It was May 22 of 1967. I turned ten a few days ago. My mother decided to visit a Holy spring of St. Vasilisk, one of the Christian martyrs in Abkhazia. It was a year, when our mother experienced frequent and severe heart pains, and I was also hospitalized several times due to different reasons. An old nun from a tiny Ukrainian town Korets suggested my mother to go to the Holy spring for ablution in its miraculous water and praying to St. Vasilisk. She assured her with the words, “St. Vasilisk heals everyone, who believes in God. You are strong in faith, Maria. Go there, pray to St. Vasilisk, and he will help you and Tikhon. It’s better to be there during his memorial week.”
Then the nun from Korets narrated us the story of St. Vasilisk. I listened to it, as I could listen to a fairy tale about a strong and brave hero, but not as a brilliant example of faith. St. Vasilisk was executed in 308. His sufferings were described by St. Evsigny, the witness of Vasilisk’s torments and execution.
St. Vasilisk and his family were Christians, but the emperor Maksimian Galeriya (305-311) was pagan. He persecuted the Christianity and executed many Christians, including Vasilisk’s uncle and brothers. Vasilisk was imprisoned in town of Komany. One night, he saw a dream. In that dream the Lord visited him in prison and warned that Vasilisk would be executed soon. When Vasilisk woke up early in the morning, he asked the guards to let him go home and see his family for the last time. They trusted the decent person. Vasilisk explained to his family that they saw him for the last time, and his only request was to preserve their faith in Jesus Christ.
The local authority found out that Vasilisk went home and became furious. He punished the guards and sent a military detachment to return Vasilisk to the prison. The military attachment met Vasilisk on his way back. They put him in heavy irons, and on his bare feet, they put copper boots with sharp nails inwards in the soles. Vasilisk walked slowly without complains. His blood was dripping all the way along the road. When the military men became tired and hungry, they stopped in one of the villages in the house of a woman Trojana. She served them some food. They kept Vasilisk outside in the hot sun, chained to a dry tree. Vasilisk prayed all the time, and suddenly, he heard the voice of the Lord, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” The Lord proved His presence with miraculous signs. There was the earthquake, and a strong flow of cold water came out from the depth of the earth through a huge stone.
The ruler wanted Vasilisk to sacrifice for pagans’ idols, but Vasilisk refused, saying, “Every moment I bring my sacrificing to the Lord with praising Him in my prayers.” Then they forced him to step into the pagan temple. The moment he entered the temple, the Lord sent the fire from the sky and burned the temple. The local authority became infuriated and ordered to cut off the head of a stubborn prisoner. They threw his body into the river, but people found it and buried on the field. Later, the church was built on the place where people buried the martyr, and his relics were removed to the church.
We went for a long pilgrimage to Abkhazia. It was the last part of our journey. At 5 a.m. a small bus left Sukhumi bus station. Being stuffed with passengers, it moved slowly into the Caucuses mountains. At every stop, I had a strong desire to get out and stretch my legs. My younger five-year-old sister was lucky, because she fell asleep at the time of departure. Our rear seat on the bus did not allow me to see the full panorama of the sunrise in Caucuses. In an hour or so the driver stopped and announced with a loud voice,
“Here is the spring of St. Vasilisk. Somebody wanted me to make a stop here.”
My mother thanked him and we exited the bus. The day promised to be beautiful. I enjoyed fresh and chilly air at the magnificent moment of sunrise. I must say that the nature in the Caucasus Mountains is special. I was ten years old, and my senses were opened to beauty, pureness and aromas, unknown before.
Our mother looked around, and I realized that she did not know, where to go. There was rather steep, dirt road down to the meadow. For a while, we stood at the curb of the road, waiting for somebody, who could show us the path to the Holy place. Nobody appeared and our mother decided to go down. It took about half an hour to reach a tiny pond there. There were four groups of people near the pond. They belonged to different nationalities and were dressed in their ethnic clothing.
All of us arrived to the Holy Spring on the day when St. Martyr Vasilisk was executed. All of us prayed to him in different languages. The group of monks from the neighbor monastery was the largest one. When we reached the Holy spring, I saw the true picture that was described by the nun. It was true, a strong flow of Holy spring was coming out of a huge stone, nourishing a shallow pond. I knew that we arrived there to pray, cleansing through ablution in the water of the Holy spring and ask St. Vasilisk for improvement of health and welfare.
My sister and I took off our shoes and stepped in cold water of the pond that reached my knees. In a couple of minutes we got used to its chilly temperature and began to pray. My sister was the first who noticed that something strange was going on at the bottom of the pond. She pointed with her finger, attracting my attention, “Tikhon, look! Open your eyes and look here!” Then she turned to our mother, who stayed near the pond and shouted, “Mama, look what we have here!”
Her excitement brought the attention of other people around. They came closer and everyone was stunned for a moment, then kneeled and thanked Lord for the miracle they witnessed with their own eyes.
On the bottom of the pond, there was a big icon of Holy Mary with baby Jesus, and we were watching it at the moment of its creation. It looked like it was made of bright and colorful mosaic. Every detail of the icon pronounced so real that being ten years of age, I couldn’t doubt in its genuineness. My sister and I tried to pick up the beautiful stones from the bottom of the pond, but there was nothing in the hands except sand. Nobody moved away and in some time, we noticed that some changes were taking place in the middle of the icon. Invisible magician was creating something else. All of us saw it simultaneously – an ancient chariot was coming slowly. Mother of God with baby Jesus took the chariot and Jesus waved with his hand. I thought He blessed me personally, but everyone saw it, as well. I kneeled in water of the Holy spring and thanked Him and St. Vasilisk from the bottom of my heart.
The image of the icon in the pond was staying to the dusk. I was surprised how fast the people learned about that miracle. In the second half of the day, more than five hundred people were feasting all together around the Holy spring. We were praying, praising God and celebrating a miracle that God blessed us with. Mutual joy filled our hearts, and nobody paid attention at the differences in nationalities and religions. All of us were God’s children, as the priests, mullahs and ministers of other confessions preached. People were friendly to each other, and everyone wanted to meet my sister, in order she could tell them about the beginning of the miracle.
Late at night, the rain started, and the water in the pond turned white, like milk. In the morning of the next day, the buses brought more people and the reporters with cameras arrived. However, the rain cleared the center part of the picture with chariot, leaving here and there some colorful pieces of mosaic. We stayed at the Holy Spring of St. Martyr Vasilisk for three days, praising the Divinity and rejoicing with people. Since then, I was blessed with devoted faith in Divinity. Could it be different?
Angelic Tarasio (Tikhon is my husband)
“Awakening of Faith Article Series”
Seconds and minutes were flying away unmercifully fast, when a well-trained rescue team ran under the terrible sounds of a siren along the corridor of St. Christopher hospital. The heart of a ten-year-old girl had stopped on the operating table and did not want to restart its pumping.
The team was working so quickly that you could hardly see the hand motions of the life savers. Short commands were followed by immediate responses. The heart made 3-4 beats and stopped again. The orthopedic surgeon stepped out of the operating room. The clinical death was recorded, and it interfered with his work, diminishing the chances for the 3-rd spinal fusion surgery to be completed. The worst thing was to lose the life of that girl, unbelievably strong and tolerant person at her ten. Dr. Best thought, “What was wrong this time? Same type of anesthesia was given to the child. The only difference was in the body position. She underwent two surgeries without serious complications and, all of a sudden, we lost her.”
The excessive bleeding unexpectedly started in 20 minutes from the beginning of the surgery. It caused the heart failure and complete stop of the heart. The talented surgeon stopped for a minute, analyzing the circumstances. He was not ready to fail. “This time, I was sure that the girl could stand everything without hurdles.”
When the emergency siren rang, Tikhon told his wife, “There is something wrong with our Tati.” He pronounced the statement out loud and was sorry about it. His wife looked at him with her eyes full of fear and asked, “What do you mean?” Tikhon did not answer. Tammy got up and exited the waiting room. She stood on the second floor of a wonderful, recently built St. Christopher Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, helplessly looking at the people around.
Tikhon wanted to calm Tammy down and gently touched her elbow, saying, “I could be wrong…”
She knew that he was right. From the very beginning, they were given one chance out of a hundred that their daughter could survive the very first surgery. Thank God, she was good with two. Tammy thought, “What had happened with Tati?” At that moment, she wanted to be near her girl and cuddle her tiny body with multiple scars. Tammy wandered along the endless corridor in the direction of the surgical block. She was bitterly crying and praying,
“Oh Lord! Save my child. She suffered terribly for eight years. Please, be merciful to my girl. Do not force the innocent kid to undergo tortures. Do not punish us with her death. We love our girl so much that we cannot imagine our life without her. Cannot You see how her mother dies for her? Please, do not take my kid away from me. If even her walking is not in Your nearest plans, I agree to carry her in my arms, as long as I can. Dear Lord, let our sweetheart be with us.”
Tammy stopped for a moment, looked up at the painting, she was passing by, and froze there. She knew the painting very well. It was a clown in black oversized tuxedo with white face and funny red nose. He carried a small girl on his left arm, and a girl was holding her bear. In the morning, Tammy passed by the picture several times, but at that particular moment, there was something different there. The tears did not allow distinguish it in a distance. The disturbed mother came closer. She was shocked - it was an icon of Jesus Christ, who was looking judgmentally at distressed mother.
She shuddered and exclaimed, “My Lord, forgive me. I understand what You mean: Tati is not mine. She is Your child, as all of us. Take her, if You consider that she has suffered enough. Take her now and do not extend her agony. My Lord, forgive me my selfishness. I tried to be a good mother, saving the life of my child by all possible means. Was I wrong, praying every day to You and asking for leaving my sweetheart with me? She was in endless suffering, but I could not imagine losing her. Forgive me, please. I do not want my poor child to suffer because of my selfish love and fear to lose her. I let her go.”
At that very moment Tammy heard that somebody called her, announcing,
“I have good news for you: your girl is back. Her condition is stable now. You can see her in the recovery room.”
Tammy whispered, “Thank you, Lord!” and looked up at the painting. A funny clown with a girl smiled to her.
Rushing after the nurse to the recovery room, Tammy thought, “Glory to Thee, O Lord for Your miraculous lesson”.
By Angelic Tarasio (I am Tammy in this true story),
“Awakening of Faith Article Series”