Wednesday, June 4, 2014

An Orthodox Saint from Pontos visits Britain

The Christian faithful in Britain have had the honour and blessing of welcoming the Holy Relics of the Virgin Martyr Saint Heleni, From Sinopi of Pontos. The Holy Relics visited the Greek Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary Eleousa, Nottingham. Countless faithful attended a number of services, which were celebrated in honour of the visit of the Saint, who came from Thessaloniki (Greece). The faithful came from all corners of Britain and from a number of Orthodox Churches. This visit was achieved due to the persistence of the Greek Orthodox Church in Nottingham and especially Fr. Vasileios Koutsogiannis, the parish priest. The visitation of any relic is a rare occasion in Britain, therefore, we can only encourage that this happens more frequently. As explained by Fr. Vasileios, St. Heleni achieved to unite us all, to bring us all to Nottingham and receive her blessing. Importantly, her life, upbringing and faith are an example we should all have today, if we wish to achieve our objective, i.e. salvation. 


The Life of St. Heleni
The Virgin Martyr of Christ, Saint Heleni came from a beautiful city of Pontos called Sinopi; Sinopi is the most ancient of all the Pontian cities. Saint Heleni was the daughter of the well-established and respected Bekiari family. Saint Heleni's parents brought her up with the fear of God. They instilled in her pure soul a strong love towards Jesus Christ. Saint Heleni's uncle - the brother of her father - played a critical role in her upbringing. Her uncle was teaching at the Greek school of Sinopi, κρυφό σχολειό.


Saint Heleni was 15 years old when one day her mother sent her to buy threads for embroidery from Kyrona's shop. On her way to the shop was the house of Oukouzoglou Pasha, who was the ruler of Sinopi. (Note: the “Pasha” title corresponded to a military / political ruler during the years of the Ottoman occupation).
As Heleni was crossing the road in front of Oukouzoglou Pasha's house, the Pasha saw her through his front window. Her beauty attracted his feverish soul, and he decided to despoil her virginity.
The Pasha ordered Heleni to be brought before him. Once he found out who she was, he tried twice and thrice to attack her but an invisible power obstructed his attempts. An 'invisible wall' was protecting Heleni – it was the wall of prayer. Throughout the attacks of the Pasha, Heleni was fervently praying, continuously saying the Psalms, specifically the six Psalms chanted during Matins. However, the Pasha did not give up. Instead, he ordered his soldiers to keep Heleni at his home by force. In doing this, the Pasha hoped that he would, at last, attain his shameful goal.
During the time of her imprisonment, the virgin managed, under the aegis of God, to escape from the soldiers’ watchful gaze and flee to her parents’ home. Once there, Heleni explained to them what had happened to her.
When Pasha realised what had happened he flew into a rage, threatening everyone and everything. He demanded that the Council Elders (Greek: Δημογέροντες – Demogerontes) of Sinopi bring Heleni back to him. If they did not, he would order the massacre of all the Greeks of Sinopi.
The community council Elders (Demogerontes) held a meeting at the Greek school of Sinopi. They invited Heleni's father to join the meeting. They asked him, for the common good of the general population, whether they could give his daughter Heleni to the Pasha. Upon hearing this, Heleni's father broke into tears. However, he agreed to give Heleni to the Pasha, in order to avoid the public massacre of the Greeks.
The next day of the imprisonment, Pasha went to the prison to see Heleni again, hoping that this time he would achieve his shameful goal. But once again, he failed. The invisible wall – God's protection! – was pushing him away.
Pasha became enraged. He ordered Heleni be tortured and put to death, by beheading her. They then put her Holy body in a sack, and threw it in the sea. However, her body did not sink. Rather, it floated upon the surface, while a heavenly light came down from the sky, illuminating it.
The Turks got shocked and became scared. They started shouting!: ”The unfaithful one is burning! The unfaithful one is burning!”
Heleni's body kept floating on the sea until it reached the location called Gaei. At this place, due to its depths, the waters are dark – almost black, Heleni's body finally sank.
After a couple of days, a Greek ship weighed anchor at Gaei. During the third night there, the ship's lookout realised there was a light coming from the bottom of the sea. Believing there to be gold on the sea bed, he immediately notified the ship’s captain that they might retrieve some gold from the bottom of the sea. What they found, however, was not gold, but rather the biggest treasure – the sack with the Holy relics of the Saint Virgin, the Martyred Heleni!
The sailors opened the sack and found her Holy relics. Her head had been separated from the rest of her body, and atop her head there was a hole where a nail had been driven through. After torturing the saint, the Turks had hammered two nails into her head, and beheaded her (the nails are still present on the Saint’s scull). Upon seeing all this, and in fear of the Turks, the captain transferred the saint’s Holy relics of her body to another boat that was travelling with Greeks to Russia.
He secretly carried the Holy relics of her head to the temple of the Virgin Mary (Greek: Παναγία - Panagia) in Sinopi. Via the Holy relic of the head of the newly-martyred and virgin-martyred saint, many miracles have taken place in Sinopi.
People suffering from headaches were always calling for the priest, who would bring the Holy relic of the head to them. Performing a 'paraklesis' (Greek: Παράκλησις) and a blessing of the waters would lead to the curing of the headaches.
During the population exchange (1922), President Kafaropoulos Christos brought the Holy head relics to Thessaloniki, Greece. The relic of the Holy head of the saint was placed in the Church of Saint Marina the Great-Martyr in Ano Toumba, Thessaloniki, Greece. The Holy relic resides in this Church to this day, and continues to produce myrrh and to work miracles.
This, Christians, is the magnificent martyrdom of the 15-year old virgin-martyr Heleni. She chose martyrdom instead of submitting to the actions of impurity, protecting the purity of her body and soul. In that way, she became the model of purity and virginity, in an era where this high virtue is being undermined while the impure and indecent is being promoted by all means The Saint Virgin-Martyr Heleni comes to show the youth that for the love of Jesus Christ, it is much more preferable for one to become martyred through unbearable tortures than to submit their purity and virginity to the devil.
For that great act, saint Heleni jumps to help every teenager and young person that wants to fight the desires of the flesh and the sinful thoughts and wishes, to retain the purity of their bodies and souls as members of the body of Christ.

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