Recently, a number of the faithful have asked for information concerning Saint Haralambos (Charalambos, Charalambus). With the Lord’s help, we will provide some edifying information concerning our Holy Father among the Saints and Lamp of the Holy Spirit, Saint Haralambos.
St. Haralambos the Martyr
“As pillar unshaken of Christ’s Holy Church and lamp ever-burning to all the world, you emerged, O wise Haralambos. In all the world you shined with the martyrdom you suffered. You dispelled the dark night of the idols O blessed. Thence with daring do intercede to Christ that we may be saved.” (Tone 4)
“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things…” (2Timothy 2:1-7)
In the early Church, the term “martyr” was originally used when characterizing the Apostles as witnesses of Christ’s life and resurrection [Acts 1:8, 22]. Due to the persecutions that the early Christians endured, however, the term was applied to those who gave their lives for the Christian Orthodox Faith. In Greek, the word martyr means “witness” and, the verb form, martyred, means to “bear witness” or “give evidence.”
Though martyrdom was not a constant experience for the early Church, it was a possibility with which the early Christians had to reckon. It was the consummate act of faith for as the Lord said: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Before actually being executed, however, the martyr usually endured extreme physical and moral sufferings.
One of the saints recorded to have endured the greatest suffering of any martyr was the presbyter, Haralambos. As a second century priest in Magnesia, Asia Minor, he served his people with great faith and love. His reputation as a man of God had spread throughout the area and many people came to the Faith through his preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. During a period of extreme persecution, Haralambos did not hide, but openly and boldly preached the Christian Orthodox Faith! When Haralambos was finally arrested for having the courage to preach the Gospel, his persecutors devised a plan of persecution for everyone to witness. Although he was tortured repeatedly, he never denounced his faith in Jesus Christ. For several months this persecution went on and not once did Haralambos weaken in his faith. Forced to suffer extreme pain and degradation, Haralambos continued to preach and many miracles and conversions took place among the people. When the soldiers thrashed the skin from his body Haralambos said: “Thank you, my brethren, for scraping off the old body and renewing my soul for new and eternal life.” In the final moments of his life, moments before he was to be beheaded, Haralambos lifted his hands to heaven and prayed for all humankind: “Lord, You know that men are flesh and blood; forgive them their sins and pour out Your blessing on all.” Following this prayer the saint gave up his soul to God and died without the sword being laid to his neck.
8 Modern Miracles Of Saint Haralambos
Saint Haralambos was a priest of the Christians in Magnesia, the foremost city of Thessaly, in the diocese having the same name. He contested during the reign of Alexander Severus (222-235), when Lucian was Proconsul of Magnesia. At the time of his martyrdom the Saint was 103 years of age.
The following miracles are told by the nuns of St. Stephen’s Monastery at Meteora of Thessaly, which houses the holy skull of St. Haralambos.
1. Epidemic On Mount Athos
Saint Haralambos has a special gift of healing pestilential diseases, and has often halted epidemics of typhus, cholera and the plague. In 1908 a deadly epidemic reached Mt. Athos, and the holy skull of the saint was taken from St. Stephen’s on Meteora to the Protaton on Mt. Athos, where an all-night vigil was served. The epidemic halted immediately, and since then, each year, the monasteries celebrate an all-night vigil honoring St. Haralambos – the only saint besides the Mother of God to be so honored by the entire population of the Holy Mountain.
2. Maria’s Child
In 1950, Maria Nairi’s four-year-old daughter became paralyzed. Unable to help her, the doctors could do nothing for the child and sent her home to die. After many nights of prayer, Maria saw St. Haralambos in a dream, and borrowing an icon of him from her church, kept it in her home for forty days with a lamp lit before it. On the eve of the Feast of the Holy Apostles (June 30), the saint appeared to the child and healed her. The room was filled with an indescribable fragrance and sweet-smelling myrrh flowed from the icon.
3. A Year Without Speech
On the west coast of Greece there is a church dedicated to the saint in thanksgiving for saving the town from a typhoid epidemic. One year St. Haralambos’ feast fell in the week before Great Lent. In Greece, as in other parts of the world, this week is often celebrated with a secular carnival. A couple, who were passing by the church on the eve of the saint’s feast, heard the singing for the vigil. The wife wanted to go in for the service, but the husband blasphemed the saint and said that he would go to the carnival instead. He was immediately stricken dumb. His wife took him into the church where he knelt and repented, and he regained his speech exactly a year later, on the feast of St. Haralambos.
4. Life Savings
In 1966, a Mr. Nikolaou was returning to his native village where he planned to retire, carrying with him his life savings. Reaching his village, he was horrified to discover he had lost the money. The next morning he set off again for Piraeus, hoping somehow to trace it. When he reached the village of Paligoyrgos, he saw a small chapel dedicated to St. Haralambos and went in to beseech his aid. Immediately he heard a voice telling him to look under the seat of the car in which he had ridden part way home the day before. He traced the car and found that the money had indeed fallen under the seat.
5. Endurance For Christ
A man with an incurable and extremely painful disease prayed to St. Haralambos frequently and fervently to heal him. Finally one night the saint appeared and told him that his sufferings were much less than those endured by Christ and that it would be better for him to bear his illness patiently than to have it cured, because it had been sent by God to help him work out his salvation.
6. The Novice’s Sister
In 1978, a young woman came to St. Stephen’s Monastery to be a monastic. She was clothed as a novice, but suffered terribly during her first few months because she was torn by her separation from her family. Her older sister came to visit, but only made the novice’s sorrow greater by begging her to leave the monastery. In vivid colors she painted a picture of their parents sitting, night after night, heavy-hearted with grief at the absence of their youngest daughter. That night the elder sister slept in the monastery, and towards dawn she had a dream of St. Haralambos, who sternly reprimanded her for trying to make her sister leave, saying that it would greatly harm the young girl if she gave up the monastic path. As he scolded her, he slapped her hard across the cheek and she woke up feeling the sting of his hand. Needless to say, she obeyed, and one of the sisters who knows her says that, to this day, her cheek tingles from the sting of the slap.
7. The Twins
In January 1995, a woman came to visit the monastery from the town of Trikala and told the sisters that she had been childless for the first nineteen years of her marriage, and that doctors had told her she would never conceive. At the beginning of 1994, she began praying to St. Haralambos, who appeared to her one night in a dream and said not “You will have a child,” but “You will have children.” Two months later the woman conceived and at the end of the year gave birth to twin boys. She comes often now to visit the monastery with her little sons.
8. The “Monastery Priest”
In the early 1990’s, a young man from the village in the area came to St. Stephen’s Monastery with the intent to commit suicide by throwing himself off the bridge that connects the pinnacle of the rock to the road. He was standing on the bridge looking down into the chasm and preparing to jump, when an old priest came up and introduced himself as the spiritual father of the monastery. Although they had never met before, he began speaking to the young man about his life and trials, and encouraged him not to despair, promising him that God would help him. The young man felt an inner joy and peace. Going back to his home he began to attend Divine Liturgy regularly. A few weeks later he went to the monastery again and asked to speak to the old priest. The sister whom he met at the door told him there was no priest living there, that priests only came occasionally from the outside to serve Divine Liturgy, nor had there been any priest there on the day he mentioned. She asked him what the old priest had looked like, and he described in detail – St. Haralambos.
Miracle of Saint Haralambos in Filiatra (1943)
From the German Headquarters in Tripoli, orders were issued to Officer Kondau (or Kunster), in charge in Filiatra, to burn the town, because of a sabotage that the rebels had instigated. The Commander was ordered to kill a certain number of notable Filiatrians, to take as prisoners the 1,500 other citizens, and to send them to Germany, after which it is was obvious they would never return.
Officer Kondau, feeling no pity, in turn, gave the orders to his soldiers to follow through with implementing the destruction, on the following day at 6:00 in the morning.
In Tripoli, the priest, Archimandrite Theodore Kotsakis, who was originally from Filiatra, learned of this plan. Grief and worry overcame everyone; no one knew what to do to save Filiatra and its people. So, the priest Theodore found someone who knew German, and together they went to the house of the German Officer in Tripoli. But while they waited outside his office, loud voices, cursing and a great upheaval were heard. A Greek woman pulled on the priest’s cassock, urging him to leave, so that they might not be killed there, right on the spot!
Thereby, upon leaving, the Priest notified all the people from Filiatra who were living in Tripoli, to pray that night to Saint Haralambos, who was Patron Saint of Filiatra, asking him to intercede for the town and its people. Then the Priest Theodore closed himself in his room and prayed with much pain and sorrow. And the citizens of Filiatra did the same, as they had caught wind of something going on, themselves.
Saint Haralambos heard their prayers and performed the miracle! The Saint then appeared that night to Officer Kondau while he was sleeping. He appeared to him as a serious, old and dignified man of holy countenance, dressed in priestly robes and having a long white beard. This German conqueror, who was a Protestant, had never seen such a face or such an appearance ever before in his life. The solemn Elder then said to him with such sweetness: “Listen, my son, do not carry out the orders you were given.”
The dream was so real that it created a great impression on him. He awakened suddenly and then went back to sleep, but, with determination, however, to carry out the order he was given. Then once again the Saint appeared to him in his sleep and said: “That which I have told you to do, do it. Do not execute the order. Do not be afraid. I will make sure that you are not punished.” Again, he awakened, and the words spoken to him were whirling around in his mind. But it was impossible for him not to carry out the order, after all the Germans would execute him if he didn’t. Once again he fell asleep. And once again the solemn Elder appeared to him for a third time, saying: “I told you not to be afraid. I will see to it that you are not punished. I will protect you and all your men. You will all return to your homes and nothing will happen to you.”
At first, the Commander wanted to ignore the order of Saint Haralambos, in order to appear independent. But despite all his intransigence, he yielded, because afterwards, as this German Officer himself related, he heard in his sleep shouts and cries, as if coming from people being tortured right in his own courtyard. Then, real life figures appeared like women, many women, who were beating themselves on the heads and chests out of unbearable misfortune and pain.
They were mourning, showing desperation, and cursing out of agony in anticipation of the slaughter of their children and grandchildren that was to take place. All of these voices then became like a big cloud that ascended on high, into the heavens, without anything falling to the earth.
And furthermore, as he slept, the German Officer saw long black clouds that were coming out of his room, ascending, and casting a shadow upon the sun, with the sun trying to hide from the clouds as if it were a person who in turn was casting shadows on the faces of his soldiers. Some of soldiers were afraid, while others were asking for help as they made the sign of the cross. And still others were running and hiding behind the olive groves.
From his fright he woke up. He tried to speak but couldn’t, rather his mouth was agape as he looked at the image in his dream, the old man that he saw three times in his dream who had the appearance of a Saint of the Orthodox church. When he came to his senses, he began thinking of the evil that was about to happen: the slaughter of human beings, like dogs to remain on the streets without burial and of houses burning in seconds which had taken centuries to be built!
These reflections stirred him. But still he said to himself: “I said I was going to burn this town and burn it I will!”
Then he closed his eyes. And the old man, Saint Haralambos, appeared once again before him, in a threatening and persistent manner. In a loud and emphatic voice, the Saint said to him: “Be careful! This town is not going to burn and its people are not going to be captured. They are innocent. Do you hear me?”
The German Officer stood up, steadied himself, as his knees were shaking from fright and he picked up the telephone. With a trembling voice, he called Tripoli to speak to the German Commander of all Peloponesos. And when this commander tried to respond to give orders, he faltered. He tried to get fierce so that his orders would be carried out, but he wasn’t able to! So what was going on? That same night he also had seen Saint Haralambos in his sleep, just as the Officer Kondau from Filiatra had described him on the telephone. And finally, the Commander resolutely told the Officer in Filiatra: “Write this down. I am suspending the destruction of the town. Come immediately to see me tomorrow at noon!”
At daybreak, the decision by the Germans to revoke the order was announced.
Everywhere there were shouts of joy to be heard by the townspeople, in the cafes, in the square, in the streets.