Today, August 27th, is the feast day of Saint Phanourius. For my non-Orthodox readers, a feast day is the date a saint, holy event, or holy object is commemorated in the Church. Feast days are mainly celebrated through the hymnography of the church services appointed for that day. Today is the day that Saint Phanourius is remembered and celebrated.
I have a special affinity for this saint due to an amusing incident that occurred shortly after my husband and I got engaged. We had only been engaged for a couple weeks when I lost my engagement ring. I was devastated. I looked everywhere that I was that day and couldn’t find it. I was certain that I had left it in the bathroom at work (I took it off to wash my hands); however, it wasn’t there. I assumed someone had seen it on the sink and kept it. That same evening I decided to see if there were any saints that people often ask for help when they lose items, and I came upon the story of St. Phanourius. I decided to ask him for his intercessions and help to find my engagement ring that night before going to bed. I was still fairly new to the concept of asking saints for help and prayers since I was a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity, and so I still felt kind of weird about it. I’ll admit, I was slightly skeptical that St. Phanourius would actually help.
The next morning, however, I walked into the kitchen and found the ring sitting on the counter. It was very odd for it to be on the counter since I did not recall taking it off, nor would I have had a reason to take it off there. In fact, I had spent virtually no time in the kitchen the day I lost the ring because it had been a busy day and I had gone out to eat that evening. The ring was nowhere near the sink, so it wasn’t as if I had taken it off to wash my hands or the dishes. It was sitting curiously right in the center of the main counter that separated the kitchen from the dining area, as if it had been strategically placed there for me to find easily. I was overjoyed and began to cry. Immediately, my skepticism regarding St. Phanourius vanished.
As a gift to him for his help I made a Phanouripita, which is basically a sweet spice bread or cake, and prayed for the salvation of the saint’s mother, as the various articles I read about him had said to do.
I also made some little icons of him using some icons printed off the internet, glue and wooden squares and glitter glue from Hobby Lobby. I gave them to my church as a reminder to all of us (especially me) that the saints are real, that prayer works and that even the small insignificant details of our lives are important to God. I have heard many similar stories from people who have asked this saint for help to find a lost object, and afterward the object has shown up somewhere.
It is easy, especially in our modern world of skepticism and scientific inquiry, to ignore or forget spiritual matters. We dismiss stories like these as mere coincidence or even silly superstition. We often act as if we live, to quote Father Stephen Freeman, in a “two-story universe,” where God is up there, we are down here, and the spiritual and material rarely meet except through prayers, at which time God [maybe] chooses to reach down into our world to act.
Orthodox theology, on the other hand, views the material and the spiritual as existing together here and now in the present – a “one-story universe” as opposed to a “two-story universe.” Indeed, God truly is believed to be “everywhere present and filling all things.” When we gather for worship and participate in the Divine Liturgy, the reality of the one-story universe is made evident. In the service, Heaven and Earth collide in a beautiful and mysterious way. The bread and wine truly, yet mysteriously, become the body and blood of Christ. The material objects themselves become divine; and then we, with our material bodies, partake of these divine elements, taking divinity into our humanity. Just as Christ, through His incarnation, took on humanity, we, through partaking of the Holy Mysteries, become more like Him – more divine. Additionally, the priest blesses material objects, such as water, not so they are made into something different, but rather to reveal them as what they have always been. Similarly, icons of Christ, His mother and the saints are as “windows to Heaven,” not that they are windows to someplace that exists elsewhere, but rather they are a revelation of life as it truly is and is meant to be.
Today, one of the little icons I made of this saint sits by our bathroom sink, right next to our ring holder. Every night when I take my wedding ring off to go to bed, I am reminded of my lost ring incident. It is a daily reminder of God’s presence and of His care for every detail of my life, even the mundane ones that I often taken advantage of. It is also a reminder of the life of the saint himself – a great hope for me, as all the stories of the saints are, that perhaps one day I too will be worthy of such a name.