The first time I ever saw the holy relics of saints was at Philotheou Monastery on Mt. Athos. It was after the evening service and the fathers had placed them reverently on a long table before the altar, and the pilgrims walked before each one. Some of our group bent down and kissed each one. My friend, Tom Pontikos, who soon afterward became the monk Germanos at that monastery, was crying out of compunction. I didn’t understand that at the time.
St. John Chrysostom is one of the three pillars of Orthodoxy. His right hand was in a silver case, and the skin was still intact from over 1,700 years ago. It was configured as though it was blessing us. I didn’t kiss the hand of St. John on that trip, foolishly thinking that there might be germs. I’m embarrassed to write that today.
During troubled times in Constantinople, the body of St. John Chrysostom was placed on the bishop’s throne for his blessings and intercession, and suddenly St. John raised his right hand and blessed the congregation. Another time, St. John’s coffin was placed next to the coffin of the empress Eudoxia, who had once exiled him. From the time of her death, her coffin continuously shook as a result of St. John’s exile. When the coffins were placed side by side, the queen’s son read a letter of apology to St. John on her behalf and the coffin stopped shaking.
On my second trip to Mt. Athos, I saw St. John’s hand again, and I happily reverenced it. In fact, after an evening service, Father Paisios, a priest there and now the abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, took St. John’s hand out of the case and blessed me with it by making the sign of the cross on top of my head – touching my head at the four points of the cross. My friend Germanos, who was now a monk, was close by, and I held on to his arm because of the dizzying euphoric experience. When I returned home, I started writing the first edition of the Daily Lives, Miracles, and Wisdom of the Saints & Fasting Calendar.
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