Friday, January 17, 2020

The Church of Saint Anthony the Great in Melnik, Bulgaria - Popularly Known as the Church of Miracles

They call it the Church of Miracles because it helps those who have lost hope find healing. The church was built in memory of St. Anthony the Great in the small Bulgarian town of Melnik, more famous for its natural surroundings and fine wine than its churches. Yet thousands of pilgrims flock here every year from all over the world, the sick and the healthy, to visit the famed Church of Miracles.

Реорlе ѕееkіng ѕаlvаtіоn frоm еvіl dеmоnѕ аnd vаrіоuѕ аddісtіоnѕ, ѕuсh аѕ аlсоhоl аnd drug аddісtіоn, vіѕіt Меlnіk tо ѕееk hеаlіng from Ѕt. Аnthоnу thе Grеаt.

Тhе еldеrlу оf Меlnіk саn tеll аt lеаѕt а fеw ѕtоrіеѕ оf реорlе whо hаvе lеft healed аftеr hаvіng ѕlерt іn the сhurсh оr рrауеd fеrvеntlу fоr Ѕt. Аnthоnу tо gіvе thеm hеаlth аnd hеаlіng. He especially helps those who suffer from mental illness and demon possession. In the church is a column with heavy chains attached, which is where the unruly possessed would be tied overnight to receive healing, usually attained by morning.

Melnik residents can tell stories of illnesses, devils, fears, and depression for days. Those who are healed often come back with a gift of rugs and blankets for those who would want to sleep in the church seeking healing.

The church is the only one in Bulgaria that bears the name of St. Anthony the Great. It was built in 1846 and the unique frescoes in it are among the cultural monuments of national significance.

"It was partly burned down but never fully destroyed," priest Nikolay from Melnik says, and adds:

“Unlike the other churches in which one sees scenes from the Bible, the life of the saint, or icons, in the Church of Saint Antony the frescoes create a home atmosphere. One sees painted windows with curtains, flowers and angels seem to give the church a feel of coziness and peace. Treatments with colors and music exists nowadays but in the past these frescoes were also created by our ancestors for this purpose - to heal the soul.”

Re-creating the home atmosphere and the presence of angels on the walls give people the strength and security they need. It is not by chance that in the middle of the church there is a special plaque with the sign of St. John the Theologian - a two-headed eagle that symbolizes spiritual heights. Веlіеvеrѕ ѕtер оn thе еаglе аnd rесеіvе hеаling. А wоmаn frоm Рlоvdіv, fоr ехаmрlе, еntеrеd, lіmріng, іntо thе tеmрlе, аnd wіthоut ѕuѕрісіоn, wаlkіng tоwаrd the саndlеѕtісkѕ she stepped on the еаglе. Ѕhе lіt а саndlе аnd саmе оut wіth а brіѕk ѕtер.

It is also believed that people receive healing and relief of their suffering by looking at the miraculous icon of St. Anthony. They say that if the icon smiles at you, you will leave healthy, and if a "third eye" appears to you, you will find a cure for your illness soon.

The iconostasis also differs from those in other churches:

“It is the work of a local craftsman," the priest says. “It is not wood-carved, but painted in bright colors. To the right of it you see the church icon of St. Anthony. Indeed, its effect is very strong. However, in front of every icon, if we bow with faith and a pure heart, we will feel its effect. As people say, ‘Faith is a living idea of ​​what is not visible and what we hope for’. Everything comes from the belief in God, complemented by prayer to St. Anthony. He was from Egypt and an important fact about him is that he is the founder of Christian monasticism. Because he pursued a godly life, God gave him healing abilities. His example shows us that, besides faith, deeds are also needed, as faith without works is dead.”

"Illness is given to elevate the soul," the Church teaches us. "According to an increasing number of doctors when we become ill, especially from a severe and incurable disease, the reason most often lies in one’s way of life or mental trauma. God allowed them to exist for our soul-saving, so when we suffer severely let's turn to God, to guide us towards health,” priest Nikolay says.

He adds that on the night of January 17 the church is filled with believers praying for salvation and healing all night long. The next day, January 18, for the feast of St. Athanasius the Great, another service is held. “We know that St. Athanasius was a disciple of St. Anthony, a follower of his work, and we really combine the two feasts with solemn worship.” Priest Nikolay has also shown us a path to spiritual peace and tranquility through his wishes addressed to all believers:

“Let’s love one another and forgive. Let’s do to others what we want them to do to us. Do not forget God and trust Him. When we are in need, we should first turn to Him. Love forgives everything!”