Saturday, November 9, 2019

A Ghost Investigation in an Athonite Monastery

On November 9th the Orthodox Church commemorates a miracle connected with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, Mount Athos, an ancient Greek hidden treasure, and a ghost investigation.

Docheiariou Monastery is located in Mount Athos, and was founded by Saints Euthymios and Neophytos in the late tenth century, who dedicated the monastery to the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. The Archangels Michael and Gabriel are commemorated in the Orthodox Church on November 8th, while Saints Euthymios and Neophytos are commemorated on November 9th.

The following story dates to the time of the founding of the monastery, in the early eleventh century:

Docheiariou Monastery had property across the sea about sixty miles away in Longos of Chalkidiki, where a small monastery known as a dependency was established. On that property was an ancient Greek pillar with the following inscription: "Whoever will strike my head will find much gold!" Many would try to cast stones at the head, but no gold was ever found.

One day a 20 year old laborer named Basil visited the column, who cleverly understood the riddle and followed the shadow of the pillar, where he began to dig at the spot where the shadow of the head of the pillar was located. He suddenly came upon a marble slab, under which was a copper vessel full of gold coins. He notified the monastery, and at the instructions of Saint Neophytos, who was the abbot, three monks were dispatched by boat to go and retrieve the treasure, which included the gold, its vessel, and the marble slab which concealed it.

The three monks, upon beholding the treasure, became enticed by it and plotted to keep it for themselves. They therefore took the young man and tied a rope around his neck which was attached to the marble slab, and they cast him into the depths of the sea. As he was sinking to the bottom of the sea, the young man Basil invoked the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel for help, who immediately appeared as eagles with golden wings and rescued him from drowning.

Basil then suddenly found himself in the church of Docheiariou Monastery, terror-stricken, drenched, and with the rope tied around his neck attached to the marble slab. In the meantime, the three wayward monks divided the treasure among themselves. They returned to Docheiariou and hid their portions outside the monastery, then stayed by the dock till morning.

Early in the morning while it was still dark outside the caretaker of the church went to light the candles and prepare for Matins. As he made his rounds in the church, he suddenly came upon a sight of what he perceived to be a ghost. He began to draw back out of fright, but then changed his mind and decided to approach and investigate the matter. Not quite sure what he was gazing upon, as it was still dark in the church, he took to his heels, seeking the abbot. Going up to Saint Neophytos, he cried aloud, "My elder, there is a phantom in the church, and I cannot go inside!"

The abbot answered, "Why are you afraid? Do your cross and proceed courageously!" Meanwhile, the other brothers had assembled for the service. They, too, beheld the spectacle and hastened to Saint Neophytos. The abbot then got up and went into the church with the caretaker, to investigate the matter together. As they entered the church, they approached cautiously to investigate whether or not a ghost was there, but as they drew closer they clearly saw the youth. He was bound and asleep upon the marble slab that was tied to his neck. The abbot then tapped him with his staff to rouse him. The youth awoke, and said, "Tell me, O brothers, where am I? I thought I was in the sea where the monks had cast me overboard."

The abbot had him explain everything that happened. Upon hearing of the ill-intentions and crimes of the three monks, Saint Neophytos told Basil to wait until the monks came up to the church from the dock to see the spectacle for themselves. When the three monks came to the church, the abbot asked them how things went. They explained that the young lad had fooled them about the treasure, for when they got there nothing was found, so they threatened the lad and he fled. The abbot then told them to proceed into the church that they may thank God. Entering the church they saw Basil with the rope around his neck bound to the marble slab, and they stood speechless. Saint Neophytos then threatened them, told them to bring up the treasure, and he expelled the three monks from the monastery. Basil in turn decided to become a monk and he was tonsured with the name Barnabas.

Till this day a portion of the marble slab is preserved in Docheiariou Monastery, as a testimony of the great miracle of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.