THE LIFE-GIVING SPRING Zoodochos Pege

My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,

CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!

On this day, the Friday of the Renewal or Bright Week,
we celebrate the consecration of the temple of Our
Most Holy Lady and Mother of God
THE LIFE-GIVING SPRING.

One of the most famous shrines of Constantinople, the Zoodochos Pege or the Life-Giving Spring or simply Pege, is located today about five hundred meters from the Theodosian land walls to the west of the city, opposite the Gate of Selymvria or Rhegium, at the site now known in Turkish as Valoukli, Actually, it is the fish that have given its present name fo the locality, for Valoukli in Turkish means "a place with fish." At the shrine, the miraculous spring water flowed into a marble basin that was accessible by a staircase in the interior of the church. Presently, adjacent to this shrine is a Greek Orthodox hospital, Valoukli, for the sick and afflicted. Though the church has been destroyed many times by both earthquakes and Muslims, yet it was always rebuilt. The Church has appointed the Friday after Pascha for the feast of its dedication.

Leo Ist, called Makelles ("the Butcher") or the "Great," because emperor on the 7th day of February, in the year 457. He was of Bessian origin, born in Illyrian Dacia circa 400. He had been a low-ranking officer, bearing the name Markellis, who commanded a garrison in Thracian Selymvria, on the north shore of the Sea of Marmara: hence his other surname, "the Thracian."

An event that took place before he became emperor is worthy of repeating here. It was is a woody area where the Life-Giving Spring, the ancient sanctuary of the Virgin, was originally situated in those years. Before its discovery and before Markellis became emperor, on one occasion, as he was walking and meditating in the forest surrounding the city, he met a blind man who was thirsty. He attempted to lead him to water in the forest but was unable to find any. As he searched for water in the woods, he went toward a spot that was dense with trees, thinking there might be water in that shady grove. Since he did not find any he backtracked, being dejected with downcast eyes. It was then that he heard a voice, "Thou oughtest not to be in anguish, O Leo, for the water is near." While his eyes darted here and there searching, he heard a second voice, "Leo, O emperor, enter into this inner part of the thick tangled shade of trees and receive with joy refreshing water. Besprinkle the blind man who is incapacitated. After his face is bedewed thou shall forthwith know that is it I who have inhabited such a place as this." Markellis was amazed, not only because of the voice but also because he had been addressed as "Emperor Leo." He obeyed the voice and found the spring. As he bathed the eyes of the blind man, the sufferer received his sight. The young officer was astounded by this miracle, but, of course, he understood that it was the Theotokos who energized this water, making it miraculous with curative powers.

After the passage of time, this low-ranking officer, who commanded a garrison in Seylymbria and was the personal manservant of Aspar, was chosen by the latter as Emperor upon Marcian’s death. Now name Leo, as he was addressed in the earlier vision, he was crowned by Patriarch Anatolios (449-458 A.D.), which coronation made it the first performed by a Patriarch. Leo, soon thereafter, erected a shrine at the place where he discovered the Life-Giving Spring. By 468 A.D. Leo freed himself from the control of Aspar and the Goths. Leo and his wife Verina are depicted as pious sovereigns devoted to the veneration of the Theotokos. The imperial couple ordered a gold SOROS (RELIQUARY) for a relic of the Virgin’s MAPHORION.

The second authority narrating this event was the chronicler and ecclesiastical writer Kallistos Xandthopoulos. He was probably born before 1256 A.D. He was a priest at Hagia Sophia, who became the Monk Neilos before his death in 1335 A.D. Although he is better known for his voluminous Ecclesiastical History, yet he is also acclaimed for his recording of the history of miracles that occurred at the shrine. He said that the Emperor Leo I [557-474 A.D.], when still a simple soldier, met at the Golden Gate a blind man who asked him for a drink of water. As he looked around for water, a voice directed him to the spring. Nikephoros also discloses that the voice enjoined him to build a church on the site after he become Emperor.

The shrine that was eventually built grew in fame, and thousands made pilgrimage there to receive healing from their illnesses. Afterward, when Emperor Justinians [527-565 A.D.] was healed, he also built a magnificent church and monastery at the Spring. In fact, according to the history, the great Emperor Justinian suffered from many ailments. As he was walking outside the walls of Constantinople, he beheld a Maiden at the Spring. She instructed him to drink of the water, and he would be healed. The Emperor drank deeply, and was indeed healed. The Maiden, in the meanwhile, had vanished. Justinian took the apparition to be a sign from the Virgin Mary, and built a shrine on the site. The feast day of the shrine has been celebrated on the Friday after Pascha since that time, and people who desire healing have visited it throughout the ages…Justinian was also vouchsafed a vision of a small chapel with a large crowd of people and a priest in front of a spring. "It is the Spring of miracles," he was told. Consequently, the Emperor built not only a larger church but a monastery at the site using surplus materials from the Church of Hagia Sophia. In the 1050s, the Byzantine historian George Kedrenos recorded that the monastery was built in the year 560 A.D.

Nikephoros Kallistos, writing in the 14th century about the holy waters (HAGIASMA), quotes from various sources a total of 63 miracles, of which 15 occurred in his own lifetime. According to Kallistos’ description, the church was ofa rectangular plan, with entrances at each of the four sides. Part of the church was built underground, so that two marble stairways, with twenty-five steps each, led down to the Holy Spring. The richly decorated church had a gilded ceiling, fine wall paintings and holy icons. Of the wall paintings, Kallistos mentins the Feast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion, the Appearance of Christ to the Holy Myrrh-bearing Women, the Ascension, and the Pentecost. He also refers to two icons depicting some of the senses of miracles by means of our Lady of Zoodochos Pete. The chronicler gives the names of the iconographers: Ignatios and the Hieromonk Gabriel. Near the chuch were side Chapels, or PARECCLESIA, erected in honor of Saint Efastratios, and Saint Anna with the Theotokos. [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]

_____________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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