St. Michael at Chonae

A poem from an unpublished book.

Russian, 19th Century. Public domain.

This is a poem I wrote in 2018 (as part of a book  which I eventually abandoned) depicting the Miracle of Saint Michael at Chonae, celebrated by the Orthodox Church on September 6.

Nigh Phrygian Hierapolis
Delved deep is Hades’ Gate,   
   Whence the southern wind exhumes   
   From the dark Plutonian tombs   
   Of those men gone to their dooms   
   Deadly gas, and poison fumes
And black smoke emanate.

From this place, Archippos left
And journeyed north to Colossae,   
   To a church built on a spring,   
   Far from every worldly thing,
For he had heard the legends say:
That once in Laodicia
There lived a righteous Greek.   
   A daughter had he; she was fair   
   And beautiful beyond compare
But mute, and could not speak.
Archangel Michael to this man
Appeared with invitation:   
   “Go thou from Hierapolis   
   To the Colossian diocese   
   Where Paulos brought the Word of Peace   
   There shall thy daughter find release
From mortal deprivation.”
Thus with his daughter he set out
To Colossae in Asia,   
   And found they there a spring so pure,   
   Made holy by th’Apostle’s tour,   
   She waded in, hoped for a cure
Of her speechless aphasia.

She plunged into the waters clear
And nodded to affirm her choice,   
   He baptized her there in that place:   
   Visible of sign of invisible grace,
And she cried out in a loud voice,
“All creatures, hear!  Bless’d be the Lord:
The Father, Son, and Spirit!   
   Bless’d be His mother and handmaid,   
   And blesséd be her husband staid,   
   Bless’d be the angels He hath made,   
   And blesséd be the saints who prayed.   
   He sent His Word to earth and bade
The deaf and mute to hear it!”
The man and daughter, stone by stone,
There built a church with joy and mirth,   
   To Saint Michael dedicated,   
   A place of praise initiated,   
   And there, in peace, the pair awaited
Christ’s return to judge the earth.

To this place, Archippos came,
For holy it was raised,   
   Not by virtue of the stones,   
   Nor of the man and daughter’s bones,   
   Nor e’en Saint Michael, powers, or thrones,
But here, the Lord was praised.
For long decades, Archippos stayed
In simple faith and trust,   
   He prayed and fasted   
   And outlasted
Envy, greed, and lust.
Thus when murderous heathen plotting
Set upon the holy lair,   
   To destroy the Church of God   
   Where such holy men had trod,
Archippos knelt in prayer.
When on the spring they fell with timber,
Dammed its crystal flow,   
   Conspiring to release the flood   
   In a phalanx of water and of mud,   
   Destroy the church with death and blood,
Archippos bowed down low.
When the dam had blocked the spring,
The heathen feasted their oppression.   
   While they offered darkest lauds   
   And sacrificed to darker gods,
Archippos prayed for intercession.

When the dam had nearly burst
Through the wall the damned had made,   
   The heathen shouted and they taunted,   
   “Where is your mighty Lord so vaunted?”
More fervently Archippos prayed.
When they loosed their wretched lashings
And the flood descended,   
   Saint Michael bless’d appeared once more,   
   Fully armed and girt for war,   
   Struck the earth and through it tore
A mighty chasm rended.
Yet more than signs and wonders
Before man’s senses laid   
   More dreadful than the mighty hand   
   Of kings before their legions and 
   More ancient than the seas or land   
   Bright-gleaming as a firebrand   
   Th’angelic form so pure and grand   
   The mortal eye cannot withstand;   
   Not for naught must they command:
“Do not be afraid.”
With cries of dread and terror,
The heathen turned away.   
   The waters flowed beneath the ground,   
   Archippos heard the mighty sound,
But did not cease to pray.
For though his foes, defeated,
Affrighted and amazed,   
   Ran fast as they could move their feet,   
   And knew the death their gods would meet,   
   And though the victory was sweet,   
   To serve the Lord is right and meet,   
   Though it bring victory or defeat,
And He shall e’er be praised.”

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