Lessons for the Beirut Icon of the Saviour


In Medieval times the feast of the Suffering Icon of the Saviour was celebrated widely. This feast has since dropped out of the kalendar and is shrouded in the mists of history. The feast shared many propers with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and can be found in the Sarum Breviary – though without an assigned date. English Calendars often placed it on May 24th, but in the Order of the Redemptorists a feast of the Saviour shows up for October 23rd.

The latter date, October 23rd, was assigned to the feast by the Congregation of Rites in 1830, but had been celebrated before that time, perhaps, on different dates. The Anglican Breviary contauns this feast in its Supplement and the Anglican Missal provides a Mass for the occasion. Though the relation of this feast to the Suffering Icon of the Saviour is nowadays mostly lost, it might be restored by using the legend of it as lessins iv to vi as given in the Golden Legend as below:

Lesson iv. In Syria, in the city of Beirout, there was a Christian man which had hired an house for a year and he had set the image of the crucifix by his bed, to which he made daily his prayers, and said his devotions, and at the year’s end he removed and took an other house, and forgat and left the image behind him. And it happed that a Jew hired that same house, and on a day he bade another Jew, one of his neighbours, to dinner, and as they were at meat, it happed to him that was bidden, in looking on the wall, to espy this image which was fixed to the wall, and began to grin at it for despite, and against him that bade him, and also threatened and menaced him because he durst keep in his house the image of Jesus of Nazareth; and that other Jew sware as much as he might that he had never seen it, ne knew not that it was there, and then the Jew feigned as he had been appeased, and after, went straight to the prince of the Jews and accused that Jew of that which he had seen in his house.

Lesson v. Then the Jews assembled and came to the house of him and saw the image of Jesu Christ, and they took that Jew and beat him and did to him many injuries, and cast him out half dead of their synagogue; and anon they defiled the image with their feet, and renewed in it all the torments of the passion of our Lord, and when they pierced his side with the spear, blood and water issued abundantly, insomuch that they filled a vessel which they set thereunder. And then the Jews were abashed and bare this blood into their synagogue, and all the sick men and malades that were guerished and made whole. And then the Jews told and recounted things by order to the bishop of the country, and all they with one will received baptism in the faith of Jesu Christ.

Lesson vi. And the bishop put this blood in ampuls of crystal and of glass for to be kept, and then he called the Christian man that had left it in the house, and enquired of him who had so fair an image. And he said that Nicodemus had made it, and when he died he left it to Gamaliel, and Gamaliel to Zaccheus, and Zaccheus to James, and James to Simon, and had been thus in Jerusalem unto the destruction of the city. And from thence it was borne into the realm of Agrippa, of Christian men, and from thence it was brought again into my country, and it was left to me by my parents by rightful heritage. And this was done in the year of our Lord seven hundred and fifty. And then all the Jews hallowed their synagogues into churches, and thereof cometh the custom that churches be hallowed, for tofore that time the altars were but hallowed only. And for this miracle the church hath ordained that the fifth kalends of December, or as it is read in another place the fifth ides of November, should be the memory of the passion of our Lord, wherefore at Rome the church is hallowed in the honour of our Saviour, whereas is kept an ampul with the same blood. And there a solemn feast is kept and done, and there is proved the right great virtue of the cross, unto the paynims, and to the misbehaved men in all things.

The RR as for the feast given in the Supplement.

Fr. Gregory Wassen


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