A Miraculous Icon of St. Nicholas in Indiana

Archpriest Victor Potapov, Priest Elias Warncke

Photo: Google Photo: Google
    

The St. George Orthodox Church (ROCOR) in Michigan City, Indiana is a sort of relic in and of itself. Its foundation dates back to the time in America when all Orthodox churches were united under the Russian Orthodox Church, that Church being the only one with a bishop in North America. The Russian Church gathered into its fold the Arabic-speaking Orthodox who had emigrated to the new land, under Bishop Raphael (Hawaweeny)[1] of Brooklyn, vicar of the Syro-Arabian Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church—the first Orthodox Christian bishop consecrated on American soil. His consecration was performed in New York City by Archbishop Tikhon (Bellavin) (later Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, and now a canonized saint) and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky)

Saint Raphael of Brooklyn Saint Raphael of Brooklyn
Traveling throughout the continent in the first years of the twentieth century, Bishop Raphael founded thirty parishes in North America. St. Raphael, a man of apostolic fervor, was influenced by many cultures. He was born and raised in the Middle East, educated by Greeks at Halki and by Russians at Kiev, and he spent the last nineteen years of his life as a missionary in North America. He traveled all over the continent to guide the Arabic-speaking flock. Bishop Raphael also consecrated the St. George Church in Michigan City on September 4, 1914—most likely the last church he consecrated before his untimely death. The St. George Mission also received funds from the Royal Martyr Nicholas II of Russia.

On the winter feast day of St. Nicholas in 1996, the grace of God was made manifest through an icon of the saint, when it began streaming holy and healing myrrh. Here is the story of this miraculous icon as told by its curator, Priest Elias Warnke, who submitted it to the St. Nicholas Center, http://www.stnicholascenter.org. Also from that site is a report by Fr. Victor Potapov of the St. John the Baptist Church in Washington, DC on other miracles of healing that came through this icon.

Sadly, the caretaker of the icon, Fr. Elias Warnke, is now in schism from his mother Church and has taken the icon with him to a mission parish near Las Vegas, Nevada. The icon continues to stream myrrh, as the current priest of the St. George Church in Michigan City, Hieromonk Timothy Tadros attests.

History of the Myrrh-streaming Icon

St Nicholas icon, one month after it began streaming myrrh. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org St Nicholas icon, one month after it began streaming myrrh. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org
​On the morning, of December 6/19, 1996, I, Fr. Elias Warnke, arrived with the Reader Timothy Tadros[2] at our church, St. George the Great Martyr, in Michigan City, Indiana. It was the feast day of St. Nicholas. He is a very important saint for our temple. It was the Tsar-martyr Nicholas, of the same name of our holy Hierarch, that supported our church in its beginnings with financial aid. He gave the temple our first icons for the iconostasis (including one of St. Nicholas), and a gold missionary cross for the first and founding priest, the Rev. Anthony Abu-Alam Farrah, my great uncle.

On this snowy morning at about 6:30 a.m. when we opened the door of our temple and came into the vestibule, the reader and myself were engulfed in the sweet fragrance of roses in the hot summer sun. I questioned the fragrance, which seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. We opened the door to the nave and the fragrance became even more powerful, but not overbearing, it was like it was inside you so that you felt it. This was also evidenced by that fact that both Timothy and I had colds, which left us congested and unable to smell much. We turned on the lights and Timothy began to look around for the source of the fragrance.

I looked toward the Royal doors and saw that the Icon of St. Nicholas that was on the analogion stand from Sunday’s Liturgy had three glistening streams pouring from it. My whole body became flushed and rigid, feeling as if my heart seemed to fall through the floor. Through my tears I said, “It’s St. Nicholas.” I could not even tell if it was me saying it, I seemed to be rooted to the spot, unable to approach the icon.

After a few minutes (which seemed like an hour) I was able to join Timothy at the icon where he was already doing prostrations before the icon. I looked the icon and determined what was happening and observed that from the very top of the Saint’s forehead liquid was streaming in three streams. One down the center across the nose and two on either side, which appeared to go around the eyes and to the bottom of the icon which was slightly inclined for veneration. Though the fragrance was very prevalent, it still did not appear to be coming directly from the icon, but permeated everything.

As I tried to discern what was happening before me, I went through a range of emotions starting with fear, turning to sadness and bittersweet joy. For this was not the first time that our Lord had chosen me to be a witness to His glory. A little more than three years before, while serving Liturgy in another church, dedicated to the All-Holy Trinity, He blessed me to see myrrh beginning to stream from the wounds made by the crown of thorns in an icon of the Crucifixion. This transformed me from a Christian who rationalized the faith to a true believer in our Lord Jesus Christ, eventually leading me to the Russian Church Abroad seeking salvation for my wretched soul.

Because of my past experience I was cautious, being careful not to allow the demons which prey on us to draw me into the trap of rationalization. For our Lord is infinite, and His will determines all things. I put on an epitrachilion and lifted the icon to examine the underneath, which appeared to be dry. It is important to note that this icon is a paper print reproduction, which is laminated on the top with plastic and glued to a board. Mounted in the icon is a relic of St. Nicholas, which was given to our church by Hieromonk Simeon at St. Isaac of Syria Skete, where the icon was made. The monks have very strict standards by which they produce the icons, this was one that had not passed inspection and was put in the reject bin to be given away as gifts to visitors. This is where it was given to me, and I brought it home. The liquid appeared to be coming right through the plastic laminate.

I questioned Timothy about his recent visits to the church since Sunday, the last time I was there, and he told me he had not been there for two days. Not suspecting any human intervention since only Timothy, reader George Mixis, and myself have keys, we praised God for the streams which were flowing before our eyes. Going into the sanctuary I took some cotton balls and I placed them at the bottom of the icon to gather the myrrh that was collecting there. The myrrh appeared clear on the icon yet it was golden in color on the cotton, and very fragrant. I touched some to it to my tongue, it was very bitter and it numbed my tongue immediately.

Since it was so early we decided not to try to contact His Eminence Archbishop Alypy until we could reach him after Liturgy at the sobor. Later that afternoon after I had privately said thc prayers of exorcism over the icon and touched the hand cross to it to assure myself of the manifestation, I was able to contact Fr. Andrei Sommer, Chancellor of the Diocese and tell him of the incident. He informed Vladyka Alypy and it was decided that we should bring the icon to the cathedral for Vladyka’s inspection the next day. It is about an hour and half drive to the cathedral.

Later in the day the Abbess and nuns of the local Stavropegal Serbian monastery came to join us in saying the Akathist to St. Nicholas. During the akathist the myrrh flowed freely for all those in attendance. All of us, with tears in our eyes and joy in our hearts, as one, felt the presence of our Holy Hierarch Nicholas and rejoiced in his wonder-working intercession and love for us. The myrrh has been streaming from the icon since, though it streams very slowly, and sometimes intermittently.

A case was built for the icon and a young Serbian man made a riza of copper and semi-precious stones for the icon, which is how it appears today. The Icon has visited many churches because it is portable. God in His infinite mercy has granted many things to those who have been touched by this Holy Icon. I will recount some of them:

Myrrh-streaming icon with it new riza in 2000. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org Myrrh-streaming icon with it new riza in 2000. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org
My reader called me one evening and said there was a woman in town who had come to pick up her nephew and to bury her 31-year old sister who had died. He wondered if she could see the Icon and be anointed because she was having a very hard time. The woman and my reader met me at the church and we entered together. As we went into the church the woman began to weep and told me that she had not been in a church for a long time. I took her before the icon and she stood and looked at it for a very long time sobbing continually. After a while I took some cotton from the icon and anointed her forehead, praying that the Lord would help her through the intercessions of our holy Hierarch.

She explained to me that she was given custody of her nephew but she had a problem. She had cancer and didn’t expect to survive the next couple of years and the child was only seven. She had already had both of her breasts removed and was undergoing chemical treatment for the cancer that was in tumors in her side. I told her that everything comes from the Lord, even healing. I gave her a small piece of the cotton with myrrh on it and told her to anoint herself in the name of the Holy Trinity every day, asking for God’s will to be done.

Some two weeks later my reader called me and said that the woman had called from Ohio where she lived and told him that when she had gone that week to start a new round of chemical treatment that they discovered that the cancer was completely gone from her body. The doctors were so amazed that they kept her in the hospital for a day for observation but found nothing, proclaiming her healed. That was over a year and a half ago, recently she said that she still has no cancer and is living well and thanking God every day for the joy of raising her nephew named Nicholas.

During a visit with the icon to a monastery (the monastery where the icon came from) a man came and told me he would like some myrrh for his wife who had been ill with cancer for many years and could not get out of her bed for the last two. I anointed him and gave him some myrrh and a picture of the icon to take to her. He told me that she had lost her faith a long time ago and though he believed that this would be a great blessing, she might not. I told him to explain what he had seen and to anoint her in the name of the Holy Trinity, asking for the intercessions of our Holy Hierarch.

About a week later I received a call from the monastery to let me know that the man had called and said that when he arrived home he went to his wife’s room and took out the myrrh and the picture to give to her. Even before he could explain what it was, she grabbed it from him and held it to her chest crying, he could not calm her until she fell asleep.

The next day he woke in his normal routine to care for her and went to her room to find the bed she had been a prisoner of for the past two years was empty. He ran through the house to find her in the kitchen making breakfast. She told him that she felt fine. After testing by the doctors she was found to have no cancer in her body. I have met this woman since and she is very healthy and happy, thanking God for His mercy.

A parishioner asked me one day if he could take some myrrh to a friend who was being attacked by the passion of alcoholism, drinking two bottles of vodka a day, each day. I gave it to him and told him how to anoint her.

The woman was anointed and from that moment to this day, over a year, she has not returned to her drinking. She was so grateful for her relief from this passion that she asked me if she could have the 50 year old tile floor in the temple replaced so that the Icon and God’s Holy House could be pleasing to Him. I said she had no obligation to do so, but she disagreed strongly and installed hardwood floors.

Many people have been healed of many maladies through their strengthening of their faith. . . . I have always been diligent to remind all who see it that it comes from God as does everything that is good that may happen to them. . . .

Fr. Elias Warnke,
Caretaker of the Holy Myrrh-Streaming Icon of Saint Nicholas,
St. George the Great Martyr Orthodox Church, Michigan City, Indiana

More miracles of the St. Nicholas Icon

by Fr. Victor S. Potapov, Rector, Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Washington, D.C.

The myrrh-streaming icon visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in 1999 and again in April, 2000. The following experiences were shared with the congregation before the icon came the second time.

The icon prepared for veneration. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org The icon prepared for veneration. Photo: www.stnicholascenter.org
    

​I would like to share three inspiring testimonies... Allow me to introduce you to three individuals dear to our hearts: Tatiana, Christina and Alexander and describe the great and wondrous mercy shown to them by the Lord through the prayers of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. In June 1997 my parishioner Tatiana was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—Non-Hodgkin’s Mantle Cell Lymphoma—and was given 18 months to live. Tatiana is in her 50’s but looks much older than her age because of numerous chemotherapy treatments. Her weight reached a mere 82 lbs.

In February 1999, Fr. Elias Warnke came to Washington with the Holy Icon for a three-day visit. I wanted to take the Icon to Tanya’s home and serve a moleben, but she categorically refused, insisting that she would come to church to pray in person. It was heart wrenching to observe her, literally a living skeleton, dragging herself to church and fervently praying before the wonder-working image of St. Nicholas. Two days later, Tatiana went to her physician’s office for another session of chemotherapy. The doctor examined her and to his amazement discovered that the cancerous tumors in her lymph nodes were gone. He was completely at a loss for an answer but told Tanya that she should go home and rest for a month from further chemotherapy treatments. A month later Tatiana returned to her doctor. He ordered blood tests, a CAT scan and other tests. All of the results were negative. The doctor was perplexed, because what he encountered was medically impossible. He told Tanya that she was in total remission. That was a year ago. Since then the handmaid of God Tatiana is regaining her strength and looking forward to joining us for common prayers of thanksgiving for God’s great mercy.

The next person I want you to meet is Christina, a non-Orthodox 30-year-old American of Dutch extraction. Christina was stricken with a rapidly spreading cancerous brain tumor, which grew to six centimeters. The size of the tumor made surgery impossible. In the Winter of 1999, shortly after Fr. Elias’ visit to Washington, one of my parishioners gave a piece of myrrh-drenched cotton swabs to Benedicta, a German-American acquaintance, who in turn gave the swab to Christina along with a medallion of St. Nicholas, blessed with the Holy Myrrh. Christina began anointing herself with the myrrh, which she kept next to her bed and put on the medallion. In December, Christina underwent another CAT scan, which showed that her tumor had shrunk by 30%. On April 4th of the this year, Benedicta, having learned that the Icon of St. Nicholas would once again be visiting our parish, called my matushka and joyfully reported to her that a recent MRI of Christina showed that all traces of cancer had disappeared. Christina and her friends plan to come to church this weekend and join us in expressing thanksgiving to God.

Finally, the case of Alexander, a 40-year old immigrant from the Ukraine. He and his family came to the United States in the 80’s. In November of 1999 Alexander was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. On December 10th, 1999 Fr. Elias was in Washington with the Icon of St. Nicholas. On Dec. 11th he allowed me to take the Holy Icon to sick parishioners, among whom was the gravely ill Alexander. A few days before he had 2/3 of his liver removed. Alexander lost a lot of weight and looked terrible. I put the icon on his bed and proceeded to serve a moleben, during which he and his wife Olga prayed fervently. Following the prayer service I confessed Alexander and gave him Holy Communion.

A month ago Alexander attended services at our Cathedral. I could barely recognize him. He has regained 35 lbs. since December. He told us that all traces of cancer were gone. He has resumed his job. His physicians are at a loss to explain his cure. Alexander is presently writing a detailed testimony of his experience and plans to include in it details of how in 1990 his wife Olga was cured of late stage melanoma by the Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of the Holy Theotokos. Alexander and Olga will also join us in church to give prayerful thanks…

The Holy Church of Christ has bestowed upon St. Nicholas the title “wonderworker” because his whole life was one continuous spiritual wonder. All of the miracles he has wrought are manifestations of great help for and defense of the defenseless. Wondrous was his ability to combine a principled stance in matters of Faith, a defense of Christ’s Truth and a condescending love for people, manifested in his continuous desire to help those in need. The heart of the believer is drawn to St. Nicholas’ meekness and love for others. Already during his earthly life he was called “the father of orphans and comforter of sufferers.”

Truly, glorious is God in His saints!

Archpriest Victor Potapov, Priest Elias Warncke

12/19/2017

[1] Reposed February 27, 1915. His feast day is celebrated in the Antiochian Archdiocese on the first Saturday of November.

[2] Now Hieromonk Timothy.

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