Visit of the Miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
to Holy Trinity Parish in Oxnard California.
What follows is the account of the visit of the Miraculous Icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker to Holy Trinity Parish in Oxnard CA., as told by the unworthy guardian of the Holy Icon, the V. Rev. Fr. Elias Warnke.
This account must be told from the very beginning for the complete understanding and knowledge of the faithful of this miraculous event.
On March 31st, the Feast Day of St. Cyril of Jerusalem I was contacted via email by V. A., a member of Holy Trinity Parish, her inquiry was that she had read somewhere that I may be connected to a newly established parish in Fallbrook, CA. Her inquiry told me that she was seeking a possible parish to pray in and to receive the Holy Sacraments because her parish was being sued for its property by the unionist ROCOR-MP and she feared that those seeking worldly gain of property without any regard for the souls of the faithful of this parish, may be successful.
I responded by letting her know that I was located in Las Vegas and have no connection with the Fallbrook parish. I also told her that I was aware of the plight of the parish and offered to say prayers for the faithful of the parish before the Holy Icon that were fighting this battle against what I perceive to be the machinations of the evil one. I told her, “There are many paths that lead to perdition in these times, but standing fast for the truth is not one of them. Hold fast in the faith of the Holy Martyrs and may our Lord bless each of you for your work in His Holy Vineyard.”
She responded by inviting my family and myself to join with them in their celebration of the Holy Resurrection, knowing that because of my ongoing illness we did not have an established parish. She also reminded me of my last visit to their parish with the Holy Icon some ten years ago, which I remembered quite vividly. I thanked her but declined the invitation because I would be serving in our home mission. Yet because of my awareness of the seen and unseen warfare that affects those who seek to do our Lord’s will, I offered her the opportunity to speak with the rector of their parish and seek his blessing and that of the Bishops, that in the future a possible visit of the Holy Icon could be arranged because the parish was only five hours away by car.
Her response told me of the overwhelming effort that she and those who have had to endure this struggle have had to live with, since they made the conscious choice not to deny the faith passed down to them by their fathers and mothers, the traditions of the true Church as passed on by Saint Tihkon, the faith guarded by Saint John of Shanghai, Saint Philaret, and the blessed hierarchs of ROCOR up to and including Metropolitan Vitaly of blessed memory. And their choice to not join with the very same people who in communist Russia that had made the Russian Church a wing of the godless government, which it remains to this day, responsible for the murders of the countless New Martyrs in including the Holy Family of Nicholas II and the Nun Martyr Elizabeth and the desecration of Holy Temples and Holy Things throughout their motherland.
She talked of the myriad of sadness they all witnessed in the loss of brothers and sisters in Christ and the feeling of abandonment by those they believed in and showed obedience to that were given the sacred trust to protect their flock and guide them in a world that had no love for our Lord and was driven by greed and avarice. Her description of the machinations of the evil one and his determined effort to wear them down by instilling a sense of confusion, false guilt and anxiety showed me that their struggle was the same shared by the example of the New Martyrs and the Saints, including Holy St. Nicholas, to stand fast for the truth and was there for them to humbly emulate and hold on to.
She said the remaining faithful of the Temple had agreed that the return of the Holy Icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker would be of great benefit to their weary souls and they had received the blessing of their Bishop.
When I received this email my Matushka and myself were under particular attack, we believe because through our prayers we had come to the realization that we had been sent for a significant reason to this particular place of sinfulness that can only be likened unto Sodom of old. I was very ill and responded by saying that if my illness did not result in anything such as surgery or worse I would pray to our Father among the Saints, Nicholas, that or Lord may will to bless such a visit sometime in the Summer. I asked her forgiveness for our weakness and said that I would come as soon as I can, our Lord and willing. Knowing that in their struggle a visit of the Holy Icon would be of great comfort, I lamented the situation and sought through prayer the intercessions of our Most Holy Theotokos and the New Martyrs Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandria, and of the Nun Martyr Elizabeth in this matter.
For a complete understanding of the situation which the parish was under I quote an appeal from their website (www.holytrinityoxnard.org):
“Sixty years ago, a group of World War II refugees were, by the grace of God, delivered from war-ravaged Europe and brought to the United States. Here in America, they were able to start their lives anew, live the American Dream, and exercise freedom of religion. In gratitude for God’s Grace, Mercy, and the many blessings He bestowed upon them by delivering them from oppression, these refugees gathered their money and with the Lord’s help established an Eastern Orthodox Church Community, building a small church on land they purchased.
In advance of the unification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) with the Russian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate (ROC-MP) on May 17, 2007, the Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Church held a parish meeting on March 25, 2007, at which it was unanimously voted that they were not in agreement with the unification and decided to ask to be received under the omophor of the Old Calendar Orthodox Church of Greece, Holy Synod in Resistance. On April 13, 2007, the ROCOR Western American Diocese filed a lawsuit against the Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Church, which is now defending itself and its property.”
After much prayer and loving kindness of our Lord and the care of my Matushka and doctor the recent attack of my illness subsided to the point where, if my daughter Katherine agreed to drive me, the Holy Icon could visit the parish on the weekend of August 15th, N.S. It is important to note that when, through prayers by many that this visit became a certainty, the Holy Icon began to exude an increased quantity of Holy Myrrh, which in my humble experience of thirteen years as its unworthy guardian, signaled that there could be a defined effort by the dark one against such a trip, and if our Lord blessed, a blessing of equal or greater proportion for this much suffering parish, especially those at the forefront of this righteous battle. The teachings of the Holy Fathers are quite noteworthy on this. Matushka and I were amazed by the effluence and gathered the Holy Myrrh soaked cotton so that it could be cut into pieces and placed in small bags for the faithful which would attend to take to their homes and have for time of need.
On August 3rd, N.S. Matushka booked the Hotel somewhat making the final commitment to this visit, that very day both Katherine and myself were stuck down to our beds with an attack of extreme headaches and pain in our upper torsos that lasted for twenty-four hours. This type of attack is not uncommon for during the years the Holy Icon traveled across the world (1997-2003), there was always some level of struggle varying in intensity before a departure to a visit of the Holy Icon to the faithful. Though the evil one seeks to be subtle in his temptations, in case of this wondrous blessing it seems that subtlety is not the course followed. Yet this alone was not the complete effort to stop this visit, on the eve of the trip we went to fill up the truck with petrol and the 'check engine' light came on, I was dismayed, but Matushka who struggles in her way to keep me on course just smiled and said: “There is nothing wrong with this truck, you know who is doing this!” By the next morning when we started the truck to depart, the light was gone. Though the evil one made one last try on the road when a large truck, one vehicle ahead of us in three lanes of heavy traffic on Highway 101 blew a tire and the SUV in front of us in the middle lane struck into it at 60 miles per hour, I do not know how, but we were able to avoid striking the SUV and the oncoming cars in the lane we swerved into, yet we did, and thanked our Lord for His kindness and protection.
When we arrived at the Church after about six hours of travel the Holy Icon and myself were at the Hotel. V.A., taking on the role of transporter picked us up and we were met by the faithful and the priest at the steps in the manner of receiving a bishop’s visit, in this case a Great Bishop of the Church in the Earthly form of his Miraculous Icon. I called to the car the head acolyte, the son of the Starosta, to come and help me remove the Holy Icon from the traveling case so it could enter the Temple. The car was filled in abundance with the fragrance of fresh roses and we noticed immediately that the Holy Icon was streaming quite heavily. I exited the car and with the Holy Icon made the sign of the Cross before the Temple. I then passed the Holy Icon on to the priest who carried it though the doors and placed it on the analoy in the center of the Church. He remarked in amazement once it was in place, “It is truly beautiful and a great blessing Father!” We made our reverences as did all those in attendance with the choir the entire time singing unto Holy Saint Nicholas.
Because of my weakness from the recent illness I was unable to assist the priest in the services of Moleben, Akathist, Litiya, and Vigil, so I remained behind the Iconostas and prayed listening with joy to the excellent choir, noticing Father as he entered into the Holy Place with a look of joy on his face. Though I could not see it from where I was I knew from sound of the choir, and the feeling I received in Father’s presence that the Holy Icon was continuing streaming an offer our Lord’s blessing of Holy Myrrh. It wasn’t until after the services were done and I exited the altar to help Father in anointing the people that I was aware of the fullness of what was happening. I saw it first in the faces of the faithful gathered to pray and then when I came before the Holy Icon I noticed it was gushing Holy Myrrh to the point where it had overflowed its two inch deep wooden kiot lined with plastic to catch the Holy Myrrh in the cotton at the bottom and was soaking the analoy cover with blessed Myrrh. I took a small piece of the completely soaked cotton and placed it on a plate for Father to anoint the faithful. All in attendance were blessed by their witness and were anointed with the blessed gift.
I felt the presence of joy and blessedness in the beautifully appointed temple that is covered every inch on its interior with frescoes of the Great Feasts and the Holy Saints. I witnessed on the faces of those who were engaged in the battle to save this Temple a sense of blessing and peace and I thanked our Lord for His infinite kindness and love for these much suffering individuals.
Afterward we took the Holy Icon to the parish hall where we were served an excellent Lenten meal by the Sisterhood, being that it was the Dormition of our Blessed Virgin’s fast.
V.A. returned us to the hotel where I spent the better part of the rest of the evening in prayers of thanksgiving for our Lord’s most gracious kindness.
He next morning, they asked if we could arrive ahead of time for Hours and Divine Liturgy so that two women of particular need could have a extra time to venerate the Holy Icon without the fullness of attendance. V.A. picked us up at the hotel and we were met by Father at the steps of the Temple, upon which the Holy Icon entered and was placed upon the Myrrh soaked analoy. I met with the women while Father continued the Proskomedia. Both, who quite ill, were openly blessed by their witness of the Holy Icon and were anointed and given cotton soaked with Holy Myrrh directly from the Icon for their spiritual need.
The Temple filled early with people returning from the previous day and many more from other churches in the area of Los Angeles and beyond. Regardless of the ominous worldly issues this parish has had to suffer all were welcomed with love in the spirit our Lord. Hours and the Divine Liturgy were served with great reverence and a true sense of peace. I was asked to give the homily and was particularly blessed to share with Father the only true Earthly Miracle, the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!
After the Liturgy Father Served a Moleben after which we once again anointed the faithful, but this time when I came out to a sanctuary filled with the very old, young parents, many children and toddlers, I approached the Holy Icon and witnessed that the analoy cover had become much more soaked and the flowing Myrrh completely covered the Holy Icon as if in one heavy wave after wave. When I went to open the bottom of the cover to retrieve some cotton for anointing I noticed that the velvet cover was completely soaked also. All in attendance reverenced the Holy Icon and were anointed by Father and I gave all as many little Icon copies and packets of Holy Myrrh that were asked for.
After everyone in attendance had been anointed many stayed seemingly unable to leave the presence of this wonderful blessing, the Starosta asked if I would touch the fresco of St. Nicholas on the wall in order to bless it with the Holy Icon, the fabric of the case was so soaked that Holy Myrrh was left on the fresco visible for all to see. The faithful then asked if their crosses from their necks could be blessed on the Icon, which I did for all. As is normal when it came time to leave, the faithful became dismayed that this blessing was about to depart and crowded around the Holy Icon for one last time, many of them touching the Myrrh soaked cover and receiving the blessing of such great witness.
Katherine had the truck out front and all followed singing Velichnaya to St. Nicholas. We were followed by many into the street and the singing did not stop. This is one of the hardest times for me, because you look into the eyes of the faithful and see their lament that they will have to let the Holy Icon leave. It is both joyous and sad at the same time.
The drive home was completely uneventful other than the continued abundance of fragrance that filled the truck.
In closing we must give all glory and thanksgiving to our Lord and Saviour for this wonderful blessing that these much suffering faithful were given, and I humbly ask the faithful to join me in my unworthy prayers that our Holy Father among the Saints, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker may intercede on their behalf that they may, through the grace of our Lord, find an ending to the issue that assaults their parish for the well being of their souls.
Addendum: It has been reported to me that after the Holy Icon departed three more waves of people came, apparently from services at their Temples and all received packets of Holy Myrrh and were blessed to pray in this Temple where the Miraculous Icon had been shortly before.