Monday, July 13, 2009

Our Lady of Babushta

For July 24 in Forgotten Saints:

The Commemoration of the Theotokos Our Lady of Babushta

This annual commemoration is of the occurrence of a great wonder in the village called Babushta [I have no idea how to properly vocalize this Syriac place-name. I’m simply following the analogy of the similar-sounding village Kakhushta.] near Antioch, at a spring. Unclean spirits lived in that place, stirring up dread among the people to the point that no one would dare to go there after dark. There appeared in that place an icon of the Theotokos Mary with great light and it cleansed it of what had been there. When the people of the village of Babushta saw this great image and that radiant light and realized that the unclean spirits were driven away by its power, they sent to the people of the surrounding villages and announced the news. So people brought them the sick, the deaf, the blind, and the lame. When they looked upon the radiant image, the evil spirits immediately left from the possessed among them, the sick were healed, the ears of the deaf were opened, sight returned to the eyes of the blind, and the legs of the lame were made hale. They praised the Lord of the Worlds [an Islamic expression- rabb al-’alamin] who had given them His grace through this image.

Then the people sent to the great City of God, Antioch and informed the Patriarch, Saint John [Fr. Touma speculates that this refers to either Patriarch John V in the ninth century, or John VII in the eleventh century] and all the clergy about the matter of this great divine image not made by human hands, sent as a gift by God. The patriarch gathered the clergy, the priests, the monks, the deacons and the archons with all the people of the city and told them the news that he had received. Then they went out with pomp to that great sight. They arrived at the village of Babushta and found the matter as they had been told. They praised the Lord of the Worlds and counted it as a mercy from the Merciful Lord [also an Islamic expression, al-rabb al-rahim]. Then they began to give thanks with praise and psalms, repeating ‘Lord have mercy!’ On that day God worked through the icon great signs. When the patriarch approached the spring the divine image leapt from the water and landed in front of him.

Then the patriarch took the icon and he and those with him brought it to the great church in the great City of God, Antioch, singing praises to the Theotokos and to our Savior, Jesus Christ. The image to our own day [that is, according to the 12th and 13th century manuscripts] works dazzling wonders and famous signs. Who is the man who can count its signs and miracles at every time and hour? For this reason, we ask our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the Lover of Man to have mercy on us by the intercession of his Mother the Lady of Babushta and of all the saints, amen.

For the above account, Fr. Touma relies on three 12th and 13th century Arabic manuscripts now at Mount Sinai but copied in Syria. Their language, like much Christian Arabic of the medieval period, is flavored with many Syriacisms and it is possible that they have a Syriac vorlage. The account is also interesting for the picture it possibly gives of church life not long before the destruction of Antioch and the massacre of its Christian population by the Mamluks in 1268. Because of those events, we have no way of knowing in this life how this wonder-working image of the Mother of God, sent from heaven, actually looked. For pre-modern posts on this blog, do not take a lack of images as a sign of laziness, but rather as another testimony to what has been lost under the Muslim yoke.


Anonymous said...

Just a note to say I came here from John's [Notes from a Common-place Book] blog, after seeing it on his blogroll and having my interest piqued. Thanks for the fascinating posts.

an Australian Orthodox [convert] in the Antiochian Church.

Samn! said...

Hi Ian.. thanks for coming by....