Orthodox Priest Healed By Weeping Icon In Israel Now Reports One In U.S. Parish
An Orthodox priest who allegedly was healed of a serious knee injury after praying before a weeping icon in Jerusalem asserts he is now witness to one at All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Bloomington, Indiana.
The priest, Father Peter Jon Gillquist, says the event began in the home of parishioners on July 18 -- the very day he arrived as pastor and as the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict entered a serious stage.
At that time beads of what smells like oil began to form at various spots on a print of Christ the Pantocrator, in which the Lord is holding Scripture, with a serious, instructional look.
Originally from Crete, the print was taken from the home, owned by a family named the Ioannides, and placed in the church on July 23, where it stopped exuding the substance for week, beginning again on July 31 -- when the bishop came to inspect the situation and witnessed the phenomenon for himself.
"It's not like rivers of the stuff, where it fills a vial," Father Gillquist told Spirit Daily. "But you can see it forming and we took cotton swabs and mixed it with blessed oil so we could bless the congregation."
Father Gillquist says after a rite of exorcism ("to make sure there wasn't any funny business"), the icon was processed in a "big" celebration and placed on the altar.
The handling of the putative phenomenon is in stark contrast to the general trend in Catholic churches, where local bishops have proven reluctant to investigate such matters or if they do order such objects concealed in order to avoid "sensationalism."
What the oil signifies, and why it is occurring right now, is a mystery, says the Orthodox cleric. In ancient times, oil was often associated with healing. "Our bishop came about a week after it began streaming and said signs like this require interpretation," recalls Father Gillquist. "He believed it was an icon of repentance for those who have not done so and also a sign of forgiveness."
The title Pantocrator is reserved for Christ alone and is derived from Greek. It can be translated as "Ruler of All," "King of Glory," or "Lord of Creation."
As an image, it portrays Jesus in both His humanity and Divinity.
Often (though not in the Bloomington icon) the Pantocrator is featured with a large gold halo surrounding His head with cross-like lines through it. Sometimes Greek letters are inscribed in this halo representing the words heard by Moses at the burning bush when God revealed the sacred name "I am who I am," or simply "the Being," notes a Roman Catholic newspaper.
Christ's right Hand is extended in a motion of blessing with his fingers forming the Greek letters IC XC, which abbreviate the name and title "Jesus Christ." This arrangement of the fingers is also a teaching tool with the thumb, fourth, and fifth fingers joined to represent the Holy Trinity and the two remaining fingers symbolizing the dual nature of Christ (Divine and human).
Father Gillquist says icons have been exuding fluid in similar fashion and often with the aroma of myrrh "across Israel," including at a chapel dedicated to St. James that is connected to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. He says other miraculous icons exist in the Sinai -- including at St. Catherine's Monastery, which is the world's oldest -- and in other regions such as the Gaza Strip -- again, with untold meaning.
As a young man, Father Gillquist says he was healed by the icon in Jerusalem while suffering an injury that had prevented him from walking during a pilgrimage to Israel in 1995.
"As I traveled across Israel and Sinai I realized it was commonplace there," he says of such icons. "There were quite a few, and hundreds of reported healings. You would see an icon and hundreds of little plastic hands or feet or heads signifying healings. I came back to the U.S. with a different view."
Why another icon would do the same as he enters a pastorship is beyond him. Father Gillquist had been in a New York seminary and served as an associate in Connecticut before assuming his current position. He said there are no plans to test the substance, nor to promote it.
"I don't know the meaning," he says. "Whether it relates to our times is an interesting question."
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