Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou's Power Over Demons

The following two stories come from the Life of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou, who is celebrated on July 28th.

St. Irene Casts The Demons Out Of A Nun Under A Spell

A noble and beautiful woman from Cappadocia, the home-city of St. Irene, was engaged to a certain man. Later on, however, she thought better of it and decided against marriage. She decided instead to become a nun at the famed monastery of Chrysovalantou. The demon grew jealous, however, and filled her ex-fiancé with tremendous sexual passion. However, the man knew well that he would not be able to enter the monastery. Instead, he hired a powerful magician, a most able servant of the devil to whom he gave him a large amount of money for the deliverance of the woman he wanted as his wife. The magician wrought his evil art in Cappadocia and the woman in the monastery went completely out of her mind. She began to run around the convent screaming and crying out the name of her ex-fiancé and swearing that if they did not open the doors of the convent she would suffocate.* Our venerable mother heard the up-rise and cried, "Woe to me the wretched one, if by the carelessness of the shepherds the wolves snatch the sheep away. However, in vain do you labor, O sly devil, because Christ will not allow you to swallow my lamb." She then called the sisterhood together and instructed them to guard themselves against the snares of the demons and she ordered them all to fast for the entire week while praying to God and each one of them to make a thousand prostrations a day with tears for this sister of theirs who was undergoing temptation. Our venerable mother prayed in her cell daily for this sister and on the third day, she saw St Basil the Great in front of her and he said to her, "Why do you deride us, Irene? We have left our homeland and all the vile and impious acts take place there now. When the sun rises take your sick disciple and bring her to Blachernae and there the mother of our Master Christ who is powerful will make her well." Having said this, St. Basil disappeared. St. Irene took the sick sister along with two other nuns and arriving at the Church of Blachernae, they prayed the entire day with tears in their eyes. At about midnight, St. Irene fell asleep and in her sleep she saw many people dressed in brilliant golden clothes and preparing the roads with the most fragrant flowers and incense. Our venerable mother then asked why so much preparation was taking place. They answered that the Mother of God was coming and warned her to prepare herself that she might be accounted worthy to venerate God's mother. Then the Mother of Life arrived followed by a vast crowd. So much did the face of the Virgin radiate that it was not possible for a mere mortal to gaze upon her. Our Lady having looked at all the ill, assembled in the church, looked at the disciple of St. Irene. Our venerable mother Irene fell at the spotless feet of the Mother of God, full of fear and trembling. The Mother of God then called on St. Basil the Great and asked him what Irene needed. St. Basil explained to the Theotokos exactly what St. Irene's need was. Hearing this the Theotokos said, "Call here, Anastasia!" When St. Anastasia had arrived, the Mother of God said to her, "Go with Basil to Caesarea, and study carefully the situation in order to cure this girl, for to you my Son and God has granted this grace." Venerating the Theotokos, St. Anastasia and St. Basil left in all haste in order to perform the ordained task. Our venerable mother Irene then heard a voice saying. "Go to your convent and she will be made well." On awakening, Irene explained to the sisters what she had seen and they went on their way rejoicing greatly. When they arrived at the convent it was Friday at the time of vespers and all the nuns were gathered at the church. St. Irene explained her vision and then ordered them all to raise their hands and eyes towards heaven and with all their hearts and burning tears to cry out, "Lord have mercy!" After a long time, when the entire floor of the church had become wet from the tears of the sisters, St. Basil and the Great and Anastasia the Martyr appeared floating in the air and the sisters heard them say, "Irene open your arms and receive this, and don't grieve us needlessly again." (St. Irene had been praying before the icon of St. Basil and begged him to free Caesarea from magicians). Stretching out her hands, St. Irene received from the midst of the air a package weighing about three liters and containing a host of charms including strings, hair, and lead, bound together with the names of demons written upon them. It also contained two small idols made of lead, one in the shape of the ex-fiance and the other in the shape of the sick nun, stuck together as if they were committing a sin. The nuns were amazed and remained praying the entire night. They thanked the Theotokos. In the morning, St. Irene sent the sick nun, along with two other nuns to Blachernae. Taking with them the charms, oil and prosphora, they attended the Divine Liturgy. After the liturgy, the priest anointed the sick nun with oil from the vigil lamp and later put the magical charms on live coals. As the charms burned, the nun became well and regained her senses. When the spell of the charms was totally broken, a crying sound came forth from the coals that resembled the squealing of pigs at their slaughter. The nuns returned to the monastery glorifying God that He does such strange and magnificent things and on entering the monastery they told all what had happened.

St. Irene Cures A Possessed Man

Let us relate to you another of her miracles during her lifetime: A young man by the name of Nicholas used to take care of the vineyard of the convent of our venerable mother. Nicholas fell in love with one of the nuns of the convent and could find no peace day or night for desire of this nun. The devil led Nicholas to this passion in order to punish St. Irene. So much did the evil one darken the mind of this young man that one night as he made his way towards the convent he fantasized that he found the gate of the cloister open, went into the cell of this nun, fell down with her on her mattress and did that which he desired. He then actually fell down on the ground and began to grind his body up against the earth. Not only did he cut and bruise his body but he also gave the demon a chance to disturb him. In the morning, the doorkeeper opened the gate of the monastery and noticed him outside possessed, foaming at the mouth and writhing. She went and told our venerable mother what she had seen and asked her if she knew the reason that Nicholas was now possessed. Falling down in prayer, St. Irene said, "Blessed are you O Lord, that you did not allow us to become neither the prey nor the victims of the demons." She then sent the young man to the Church of St. Anastasia to be healed. A few days later Irene saw a vision of St. Anastasia and heard the Great Martyr say to her, "To free yourself from this possessed man you sent him to me? Only you, my sister, can make him well." So, St. Irene ordered that the young man be brought to her. So that no one might learn of her miraculous power St. Irene did not cure the man immediately but rather they tied him to a column of the church. The saint, along with the other sisters, prayed daily for him. When the priest was serving the Divine Liturgy and had put down the holy gifts on the holy table after the Great Entrance the possessed man broke the chain that was binding him and ran into the altar. He grabbed the priest and began to bite his shoulder as if he was actually trying to eat his flesh. Immediately our saint of God rushed to the possessed man and ordered him to remain still. Seeing the saint, Nicholas wanted to run away, but he was not able to move at all being held tighter by the command of the saint than by any chain. When the Liturgy had finished, our venerable mother remained alone in the church with the possessed young man. She prayed to the Lord and then addressed the demon. She ordered the demon to tell her the reason and the manner with which he had entered this man. The demon, forced by divine power, answered all of our saint's questions honestly. She then commanded the demon to come out of the man. Shaking the man and throwing him down to the ground the demon came forth. St. Irene raised the man up and advised him as to how to always be careful in avoiding overeating and intoxication, never to be absent from church on any feast day and to pray without ceasing so that the demon might never again get a chance to bother him. When people would ask him, "Who cured you?" he would respond, "The Lord through the prayers of His angels." Nicholas went forth praising and giving thanks to God.


* This sudden reversal of the woman's sane behavior to that of one possessed by a demon is explained in the Life of Saint Hilarion the Great (Oct. 21). In a similar situation in his life, a young maiden became a victim of the magical arts perpetrated by a spurned suitor. Smitten in her heart with carnal desire by demonic complicity, she, too, exhibited wild behavior and began to call out the name of the young man whom she now desired. Her relatives took her to that great monastic of the desert, St. Hilarion, who healed her that was bound by some objects upon which a spell was weaved. When the maiden was delivered of this tyranny, St. Hilarion admonished her to take precautions in the future to guard herself against every sin, because unless a demon can use some occasion, he cannot enter into a person.

The Saint then addressed some bystanders, saying: "The demons have no authority over us, unless we give them the means. And why do I say unless we give them the means? Not even over the unreasoning animals do they have power, unless the Lord permits it,  as in the case of Job's possessions [Job 1:11-12] and in other instances mentioned in the Gospel."