it’s been a roller coaster couple of months for me. it all started about three months ago with a phone call from my doctor’s office saying they found something near my breastbone on a recent chest x-ray. the doctor ordered it because of a persistent cough i’ve had and the occasional feeling that something was stuck in my throat, causing difficulty in swallowing.
naturally, my thoughts turn toward the worst. every time you turn around someone else has some type of cancer or disease, it seems like that’s all you hear nowadays. i believe our diets and the harmful additives in the foods we eat are one of the main causes of this.
last year, a dear friend of mine from Chicago went to venerate the relics of the Precious Cross that were brought to the US from Greece. These particular relics are known for having countless miracles worked through them. the priest who brought them over suggested people bring tshirts or blankets to bless over them. my friend did this and was kind enough to bless us with a tiny receiving blanket that was placed on the relics. i had started to sleep with the blanket on my chest and took it with me and laid it on top of me during my ct scan.
a long, drawn out two days later, they called with the results. there was definitely a soft tissue mass but it was not near my breastbone. they now thought it was somehow related to my esophagus. this relieved me a little bit. i had been praying ceaselessly for the intercessions of the Theotokos and Sts. Panteleimon and Nektarios and felt at peace knowing they, along with so many other people were praying for me. i never, ever underestimate the power of prayer… deep down, i know that it will be ok. i do. but at the same time, i pray for God’s will, whatever that might be. i know and believe that all things are done for the salvation of our souls and though, i pray that this will be nothing, i want it to be of His will, not my own.
whenever doubt tries to poke it’s ugly head back into my thoughts, i fight back with the Jesus prayer. and you know what? because of His strength, i am fearless. only through His strength.
it’s common for greeks, and other orthodox cultures, to make tama’s when praying for something. so, i made a tama to recite the agni parthene every day. it’s something that i’ve wanted to memorize for a long time now but never made the effort. that hymn is beautiful beyond words. it also felt appropriate since it was written by St. Nektarios. i always find comfort in the promises of God and His saints, so when i read this quote (last paragraph below) by St. Nektarios in the back of a little book called, Unrivaled Protectress, i found comfort yet again.
“When you read my hymns to our Lady, the Theotokos, raise your mind and heart unto Her, the most-compassionate Mother of the Lord, and you will obtain Her swift help and aid.” -St. Nektarios
the next step was to order an esophagram, which confirmed there was something there causing blockage when I swallow. only they weren’t sure if it was actually in my esophagus or on the outside somewhere and putting pressure on it. so then, they ordered an endoscopy. this is when i started getting nervous again. just the thought that there is really something there, is surreal. and of course, as much as i warn others never to read webmd, i caught myself googling symptoms. esophageal cancer was the most common thing that pulled up. this is why i warn people of this, everyone is dying according to webmd. :/
i was scheduled on new year’s eve, but due to a nasty flu had to reschedule. this time they pushed me all the way into february. february 11. i hung up feeling so down at having to wait over an entire month to even have the test done, let alone get the results. i wanted to cry but told myself i had to have faith. God probably just wanted to drag this on for as long as possible because i’ve been praying harder than i have in a long time… He probably figures now that He has my full attention, He’ll try and keep it that way for awhile.
after i hung up, i walked over to the calendar and flipped to february. i always like to see what saints are being celebrated, especially when we have important appointments, etc. i read that st. blaise (Vlasios in greek) of sebaste is celebrated on february 11. st. Blaise of sebaste? why did that name sound familiar?
now, a couple of weeks before all of this happened, my mother-in-law was telling me that someone had told her there was a saint who was known to help with allergies but she couldn’t remember his name. i told her i had a little booklet at home with the names of a bunch of different saints who interceded for all sorts of uncommon issues and that i would check to see if his name was listed there. i looked through it later that night, but there was nothing for allergies.
the name st. blaise kept running through my mind, so i grabbed the little booklet from off of the end table where i had left it that day and began to thumb through it. sure enough, there he was. st. blaise of sebaste commemorated february 11. known to be an intercessor for throat ailments. now i did start crying. i thanked God for showing me this little mercy. it’s mercies like this that keep me going.
i immediately did a paraklesis thanking Panagia for Her prayers, because i know it is Her whispering into Her Son’s ear for my healing. of this, i have no doubt. i can’t explain the peace that washed over me in that moment.
so now here i am, another month and a half later, finally going for my endoscopy. during my consultation the doctor also found a goiter when checking my thyroid and scheduled me for a thyroid unltrasound this week later this week. (i guess i am going to get to know st. vlasios very well )during the appointment, he basically told me to be prepared for anything. it is what it is, i guess. i trust in God and know that whatever He wills is for my salvation. + may He give me patience and strength, and if necessary, the gift of long-suffering. +
and you know what? regardless of the outcome, i’m honestly glad that this happened. it was a much needed reality check for me; an eye exam for my spirit. it’s sad that when you sit and think about how mortal we really are, every moment seems that much more amazing. listening to my children laugh, having my husband tug on my ponytail when he jokes with me, feeling the wind blow and the sun shine-it all takes on a brand new kind of feeling. this is what they mean when they say ‘live like you’re dying.’ life is so much more beautiful when you stop to appreciate it. and i hope i can hang on to this feeling forever.
but glory to God for His mercy and the intercessions of His saints. glory to God for these trials and struggles and for letting me know that He hasn’t forgotten about me. glory to God for ALL things. if you’re so inclined, please whisper a prayer for me today…through the intercessions of St. Vlasios.
Hieromartyr and holy unmercenary Blaise (Vlasios Greek: Βλάσιος) was a physician and Bishop of Sebaste (modern day Sivas, Armenia). By divine grace, he healed the diseases of men and beasts, especially infants, which made his name extremely famous. He contested for the faith under Licinius in the year 316 along with the two children and seven women martyred with him. St. Blaise is invoked for the healing of throat ailments. He is commemorated by the church February 11.
This brief excerpt of his life can be found here on the Antiochian Archdiocese’s website:
St. Blaise was born in the province of Armenia, and was a physician by profession. Such was his reputation for holiness that his fellow-citizens elected him Bishop of Sebaste in eastern Anatolia. Though there were few Christians in that pagan city, the bishop labored tirelessly for his flock, encouraging them to stand firm during the fierce persecutions then raging, and visiting the martyrs in prison.
When the city was stripped of Christians, all of whom had fled or been killed, the bishop, already an old man, withdrew to a cave on Mount Argea and devoted himself entirely to prayer. The wild beasts sensed his sanctity, and gathered around the cave, waiting quietly for him to give his blessing or heal their injuries and ailments.
The persecutors, who had not stopped hunting for the bishop, eventually found the cave, and were amazed to find it like a second Eden, with lions, tigers, bears and wolves grazing peacefully around it. The Saint greeted them cheerfully and told them that he knew from a vision that they were coming for him.
As Blaise was taken back to Sebaste, the peace and gentleness that seemed to radiate from him were enough in themselves to turn many pagan bystanders to faith in Christ. Diseases of men and animals were cured as he walked by. One mother brought him her child, who was choking on a fishbone. The Saint put his hand down the child’s throat, took out the fishbone, and prayed to the Lord to restore him to full health.
At his trial, the holy bishop fearlessly confessed Christ and scorned the idols, for which he was savagely beaten with rods and thrown into a dungeon. Seven women and two of their children were imprisoned with him. The women were slain first after many tortures. The Synaxarion reads, “Having failed in his efforts to break St. Blaise’s resolve, Agricolaus [the governor] condemned him to be drowned in the lake. The holy Martyr made the sign of the Cross at the water’s edge and began walking across the surface of the lake as the Savior had done on the Sea of Galilee. On reaching the middle, he invited the pagans to join him, if they believed they could trust themselves to their gods. Sixty-eight of them took up the challenge and drowned, while a bright angel appeared and invited the Saint to return to the shore in order to receive the crown of glory.” St. Blaise and the two young children were then beheaded together.
St. Blaise is one of the most-venerated holy healers in both the East and the West. He is called upon for protection from wild beasts, and for the healing of every kind of ailment. His head is kept at the Monastery of Konstamonitou on Mount Athos.