An account of the history of the new miraculous image, kindly offered to us by its curator, Priest Elias Warnke.
On the morning, of December 6/19, 1996, I Fr. Elias Warnke, arrived with the Reader Timothy Tadros at our church, St. George the Great Martyr, in Michigan City, Indiana. It was the feast day of Saint Nicholas. He is a very important saint for our temple. It was the Tsar-martyr Nicholas, of the same name of our holy Hierarch, that supported our church in its beginnings with financial aid. He gave the temple our first icons for the iconostasis (including one of St. Nicholas), and a gold missionary cross for the first and founding priest, 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 our temple and came into the vestibule, the reader and I were engulfed in the sweet fragrance of roses in the hot summer sun. I questioned the fragrance, which seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. We opened the door to the nave and fragrance become even more powerful, but not overbearing, it was like it was inside you so that you felt it. This was also evidenced by that 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 for the source of the fragrance. I looked toward the Royal doors and saw that the icon of St. Nicholas that was on the analogion stand from Sunday’s Liturgy 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, “It’s Saint 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 the icon and determined what was happening and observed that from the very top of the Saint’s Nicholas forehead liquid was streaming in three streams: one down the center across the nose and two on either side which appeared to go around the eyes and 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 permeated everything.
As I tried to discern what was happening before me, I went to a range of emotions starting with fear turning to sadness and bittersweet joy. For this was not the first time when our Lord had chosen me to be a witness to His glory. A little more than three years before, while serving Divine Liturgy in another church dedicated to 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 Crucifixion.
This transformed me from a Christian who rationalized the faith to a true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, eventually leading me to the Russian Church Abroad seeking salvation for my wretched soul.
Because of my past “experience I was cautious, being careful not to allow the demons which prey on us to draw me into the trap of rationalization. For our Lord is infinite and he will determine all things. I put on an epitrachelion and lifted the icon to examine the underneath, which appeared to be dry. It is important to note that this icon is a paper print reproduction which is laminated on the top with plastic and glued to a board. Mounted in the icon is a relic of St. Nicholas which was given to our church by hieromonk Simeon at St. Isaac of Syria Skete where the icon was made. The monks had very strict standards by which the produce the icons, this was one that had not passed inspection and was put in the reject bin to be give away as a gift to visitors. This is where was given to me and I brought it home. The liquid appeared to be coming right from the plastic laminate.
I questioned Timothy about his recent visits to the church, since Sunday, the last time when I was there and he told me he had not been there for two days. Not suspecting any human intervention since only Timothy, reader George Mixis and myself have keys, we praised God for the streams which were flowing before our eyes. Going into the sanctuary I took some cotton balls and I placed them at the bottom of the icon to gather the myrrh that was collecting there. The myrrh appeared clear on the icon yet it was golden in color on the cotton, and very fragrant. I touched some to it to my tongue, it was very bitter and it numbed my tongue immediately.
Since it was so early, we decide not to try to contact His Eminence Archbishop Alypy until we could reach him after Liturgy at the sobor. Later that afternoon after I had privately said the prayers of exorcism over the icon and touched the hand cross to it to assure myself of the manifestation, I was able to contact Fr. Andrei Sommer, Chancellor of the Diocese, and tell him of the incident. He informed Vladyka Alypy and it was decided that we should bring the icon to the cathedral for Vladika,s inspection the next day. It is about an hour and half drive to the cathedral.
Later in the day the Abbess and nuns of the local Stavropegal Serbian monastery came to join us in saying the Akathist to Saint Nikholas. During the akathist, the myrrh flowered freely for all those in attendance. All of us, with tears in our eyes, and joy in our hearts, as one, felt the presence of our Holy Hierarch Nicholas and rejoiced in his wonder-working intercession and love to us. The myrrh has been streaming from the icon since, though it streams very slowly, and sometime intermittently.
A case was build for the icon and a young Serbian man made a riza of cupper and semi-precious stones for the icon, which is how appears today. The icon has visited many churches because it is portable. God in his infinite mercy has granted many things to those who have been touched by this Holy Icon. I will recount some of them.
My reader called me one evening and said there was a woman in town that had come to pick up her nephew and to bury her 31-years old sister who had died. He wondered if she could see the icon and be anointed because she was having a very hard time. The woman and my reader meet me at the church and we entered together. As we entered to the church the women began to weep and she told me that she told me that she had not entered to a church for a very long time. I took her before the icon and she stood and looked at it for a very long time sobbing continually. After a while I took some cotton from the icon and anointed her forehead, praying that the Lord will help her through the intercession of our holy Hierarch.
She explained to me that she was given custody of her nephew but she had a problem. She had cancer and didn’t expect to survive to the next couple of years and the child was only seven. She had already had her both of her breasts removed and was undergoing chemical treatment for the cancer that was in tumor in her side. I told her that everything comes from the Lord, even healing. I gave her a small piece of cotton with myrrh on it and told her to anoint herself in the name of the Holy Trinity every day, asking for God’s will to be done.
Some two weeks later my reader called me and said that the woman had called from Ohio where she lived and told him that when she had gone that week to start a new round of chemical treatment that they discovered that the cancer was completely gone from her body. The doctors were so amazed that they kept her in the hospital for a day for observations but found nothing, proclaiming her healed. That was over a year and half ago, recently she said that she still has no cancer and is living well and thanking God every day for the joy of raising her nephew named Nicholas.
During a visit with the icon to a monastery( the monastery where the icon came from) a man came and told me he would like some myrrh for his wife who has been ill with cancer for many years and could not get out of her bed for the last two. I anointed him and gave him some myrrh and a picture of the icon to take to her. He told me that she have lost her faith a long time ago and though he believed that will be a great blessing she might not. I told him to explain what he had seen and anoint her in the name of the Holy Trinity, asking for the intercession of our Holy Hierarch.
About a week later I received a call from the monastery to let me know that the man had called and said that when he arrived home he went to his wife’s room and took out the myrrh and the picture to give to her. Even before he could explain what it was, she grabbed from him and held it to her chest crying, he could not calm her until she fell asleep.
The next day he wok in his daily routine to care for her and went to her room to find the bed where she had been prisoner of for the past two years, was empty. He ran through the house to find her in the kitchen making breakfast. She told him that she felt fine. After testing by the doctors she found to have no cancer in her body. I have met this woman since and she is very healthy and happy, thanking God for His mercy.
A parishioner asked me one day if he could take some myrrh to a friend who was being attacked by the passion of alcoholism, drinking two bottles of vodka a day, each day. I gave it to him and told him how to anoint her. The woman was anointed and from that moment to this day, over a year, she has not returned to her drinking. She was so grateful for her release from this passion that she asked me if she could have the 50 years old tile in the temple replaced so that the icon and God’s Holy House could pleasing to Him. I said that she has no obligation to do so, but she disagreed strongly and installed hardwood floors.
Many people have been healed of many maladies through of their strengthening of their faith. I have always been diligent to remind all how see it that it comes from God as does everything that is good that may happen to them.
Priest Elias Warnke