Christ is Risen!
Today on Bright Friday we commemorate the Life-Giving Spring which is Panagia herself, but more specifically it is a spring in Constantinople. This spring was our first stop when a friend, Fr. John and I went to Istanbul in the summer of 2008 with a tour group. The photos in this post are from that trip.
(From Wikipedia on The Life-giving Spring)
The tradition surrounding the feast concerns a soldier named Leo Marcellus, who would later become the Byzantine Emperor Leo I. On April 4, 480, as Leo was passing by the grove, he came across a blind man who had become lost. Leo took pity on him, led him to the pathway, seated him in the shade and began to search for water to give the thirsty man. Leo heard a voice say to him, “Do not trouble yourself, Leo, to look for water elsewhere, it is right here!” Looking about, he could see no one, and neither could he see any water. Then he heard the voice again, “Leo, Emperor, go into the grove, take the water which you will find and give it to the thirsty man. Then take the mud [from the stream] and put it on the blind man’s eyes…. And build a temple [church] here … that all who come here will find answers to their petitions.” Leo did as he was told, and when the blind man’s eyes were anointed he regained his sight.
After he became emperor, Leo built a church dedicated to the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring over the site where the spring was located. After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, the church was torn down by the Turks, and the stones used to build a mosque of Sultan Bayezid. Only a small chapel remained at the site of the church. Twenty-five steps led down to the site of the spring surrounded by railing. As a result of the Greek Revolution of 1821, even this little chapel was destroyed and the spring was left buried under the rubble.
In 1833 the reforming Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II gave permission for the Christians to rebuild the church. When the foundations of the original church were discovered during the course of construction, the Sultan issued a second firman permitting not only the reconstruction of the small chapel, but of a large church according to the original dimensions. Construction was completed on December 30, 1834, and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Constantius II consecrated the church on February 2, 1835.
Another small chapel has been rebuilt on the site, but the church has not yet been restored to its former size. The spring still flows to this day and is considered by the faithful to have wonderworking properties.
The feast day is observed on Bright Friday; i.e., the Friday following Pascha. The propers of the feast are combined with the Paschal hymns, and there is often a Lesser Blessing of Waters performed after the Divine Liturgy on Bright Friday. In old Russia, continuing Greek traditions, there was a custom to sanctify springs that were located near churches, dedicate them to the Holy Mother, and paint icons of her under the title The Life Giving Spring.
There is also a commemoration of the Icon of the Theotokos, the Life-giving Spring, observed on April 4.
- While there at the spring our tour guide told us that some people were able to see multicoloured fish in the spring along with the regular goldfish, but that it was a miracle unnoticed by most. She said that of all the times she had visited the spring she never saw the “invisible fish” as they were known. One time though, a woman on one of her tours pointed the multicoloured fish out thinking everyone could see them, but she was the only one. I don’t know what the significance is of seeing the “invisible fish”, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Apolytikion for the Life-giving Spring:
As a life-giving fount, thou didst conceive the Dew that is transcendent in essence,O Virgin Maid, and thou hast welled forth for our sakes the nectar of joy eternal,which doth pour forth from thy fount with the water that springeth upunto everlasting life in unending and mighty streams;wherein, taking delight, we all cry out:Rejoice, O thou Spring of life for all men.