Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Monk Theodore Sikeotes, April 22, and a Eucharistic Miracle

Today we commemorate the life of a sixth century monk, born in the village of Sikea, not far from the city of Anastasiupolis (Asia Minor). The story of the monk St. Theodore begins early in his childhood with a holy call to a strict asceticism which he followed obediently, even at the risk of loosing his earthly life. This particular saint lived in the historical period that overlapped the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian recently discussed here and here

"...The Monk Theodore then fled human glory and he withdrew into complete solitude. Under a large boulder not far from the church of the GreatMartyr George, he dug out a cave and persuaded a certain deacon to cover over the entrance with ground, leaving only a small opening for air.  The deacon brought him bread and water and he told no one, where the monk had hidden himself. For two years the Monk Theodore lived in this seclusion and complete quiet. His kinsfolk bewept the saint and they thought, that he had been devoured by wild beasts.  But the deacon finally revealed the secret, since he was afraid that the Monk Theodore would perish in the narrow cave, and moreover he pitied the weeping mother. They plucked the Monk Theodore out of the cave half-alive."

So great was the sanctity of this monk's being that it is recorded that:

 "The sanctity of the monk was so evident, that during the time of his celebrating the Eucharist, the grace of the Holy Spirit, in a visage of radiant porphyry, overshadowed the Holy Gifts. One time, when the monk lifted the discus with the Divine Lamb and proclaimed "Holy Things unto the Holy", – the Divine Lamb raised itself up into the air, and then resettled itself again upon the discus.
      All the Orthodox Church venerated the Monk Theodore as a saint, even while he was yet alive."

The more complete hagiograpic record may be found here, translated by Father S. Janos. 

Over the years, I have been struck by the number of Orthodox clergy who have told me without malice of any kind that they are absolutely certain, and that Orthodoxy teaches, that Eucharistic miracles as recorded in the west are always demonic in origin.  

The miracle of Lanciano is one of the oldest, and certainly the most famous and well documented and scientifically tested of the Eucharistic miracles. This transformation of the Eucharist occurred in the year 700 which is well within the time period when the Church was one, and it happened to a monk of St. Basil's rule.

What follows is a story that is more compelling to me even than Lanciano, because it is more complex in its action and richer in its symbolism and happens to a young laywoman and her faithless husband.  It happens to a young woman who was about to step outside of her faith and trust to cultic sorcery to save her marriage.  Yet she was restrained by a miracle that essentially said to her,  'No.  Please.  Allow me to help instead.'

Do I personally trust that consecrated bread, now the body of Christ, bleeds and pulsates light, among other things?  I expect I might suspend disbelief for long enough to accept that there are those who do benefit from such divine action and those who need such signs and wonders to buttress their own lagging or lukewarm faith.  

Frankly I am more impressed that wild animals would come and take food from the hand of monk St. Theodore and that he loved the Lord enough to risk his life so as to take on severe ascetic action, as he was asked.   All works of wonder in one's life should be taken in thanksgiving with the starkness of absolute humility.  In that Light, there is nothing demonic that can ever overcome us.
 ~ ~ ~
 The Most Holy Eucharistic Miracle of Portugal 

In the village of Santarém Portugal, just a half hour drive from Fátima, there occurred the Church's second most famous Eucharistic Miracle after Lanciano. The miracle occurred on February 16th in the year 1247 when a woman married to a man who frequently committed adultery in desperation had turned to a Jewish Sorceress to seek a solution to her problem. The sorceress promised her a magical potion but demanded a Consecrated Host as payment. The woman did as she was instructed, and faked an illness in order to receive Holy Communion on a weekday since at that time Mass was only celebrated on Sunday. She went to the Parish Church of Saint Stephen, received communion and then as she was leaving the Church, removed the Host from her mouth and tied it in a knot in the veil covering her head. It was then that the Miracle occurred.

The Host suddenly began to bleed profusely. The blood flowed so heavily that it the people in the streets inquired about her sickness. Frightened, she ran home and placed the Host still wrapped in the veil in a wooden trunk where she kept her clean linens. Her husband discovered the secret when a miracle occurred that night: From the chest came a brilliant light that illuminated the entire house. The Host was freed from the Knot and elevated by angels who sang Divine Praises. The parish priest was called, and the pulsating Host was taken back in procession to the Church of Saint Stephen where the Clergy in order to stop the bleeding decided to seal it in a ball of melted bees wax.
Nineteen years passed and in 1266 when a canonical investigation was held, it was discovered that a second miracle had occurred. The Host had freed itself from the wax ball and was now in a little crystal ampoule.

Kings, Queens and Saints venerated the Relic of the Miraculous-bleeding Host with great splendor over the centuries and the object of national adoration. No fewer than half a dozen Popes granted indulgences to the Cult and Saint Francis Xavier came on pilgrimage before becoming the great apostle of India.

Miraculous phenomena occurred throughout the centuries involving the same Miraculous Host. Images were seen and new emissions of blood were common. All of this stopped however after the North American pilgrimages in the late 1950's began visiting the Shrine very frequently and abusively handling the Host. During this time the crystal ampoule was broken through the sacrilegious practice of the touching of rosaries and other religious items to It to take away as relics. By the 1970's half the glass of the ampoule had been broken off and the silver stopper removed, taken away as relics. The Host subsequently corrupted due to exposure to the air and today only particles of blood and solidified flesh are found clinging to the inside what remains of the glass ampoule.

The Relics were scientifically analyzed in 1997 for the 750th anniversary celebrations of the Miracle and proven to be genuine and of a supernatural origin. The relics of the Host and blood soaked wax were then sealed and placed in a bulletproof case atop the Eucharistic Throne above the main altar.  In 1997 the Church of Saint Stephen of the Holy Miracle was recognized as the Shrine of the Most Holy miracle.

(Based on"The Story and Relics of the Most Holy Miracle of Santarém" by Prof. Carlos Evaristo, Curator of the Museum of the Shrine of the Most Holy Miracle of Santarém. Photos Copyright: Carlos Evaristo 1997)


  1. There is an obvious difference between the miracles produced during the celebration of the Liturgy by St. Theodore Sikeotes and the "Eucharistic miracles as recorded in the west". What the Orthodox consider of demonic origin is the actual transformation of the Eucharistic species in flesh and blood. The teaching of the Orthodox Church is that this phenomenon is always related to the lack of faith of the celebrant in the real presence of the Lord in the bread and wine, or to ritual impurity. What is hardly ever mentioned about the miracle of Lanciano, is the fact that the Eucharist was celebrated with unleavened bread, one of the first occurrences of this frightful innovation, which eventually led to the Schism.
    The miracles of St. Theodore are clearly of a different nature. There is no flesh and blood.

  2. Some Orthodox consider the transformation to be demonic in origin. Granted.

    Lanciano was never condemned and it did occur while our now-separated confessions were still in communion. But I chose to highlight the later Portuguese occurrence precisely because it was not connected to a doubting priest or monk and it did not occur during the consecration.

    But you see in the article that I do not condemn Orthodox faithful for be concerned or even for declaring outright a demonic source. As with all things, time and the Holy Spirit will tell. We are not in a hurry.


  3. He may or may not have been condemned, but neither has it been confirmed by the Orthodox as being from God. It should also be noted that Lanciano's doubt is documented in no uncertain terms (emphasis added):

    "...there was a priest of the order of St. Basil who, though learned in the sciences of the world, was ignorant in ways of God, and was not strong in his faith. He was plagued by a doubt as to whether the consecrated Host was truly the Body of Christ, and the consecrated wine truly His Blood. He had difficulty believing in the mystery of transubstantiation (the miraculous changing of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ)."

    That the RCC has recognized this as a true miracle (quite late it may be added), this is quite disturbing.

    As to the post-schism case in Portugal: we learn about a woman who under pretense, following the demonic influence of a sorcerer, takes of the host. Demonic origin can easily be seen in all this. Sorry.

  4. No need to be sorry. The people who read this blog are generally intelligent faithful people and they know that your assertion that these events are inherently demonic is no more a surety than to say it is inherently holy.

    There are cases where Christ cast out demons so it is not outside of the realm of the possible that through a Eucharistic miracle he could encourage a soul to avoid demonic influences. Your logic is not infallible here, nor is it particularly logical given the history and traditions in the Church.

    Some Orthodox do not automatically see demons in Eucharistic miracles, some do.

    What seems acceptable to me is to be cautious of all extraordinary events, miracles and wonderworks.


  5. The fact that Lanciano did occur when the Churches were not yet separated is irrelevant. The spread of the heresies that led to the separation began long before it happened.
    One point seems to be of real import. It is said that the priest in question "used the same size host which is used in the Latin Rite Masses today". That would suggest that the host was made of unleavened bread.
    The Orthodox Church condemns the use of azymes. Therefore Lanciano fell under condemnation even if not explicitly pronounced. It was a sign of divine displeasure at the use of unleavened bread. It shows that the Spirit is absent!

  6. The issue of azymes is not at all settled for all of Orthodoxy, so you are offering a personal opinion here however much you are personally convinced it is true.

    I understand your perspective but it is not universal. In fact the history surrounding the issue is not at all clear either, which is why only a select few Orthodox faithful continue to press the issue. I don't wish to argue with you so I'll leave it at that. You've had your say. Don't press the point, please.



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