιησού» αποκαλύπτει το μέγεθος του πόνου του Ιωσήφ. Συγχρόνως όμως έρχονται στον νου εικόνες οικείες στους ανθρώπους, που μοιρολογούν για τον θάνατο αγαπημένων προσώπων.
Μέσα από την αντίθεση ανάμεσα στο πριν και στο τώρα («προ μικρού») εμφανίζεται η απόγνωση και η απελπισία που μετριάζονται όμως από τη βεβαιότητα πως ό,τι συνέβη ήταν συνέπεια της συγκαταβάσεως του Ιησού και αποσκοπούσε στη σωτηρία του ανθρώπου («εκουσίως δι’ εμέ υπελθόντα θάνατον»). Δεσπόζουσα όμως θέση έχει το δέος που νιώθει ο Ιωσήφ, συνειδητοποιώντας το έργο το οποίο έχει να επιτελέσει. Δέος που εκφράζεται με σειρά ερωτημάτων («Πώς Σε κηδεύσω, πώς συνδόσιν ειλήσω, ποίαις χερσί προσψαύσω το Σον ακήρατον σώμα; ποία άσματα μέλψω τη Ση εξόδω;»). Η κατάληξη με τους ρηματικούς τύπους «μεγαλύνω», «υμνολογώ», «κραυγάζων» σηματοδοτεί εσωτερική αγαλλίαση στον ύψιστο βαθμό, οφειλόμενη στη θεότητα του Ιησού.
Υπάρχει ακόμη η παρομοίωση «το φως ώσπερ ιμάτιον», το πολυσύνδετο σχήμα «περιεβάλλετο και εκυμαίνετο και διερρήγνυτο του Ναού το καταπέτασμα», το ασύνδετο σχήμα «θεωρήσας νεκρόν, γυμνόν, άταφον», η μεταφορά «Καθελών ο Ιωσήφ από του ξύλου», οι προσφωνήσεις «γλυκύτατε Ιησού, Θεέ μου, οικτίρμον Κύριε», οι μεγαλειώδεις εικόνες, τα επίθετα «ευσυμπάθητον θρήνον, γλύκύτατε Ιησού, το ακήρατον σώμα», η εναλλαγή στη δομή της σύνταξης είναι ορισμένα από τα βασικά γνωρίσματα που λαμπρύνουν το ποίημα.
Όλα τα παραπάνω αναδεικνύονται περισσότερο από το γεγονός ότι το τροπάριο ψάλλεται κατά τον πλ. Α’ ήχο.

 

 Μιχ. Καβουλάκης
 

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