THERMAL SPRINGS, CALCIUM CARBONATE, AND THE “MIRACLE OF THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL AT KHONAE”

In modern Turkey — Asia Minor — there is a town called Honaz.  In pre-Islamic Byzantine days it was called Χῶναι — Khonai.  Very close by was the city of  Κολοσσαί — Kolossai, which is the place named in the New Testament’s Epistle to the Colossians.  Both were in the ancient region called Phrygia.

It is interesting that in the Epistle (its authorship, traditionally attributed to the Apostle Paul, is uncertain), We find this in the King James Version of Colossians 2:18:

“Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels….”

Though the translation of that verse varies, the traditional understanding is that it refers to humans worshipping angels.  It is believed that the center of veneration of the Archangel Michael in the early days of Christianity was at Phrygia, where he was considered more as a healer than as a military patron.

The early angel veneration in Phrygia is interesting in regard to today’s icon type, known as “The Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Khonai” — ЧУДО АРХИСТРАТИГА МИХАИЛА В ХОНЕХ — Chudo Arkhistratiga Mikhaila v Khonekh — or in Greek Το εν Χώναις Θαύμα του Αρχάγγελου Μιχαήλ — To en Khonais Thauma tou Arkhangelou Mikhail — literally “The In Khonae Wonder of the Archangel Michael.”  It is also sometimes called “The Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Colossae.”  Here is a 12th century Byzantine example from the Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai:

According to tradition, the Evangelist John the Theologian supposedly visited the region in the beginning days of Christianity, and foretold that a miraculous spring would burst forth from the ground there, in honor of the Archangel Michael.  And later, that happened.

It is said that in the 4th century, when Christianity had only begun its takeover of the Roman Empire, a certain man of the city of Laodicaea had a daughter who was mute — who could not speak.  A man — some say the Archangel Michael — is said to have appeared to him in a dream, telling him his daughter would speak if she drank from the spring.  She did so and was no longer mute.

In gratitude the father and all the family were baptized, and in addition he had a church dedicated to Michael built at the healing spring.

Some 90 years later, a ten-year old Christian boy named Arkhippos (Άρχιππος) left home for the church at the spring, and became its sexton.  He lived a rigorous and self-mortifying life, living on wild plants, refusing to eat bread, and never bathing (obviously he did not agree with the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness).  He slept on sharp stones and thorny plants.

Now it happened supposedly, that as the years passed and Arkhippos grew up, the healing spring had become so locally famous, and the harsh piety of Arkhippos along with it, that the “pagans” in the region became jealous. They attacked Arkhippos and tried to ruin the spring, but a flame sprang up from it and frightened them off.  But they did not give up.

They next decided to get rid of the spring and Arkhippos at the same time.  Some distance to the left of the church (and the spring was on the left side of it too) there was a stream called the Khryssos.  The pagans diverted it so that it would flow down and flood the healing spring and the church.  But instead of flowing down into the spring on the left, the river instead flowed around the right side of the church, doing no harm.

Now the church and its spring happened to be on a piece of land that was bordered at some distance by two rivers — the Lykokastros and the Kouphos, one river on each side, making it like an island between them.  The pagans determined to collect the waters of the two rivers above the church, and then to open the dike so that the joined waters of the two rivers would rush down and wipe out the spring, the church, and Arkhippos.  They put a lot of labor into digging and delving, preparing their waterworks for the great flood.  Then they let the waters in their dam rise for ten days, and at midnight they released them.

They stood shouting excitedly as the flood of water rushed down on the church.  But Arkhippos heard all the shouting and the rushing of the water, and prayed these words from Psalm 93:3-5 (KJV numbering):

“The rivers have lifted up, O Lord, the rivers have lifted up their voices, at the voices of many waters: the billows of the sea are wonderful: the Lord is wonderful in high places. Your testimonies are made very sure: holiness becomes your house, O Lord, for ever.

Arkhippos, sheltering in the church, suddenly heard the voice of the Archangel Michael calling him by name and telling him to come outside the church to see what was about to happen.  Going out, he saw a pillar of flame from sky to earth.  There stood the Archangel Michael, who made the sign of the cross on a large rock, then struck it with his lance.  The rock split apart, opening a large fissure in the earth into which the floodwaters ran, without doing any harm to the church or its spring.

So that is the story.  Honaz/Khonae is in a region of thermal springs and calcium-laden pools, where the bedrock is calcium carbonate, which water dissolves over time, and opens underground caverns.  The present streams in the area are the Çürüksu (the former Lykos), which includes Karaçay and Honaz Creeks.  Its waters are so laden with calcium carbonate that its name means “rotten water” in Turkish.  So it seems likely that this tale is at least in part an “origin story” explaining the hydrological topography of the area through the religious equivalent of folklore.  And it is also an attempted explanation of the etymology of the place name, because a Χωνιών — Khonion,  in Greek, is a funnel, and the waters were supposedly funneled by Michael into the hole.

Here is a Russian icon pattern for the “Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Khonae.”  It is a bit more detailed than one usually find in icons of this subject:

In the rocky hills at upper left and right, we see the pagans at work diverting the two rivers, one river on each side.  Down below, we see Arkhippos (Arkhipp in Slavic form) standing in front of his church, watching the Archangel Michael with his lance at left.  Michael is directing the floodwaters into a hole down which they swirl like water down a bathroom sink drain.  The artist has added a colorful and lively touch by showing one of the pagans swept headfirst down the flood and toward the hole.

If you look closely at the upper part of the church, you will see that this example has placed a small image of the Archangel Michael upon it, to show to whom it was dedicated.

The only inscriptions on this pattern identify the two main figures, МИХАИЛЪ — Mikhail/Michael at left, and at right Пр АРХИПП — Pr[epodobnuiy] Arkhipp, “Venerable Arkhippos.”

DOUBLED JESUS: THE “COMMUNION OF THE APOSTLES” TYPE

In an earlier posting, we looked at the Tainaya Vechera type — the “Mystic Supper,” which is the form in which the “Last Supper” is commonly presented in Eastern Orthodox iconography.  I also briefly mentioned a related type:  the “Communion of the Apostles.”  In Greek it is generally called  Η ΘΕΙΑ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ (He Theia Koinonia) “Holy Communion,” and in Slavic  Причащения Апостолов — Prichashcheniya Apostolov. the “Communion of the Apostles.”  It depicts Christ standing at an altar, giving communion to the Apostles, who approach from left and right.  Christ is generally shown twice, at left in the so-called metadosis (imparting) of the bread, and at right in the so-called metalepsis (partaking) of the wine. This represents Christ giving the communion in and to the Church on earth — the Church as one related communion.

Here is a rather basic pattern of the type.  instead of the room of the last supper, it is a church; and instead of the table with the Apostles around it, there is an altar (shown twice in this example), often with a canopy above it.  In the finished icon, Jesus would be holding bread at left, and a chalice (or sometimes a jug) at right:

When inscriptions are present in this type (which may be found in churches above the “Tsar Doors” to the altar or on the wall of the eastern apse) they are generally these texts from Matthew 28 in Church Slavic (in Slavic regions) or Greek (in Greek-speaking areas):

Slavic, at left:
Прiими́те, яди́те: сié éсть тѣ́ло моé
Priimite, yadite: cie est’ tyelo moe

Greek, at left:
Λάβετε φάγετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου.
Labete phagete, touto estin to soma mou.

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

Slavic, at right:
Пíйте от­ нея́ вси́:  сiя́ бо éсть крóвь моя́, нóваго завѣ́та, я́же за мнóгiя изливáема во оставлéнiе грѣхóвъ.
Piite ot neya vxi: siya bo est’ krov’ moya, novago zavyeta, yazhe za mnogiya izlevaema vo ostavlenie gryekhov.

Greek, at right:
Πίετε ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ περὶ πολλῶν ἐκχυννόμενον εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν·
Piete ex autou pantes, touto gar estin to haima mou tes diathekes to peri pollon ekkhunnomenon eis aphesin hamartion.

“Drink of it all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

In some examples, one may find an excerpt from the Liturgy of St. Basil:
(Slavic here)

Нас же всех, от единаго Хлеба и Чаши причащающихся, соедини друг ко другу во единаго Духа Святаго причастие.

“Unite us all, who receive of one bread and chalice, one with another in the communion of one Holy Spirit.”

In the basic pattern shown on this page, the number of apostles included is indistinct.  But commonly there are eleven, six at left and five at right.  You may recall that in the New Testament, there are twelve until the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  In this icon type, Judas is generally omitted, because this is a liturgical icon showing a scene “in eternity” as the saying goes,  and Judas is not considered part of that eternal celebration.  Nonetheless, some painters included Judas, who may be shown turning away, or even in some examples with a black halo to distinguish him from the “accepted” apostles.

“HOLY WEEK” ICONS

There is a group of related icons that are associated with the liturgical texts of “Holy Week,” the annual celebration of the Passion and death of Jesus.

The first is shows Jesus after his scourging, wearing a scarlet cloak over his shoulders, hands tied at the wrists, the crown of thorns on his head, and a long reed in one hand.  This image has long been known in the West by the Latin name Ecce Homo — “Behold the man,” the words of Pilate when presenting Jesus to the crowd.

Greek examples of the type often bear those same words, only in Greek as  Ίδε ο άνθρωπος — Ide ho Anthropos.  We see that Greek inscription (in upper case) at the left side of this late 19th century print from Mount Athos.  The words are run together as:
ΙΔΕΟΑΗΘΡΩΠΟC.  At right, to cater to another group of customers, is the same inscription in Church Slavic:  СЕ ЧЕЛОВЕКЪ — Se Chelovek — “Behold the Man.”

It is important to know, however, that this type is generally known in Greek Orthodoxy by a different title:  Ο Νυμφίος — Ho Nymphios — meaning “The Bridegroom,” Jesus being considered the bridegroom of the Church.  This “Bridegroom” title comes from a troparion in the Bridegroom Matins service of “Holy Week.”

«Ιδού, ο Νυμφίος έρχεται εν τω μέσω της νυκτός, και μακάριος ο δούλος, ον ευρήσει /γρηγορούντα. Ανάξιος δε πάλιν ον ευρήσει ραθυμούντα. Βλέπε ουν, ψυχή μου, μη τω ύπνω κατενεχθείς, ίνα μη τω θανάτω παραδοθείς και της βασιλείας έξω κλεισθείς. Αλλά ανάνηψον κράζουσα· Άγιος, Άγιος, Άγιος ει ο Θεός ημών, διά της Θεοτόκου ελέησον ημάς».

Behold, the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night, and happy is the servant whom he finds awake.  Unworthy, however, the one whom he finds indolent.  See therefore, my soul, that sleep does not overcome you, so that you be not handed over to death and be shut out of the Kingdom.  But alert, cry:  Holy Holy, Holy are you our God, through the Mother of God have mercy on us.”

That troparion, in turn, is derived from the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25, which begins:

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go out to meet him.

Greek examples one commonly sees of the Nymphios/Bridegroom type are generally 19th century or later.

Another Passion-related type is the image found often in older icons, called Η Ακρα Ταπεινωσις — He Akra Tapeinosis — “[the] Extreme Humility.”

This type shows the body of Jesus upright, with the spear and sponge of the Passion.   Russians call it Царь Славы — Tsar Slavui — “[the] King of Glory.”  Here is a Russian proris’ — a painter’s pattern — of that image, which would be reversed on the actual icon:

You may recall that “Tsar Slavui” is also part of the standard inscription found on Russian icons of the Crucifixion.  This title is also often found on Greek icons of the Crucifixion, sometimes on the signboard at the top of the cross as ΟΒΣΛΤΔΞ, abbreviating  Ό Βασιλεύς της Δόξης — Ho Basileus tes Doxes — “The King of Glory,”  and sometimes written in full on or near the main crossbeam.

Russian iconography generally prefers adding Mary to this type; she holds the body of Jesus, upright from the waist in a stylized stone sarcophagus.  With Mary added, the preferred title in Slavic becomes  Neruiday Mene Mati — “Weep Not for Me Mother”:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

Russians generally classify it as a Marian image, which accounts for the title inscription on the above icon:  Neruiday Mene Mati Presvyatuiya Bogoroditsui — “The ‘Weep Not for Me’ Most Holy Mother of God.”

The “Weep Not” title is taken from the liturgy for Holy Saturday (celebrated as the day after the crucifixion):

«Не рыдай Мене, Мати, зряще во гробе, Его же во чреве без семени зачала еси Сына: возстану бо и прославлюся и вознесу со славою, непрестанно яко Бог, верою и любовию Тя величающия».

Weep not for me, Mother, seeing in the tomb the son, conceived without seed in the womb,  For I shall arise and be glorified, as God I shall exalt with glory unceasing those who with faith and love magnify you.

This “Weep Not for Me” type is essentially a variation on the Greek Η ΑΠΟΚΑΘΗΛΟΣΙΣ — He Apokathelosis —  “The Removal [from the Cross],” in which Mary grasps the body of Jesus as it is taken down.   in fact some Greek examples in this general form — have He Apokathelosis as the title inscription.   The Western European (Roman Catholic) equivalent of the “Weep Not for Me, Mother” is the Pietà — not quite the same, but related.  

There is another “Holy Week” type one should be aware of, because it is found not only in painted icons, but also in needlework on fabric as a liturgical object used in the Good Friday and Holy Saturday services.  Such an elaborately embroidered cloth is called an Epitaphios, or in Russia a Плащаница — Plashchanitsa.

The title of this type is Ο ΕΠΙΤΑΦΙΟΣ ΘΡΗΝΟΣ — Ho Epitaphios Threnos — “The Lament [threnos] Over [epi-] the Tomb [-taphios/taphos].”  In English it is often called simply the “Lamentation.” Here is an example by Theophanes the Cretan, found at the Stavronikita Monastery on Mt. Athos.  The Ο Επιτάφιος Θρήνος title is just above the main crossbeam:

It is interesting to compare it with the earlier Italian fresco (1305) by Giotto, of the same event:

lamentationedigiottodibondone

In spite of its much earlier date, the Giotto image seems more full of genuine emotion than the Stavronikita image, less “hieratic” –and a precursor to the Renaissance.