Thursday, 3 November 2016

Revealer of light: St. Phanourios


Years ago, in late September, I was at my sister-friend’s parish in Ottawa for a weekday liturgy. Afterwards, an older Greek lady gave out small pieces of bread called “Phanouropita” for St. Phanourios.  I have never had such good tasting bread. It was the perfect balance of sweetness and spices; surely it was made with prayer! Nothing tastes so good as when it is made with love and prayer. I remember the priest, after the liturgy, doing a small prayer to St. Phanourios before the lady handed out the bread. I think this priest told us a bit about the Saint as well. I remember being interested, but had no idea, then, how much this Saint would mean to me as time went on. The lady gave me more than one piece of the bread. I remember giving one peice to my spiritual father in Ottawa; later he also commented on how good it was. At the time, I wrote how light this bread was, how filled with joy I felt at receiving it1.

About that time, Sister M. mentioned Saint Phanourios as a Saint who helps you find deep things, like spiritual fathers. I already had a spiritual father, but I had a lot of other things I needed to find: a job, a spouse, direction for my life. I was not abandoned in this search—within 2 years time, St. Phanourios was involved in my finding and marrying my Husband. More on that later! Sylvia, of the Orthodox Mom blog, told her readers about the tradition of baking bread for St. Phanourios and had information on where to get the service to Saint Phanourios in English2. I remember calling this church, that Sylvia mentioned, and asking about the price of the service and how to get them. I seem to remember them being $5.00 or so, back then, but the person on the phone said not to worry about the cost. She sent two of them to me and I gave the other copy to my dear friend, the one I call ‘my sister-friend’, who two years later became my koumbara (wedding sponsor); I am her third son’s godmother. Getting two copies of the life and service of St. Phanourios felt like winning the lottery! The prayers could not be found online back then3 and I had very little money to spare at the time.  

St. Phanourios was an early martyr, who was re-discovered later on, when the Hagarenes (Turks of that day) ruled Rhodes and an icon of him was found:
When the Hagarenes rules the renowned island of Rhodes, having conquered it because of our sins, he that became ruler of the island wished to rebuild the ramparts of the city that past sieges had ravaged. On the outskirts of the fortress were several ruined dwellings that had been abandoned by reason of their association with the old fortress, which was located a furlong to the south. From these ruins the Hagarenes were wont to gather stones for their construction.
    It so happened that, while excavating and reinforcing that place, they discovered a most beautiful church, which was partly buried in ruins. Excavating as far as the floor of the temple, they found many holy icons, all decayed and crumbling, yet the icon of the holy Phanourios was whole and entire; indeed, it seemed as though it had been painted but that very day. And when this all-venerable temple was uncovered, together with its sacred icons, the hierarch of that place, Nilus by name, a man of great sanctity and learning, came and read the inscription of the icon, which said, “The Holy Phanourios.4
Sylvia writes: “[h]is name is from the Greek word fanerono which means I reveal” and of how she grew up with the tradition of asking his prayers whenever something was lost5.  The Orthodox Wiki tells us that:
St. Phanourios has become famous for assisting the faithful in revealing lost or hidden spiritual matters of the heart, objects, directing or revealing actions that should be taken, restoring health and similar situations.6
I have found this to be true—and that St. Phanourios’ prayers have great effect. In two weeks I hope to tell you of some stories I know first-hand, of such answers to the prayers of St. Phanourios, of blessings and small miracles.  

(1)  Elizabeth Roosje. “Links, my Cat and Various Points of Hope”. Roosje: Little Rose, Blogger, September, 30 2010. 
(2) Sylvia Leontaritis. “St. Fanourios the Martyr and Miracle Worker” Orthodox Mom, Blogger, August 27, 2010.
(3) An Akathist to St Phanourios can now be found online, published in English in 2015:
(4) Translated by [Father] George Lardas from the Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church
(in Greek), 4th Ed. (Athens, 1974), Vol. VIII, pp. 470-474. Orthodox Life, Vol. 32, No. 4 (July-August 1982). Accessed here: on October 29, 2016.
(5)  Sylvia Leontaritis. “St. Fanourios the Martyr and Miracle Worker” Orthodox Mom, Blogger, August 27, 2010.
(6) Orthodox Wiki, “Phanourios”, (accessed October 29, 2016)

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