through His strength, i am fearless.

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

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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.

Blaise

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.

Comments

  1. Sylvia,
    For SO MANY reasons, I am SO GLAD that I read your post today. I am thinking of you and praying for you and have asked for the intercessions of St Blaise for you. I too know the power of healing prayer and I know that God will be wrapping you in his arms today.
    Be blessed, my sister.
    Magz

  2. Dear Sylvia,
    I have been meaning to drop over here since meeting you on Instagram.
    Thank you for this story. I like you believe all is for God’s glory and in his own time. However often find it hard to be patient.
    I pray all will be well with you and continued closeness to Our Lord
    God Bless
    Gae

  3. My dear Sylvia, My prayers are with you and I pray that our sweet God will embrace you in His arms as you undergo your procedure. Your blog is inspiring to all. As is my custom, I spend much time reading about our glorious saints and I think you for introducing me to St. Blaise and his life and miracles. He, as most of the saints I read about are amazing individuals and their lives are wonderful examples of how we all should live our own lives. I, too, take heed of all that God places in front of us and try to be sure to keep my ears, eyes and heart open, to ‘hear’ all that is around us. My prayers are with you and I will say prayers to St. Blaise to intercede to our Heavenly Mother, our Holy Theotokos, to her precious Son. O Theos Mazi sou.
    your sister in Christ, maria

  4. Kathleen Brauer says:

    Sylvia,

    Praying for the intercession of St. Blaise for your complete healing I have also asked Agios Savva and Agiosu Nektarios to look after you as well…..God Bless! Kathy

  5. will add you to my husband and I’s prayer list for the sick to St. Nectarios! Do keep us posted….

  6. My dear sister, I know Gods healing hand is over you, “by His stripes we are healed”, He is amazing and faithful and I pray His peace be upon you today! The scripture you posted is one I refer to often… He loves us so much and will protect and take care of us!! I love you with all my heart!!! God bless you and remember to call me when u are done!!! Xoxoxoxoxo

  7. Sylvia,

    I just said a prayer for you! If my daughter had been born a boy, she would have been names Blaise after this saint!

    And this booklet that you mentioned that has listings of who to pray to– can you tell me the name or where to get a copy of it?

  8. I will keep you in my prayers . Thank you for sharing St Blaise’s story. May the Lord’s grace and mercy be upon you.

  9. Christy Pessemier says:

    Thank you for having the courage to share your story. I will be praying for you too!

  10. Sylvia, my prayers are with you! I know, firsthand, the roller coaster you’re referring to, and I know, too, the incredible peace and mercy of God as He and the Theotokos walk through this with you. Whatever happens, however this comes out, you’re so much closer to God now than you were a year ago. Cling to that, and to the knwoledge that His love, His mercy and His graciousness witll be there with you. Hugs to you, and prayers for your family as they walk their own rocky road through this time.

  11. Shelly Stamps says:

    Syliva, I just met you through your blog, and am humbled and edified by your love and courage. We have the good fortune to hear Metropolitan Kallistos this weekend in San Francisco, and to visit the church with the relics of St. John Maximovitch. We will intercede to St. John for you. There have many miracles attributed to him, even from our own little parish. God bless you.

  12. Oh, Sylvia. Here I’ve been corresponding with you and didn’t know your current struggles. My prayers are with you and you are in my heart–deep there, in that place where Christ resides. His love saves, as you know, and you are already blessing others with your struggles. Love to you and to your husband and your three little ones…

  13. Sylvia, you will be in our prayers. I pray you will find peace during this stressful time. I know it probably took a lot of courage to write about it publicly, but now we can all pray for you. Blessing to you!

  14. Dear Sylvia, please know that I will be praying for you and for a peace that surpasses all understanding! I know well the walk you are walking…especially the part about being things being drug out with more and more tests, more waiting, more waiting. You are so right that it all draws you so near to God! Such a reminder that you really have little control and you really are in His hands! may we take these lessons we are learning and use them to better glorify God with our lives no matter the outcome! In Christ, Vicki

  15. Lord, hear our prayers.

  16. Jenny Kepreotes says:

    Dear Sylvia,
    I always enjoy reading your news and refelctions on all things Orthodox and life. Reading bout your recent trials…your bravery and courage, not to mention your faith and trust in God, is just so very inspirational.
    Rest assured, you have touched many hearts and souls around the globe by sharing your most intimate of thoughts and experiences!
    I will certainly be praying for you.
    God bless you & your beautiful family.
    Jenny (Sydney – Australia) XX

  17. My prayers are with you, Sylvia! Let me tell you a little story….
    My 20 year old son who is in the Air Force and stationed far away from me, calls this past fall to tell me the doctors had found a mass in his lungs and on his ribs – he had recently recovered from bronchitis and was plagued with a persistent cough as well BUT he wasn’t sent to the doctor until he threw up a little blood after PT one day – extremely long story shorter – due to his duties his tests kept being pushed back and back and back. Finally, two months later after much praying and much waiting – trying so very hard to be patient and trying not to worry – he gets the results ….. there is a tissue we are all born with and it is absorbed by the body before adulthood. His body did not absorb this tissue and that was what the mass turned out to be – leftover tissue.
    I tell you this story to give you hope and maybe a little peace as well. Through the prayers and intersessions of the Theotokos and Saint Blaise may you be healed!

  18. Fearless, indeed! My prayers go out to you. I was researching Panayia Prousiatissa and stumbled onto your bolg site. I believe it was His will for me to do so. In short, I have been concerned about a similar issue with my throat – my mind wanders towards the worse too – but my Faith brings me back to Fearless! Blessings to you and your family… from me and mine. xo

  19. Just now seeing this, my dear. Prayers indeed. Love.

  20. I’m a little late reading this, but I will be praying for you as well, Sylvia. Your words are significant for me today also, in their own way, as they so often are. Lord have mercy!

  21. Sylvia,you ARE fearless and just wanted you to know that I’m praying for you, too. Your spirit is inspirational and the story surrounding your appointment on February 11th is incredible.

  22. Dear Sylvia,

    Thank you for sharing your personal story and struggles and I pray for your health and healing through the intercessions of Christ’s and and his blessed mother.

  23. Thanks for sharing with us. I will be praying for you! I have enjoyed so much reading and searcing your blog. I’m a new convert to Orthodoxy and am trying to learn the ropes. I share my Orthodox journey at http://www.sugarspiceandincense.com.

  24. Sylvia, I had no idea. Your story gives me goosebumps! My thoughts and prayers are with you always!!!

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