The “Myrrh-Weeping” Icon of Our Lady of New Sarov, Waco, Texas

NOTE: When the monks at Christ of the Hills Monastery (New Sarov) were arrested for pedophilia, investigators also learned through their interrogations that the “myrrh-streaming” icon which made the monastery a popular site of pilgrimage, was in fact a hoax designed by the monks under the guidance of their abbot, Fr. Benedict (Samuel A. Greene, Jr.).

The Abbot of New Sarov, Fr. Benedict Greene, confessed that the "weeping" icon was a sham.
The Abbot of New Sarov, Fr. Benedict Greene, confessed that the “weeping” icon was a sham.

On the day of the raid, Fr. Tikhon (Hugh Fallon) admitted to smoking marijuana and having sex with other monks. Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”
Fr. Tikhon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake. Fr. Tikhon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

In 1983, an icon of the Christ child and his mother, Mary, was commissioned by the church, painted by a fellow monk in California, and delivered to New Sarov. Icons are an important part of life in the Orthodox faith. So the news on May 7, 1985, that the image of the Virgin Mary, or Theotokos, as she is known to those in the Orthodox, was reported to be weeping tears of myrrh, a fragrant oil, caused quite a stir. The icon is reported to have wept constantly until October of 1985 and has purportedly continued to weep occasionally since. Father Anthony, a brother at the monastery, says the tears average once a day, “But it’s up to God, [when the icon will cry].”

The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov
The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov

According to published Texas news reports, the abbot, Fr. Benedict Greene (a former real estate agent), gained notoriety for the fledgling mission through a slick marketing campaign in 1985.

It was aimed at promoting scented oil that allegedly began appearing beneath the eyes of a painting of the Virgin Mary. The campaign worked, and thousands of curious and desperate people from across the country flocked to Blanco, a town of about 1,100.

Also, money flowed into the monastery, which was operated by Ecumenical Monks Inc. Internal Revenue Service records showed $750,000 a year in donations in the 1990s, and the gift shop brought in about $100,000 a year. Those who donated were sent letters of thanks and cotton balls said to be soaked in the ”tears of myrrh.”

Fr. Benedict, a former salesman, orchestrated the weeping hoax.
Fr. Benedict, a former salesman, orchestrated the weeping hoax.

The abbot later admitted the “weeping” was a sham. The monks would put the tear drops on themselves, and then got all these people making donations trying to get some kind of miracle cure.
In 1999, one of the accused, Hierodeacon Pangratios Christley , wrote a book about the icon entitled Miracles of the Last Days, detailing stories of healings of cancer, arthritis, addictions, and even hemorrhoids.

In 1999, Fr. Pangratios Christley , wrote a book about the icon  detailing stories of healings of cancer, arthritis, addictions, and even hemorrhoids.
In 1999 a book about the icon detailing stories of healings was published.

[Note: Miracles In The Last Days is now available at Amazon.com through DMSGROUP Book Resellers. Recently acquired cache of over 3,000 new copies in case lots: http://newsarov.tripod.com/index_old.html ]
In 2002 book, Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland: an Encyclopedia, Volume 1, it states “Along the bottom of the case several cotton balls are placed to soak up the tears. Pilgrims and visitors may attend monastic services, chanted in English. Those who kiss the icon are blessed by the monk who is their guide, and he swabs the sign of the cross on the hands and forehead of the worshiper with tear-laden cotton balls. The monk then interprets the miracle within the framework of the Orthodox Church tenets and gives spiritual guidance. Monastery publications indicate that many tens of thousands have viewed the icon since the miracle of the tears and that many miracles have also happened.” (p. 109)
https://books.google.ca/books?id=YVYkrNhPMQkC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

The icon has been mentioned in various non-Orthodox books as well.
The icon has been mentioned in various non-Orthodox books as well.

Below are some of the accounts of events and miracles surrounding the icon that were in circulation until the scandal broke out:
In New Sarov, a small monastic community just outside of Blanco, Texas, made up of Christ of the Hills Monastery and the attached Convent, an icon of the Vladimir type which had been written in 1983 by an Orthodox monk in California began to weep tears of myrrh on 24 April 1985 (7 May by the Russian calender). The icon wept continuously until October of the Russian year, and since then, according to a monk at the monastery, has continued to weep intermittently almost every day. The icon can, however go for up to two weeks without weeping. 24 April has since then been celebrated as the icon’s Feast Day, and all pilgrims, regardless of Faith, are welcomed at the monastery and annointed with Our Lady’s tears. The weeping icon is discussed in the book Miracles in the Last Days, which is now under preparation.
Christ of the Hills Monastery had dedicated a website entiteld The Weeping Icon: The Mother of God Icon of New Sarov (http://www.alaska.net/~scamper/weepindex.html now defunct). See especially the website’s exclusive “A Miracle for Baby Sara.”
https://web.archive.org/web/19990902034922/http://www.alaska.net/~scamper/weepage6.html

Blanco icon2

New Sarov Pamphlet on the “Myrrh-Streaming” Icon
The Monastery published a pamphlet on the icon distributed widely, available below.
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. N. d. Blanco, Texas: n. p. (This is a pamphlet available from Christ of the Hills Russian Orthodox Monastery.)
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. N. d. Blanco, Texas: n. p. (This is a pamphlet pinned to the Shrine’s souvenir pins available for sale at Christ of the Hills Russian Orthodox Monastery. It is not identical to the other pamphlet of the same name, though it contains excerpts from that pamphlet.)
http://www.oocities.org/mabeherec/shrine.html (Complete pamphlet)

Blanco TXBLAweepmary_mckee

JOURNAL: RUSSiAN MONKS AND A WEEPiNG iCON
The monks at New Sarov send out tears of myrrh from the icon absorbed in cotton balls to any in need who write to the above address, as well as to all pilgrims who visit the shrine and attend the tour. Enlosed with the tear were instructions for its use in annointing the sick.
On 1 June 1998, the pageholder visited the icon of Our Lady of New Sarov, although I did not witness the icon weep. My journal entry was printed in the June 1998 issue of State of unBeing, and is available below, although I have corrected two places where I did not exchange the handle of SoB writer Crux Ansata for his real name, and I have added links and otherwise made the file appropriate for hypertext. The original article as printed is available in SoB No. 47:

https://web.archive.org/web/20001211161300/http://www.apoculpro.org/SoB/sob47.html#ART4

Inside the church of Christ the Hills Monastery, TX.
Inside the church of Christ the Hills Monastery, TX.

“Make straight the way of the Lord” The weeping icon at Christ of the Hills by Bette Stockbauer
Our Lady of New Sarov is discussed on the “Images and Icons” page of The Miracles Page, run by the publishers of the magazine Share International. Bette Stockbauer of Share International also visited the shrine and interviewed Fr. Pangratios, a monk there. Her article and interview is online as follows:
http://www.diewunderseite.de/statuen/blanco.htm

Fr. Pangratios (Walter) Christley, author of Miracles in the Last Days.
Fr. Pangratios (Walter) Christley, author of Miracles in the Last Days.

Jean-Pierre De Wilde: The Weeping Icon
The icon is also often covered in the local media.
…The account by another who visited the icon and saw it weep is as follows:
http://jeanpierre.tripod.com/WEEPING1.HTM

The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov
The “Myrrh Weeping Icon” of Our Lady of New Sarov

24 April 1985 (7 May by the Russian calender), the anniversary of the first weeping of the icon, has been named the icon’s Feast Day, and this day is regularly celbrated at the monastery. In 1997 the monks at Christ of the Hills’ daughter monastery at Boscobel, Wisconsin, joined the monks at Christ of the Hills to celebrate the first weeping’s twelfth anniversary. This was later reported in the monastery’s newsletter, as follows:
“12th Anniversary of the Weeping Icon.” 1997, August. The Christ of the Hills Monastery Chronicle, the newsletter of Christ of the Hills Monastery, vol. 23, no. 1, pgs. 2-3.
http://www.oocities.org/mabeherec/anniv12.html

Fr. Benedict Greene smiling with children at Christ the Hills Monastery.
Fr. Benedict Greene smiling with children at Christ the Hills Monastery.

Also see:
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/10998
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=11419.10;imode
http://tribes.tribe.net/eb5f7908-cda1-40f9-9648-e8b00b84292f/photos/0b944d29-6710-4416-bb94-9e3e25cf2548

Blanco Monks Charged

Blanco nsmap

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Holy Archangels’ Monks Repeatedly Confused with Christ of the Hills Monastery in Texas

In a 2006 interview with Geronda Dositheos, journalist Michael J. Parker mentions the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, TX:

2006_12_15_Bloom_BlancoMonks_ph_Mary_Coppinger

“Founded in 1996, Holy Archangels is less known these days than the 25-year-old Christ of the Hills monastery 5 miles southwest of Blanco.

Christ of the Hills has courted frequent publicity, with a “weeping” icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary that attracted thousands of visitors for years and with recent charges of sexual assault against several of its monks.

The Blanco monks’ only affiliation with any recognized ecclesiastical jurisdiction — the New York-based Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia — lasted from 1991 to 1999. A church spokesman said its recognition was revoked because the Blanco monks refused to abide by church discipline.

“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” said Father Dositheos, 38, the Canadian-born abbot of Holy Archangels. The two groups of monks wear similar black robes and have long beards.”

“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” Geronda Dositheos
“People have always confused us with them, but we have no connection,” Geronda Dositheos

[Note: In 1991, with the blessing of Bishop Hilarion (ROCOR), the Christ of the Hills Monastery/New Sarov Press published the English translation of Geronda Ephraim’s “A Call from the Holy Mountain”. In 1991, Geronda Ephraim joined ROCOR for almost a year and then went back to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Both actions were said to be done out of obedience to divine visions/voices.].

For quite awhile after this scandal broke out, Geronda Dositheos’ brotherhood in St. Antonios, TX was mistakenly assumed to be connected with Christ of the Hills Monastery. It is said that this scandal did a great disservice to Orthodox Monasticism in America:
• A confession received describes sex, drugs and deception at a former monastery in the Hill Country.
• Five monks were charged in molestation and fraud at the Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco County.
• Monk Hugh Fallon admitted on the day of the raid to smoking marijuana and having sex with other monks.
• Fallon also said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake.
• Fallon wrote, “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

Fallon said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake: “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”
Fallon (Fr. Tikhon) said the monastery’s weeping icon was a fake: “The money that came into the monastery was largely because of this hoax.”

This scandal was used as a cautionary tale for monastics on why it is so important to go through obedience before taking on the role of a spiritual father, and why it is a huge blessing from God to have such a holy spiritual father [i.e. Geronda Ephraim]. The Abbot at Blanco literally walked off the street and appointed himself a leader without having the necessary spiritual experience. For lay people, it was used as a cautionary tale of why they shouldn’t assume that anyone with a long beard and rassa is holy or virtuous.

MonksArraignmentHandsrb

When this scandal was first breaking the news, many lay people had the question: “How is something like this even possible in a monastery? How can someone who has left the world and dedicated themselves to God capable of such impiety?” In the state of Texas where these horrendous crimes occurred, Geronda Dositheos and his brotherhood were constantly assumed to be associated with this monastery when they went out to do errands.

Hieromonk Ephraim Comits, Holy Archangels Monastery, going out for an errand.
Hieromonk Ephraim Comits, Holy Archangels Monastery, going out for an errand.

In the monasteries, when lay people asked about this scandal, they heard such responses as, “These types of things are unheard of in Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries. Geronda Ephraim did 12 years blind obedience to St. Joseph, became illumined and sanctified, and was given a blessing to take on spiritual children and monasteries. In turn, all of Geronda Ephraim’s abbots and abbesses have gone through a regime of blind obedience, became illumined, and were given the obedience to take on their leadership role. Abbot Alexander Greene never went through obedience or even lived in a monastery. He just walked off the street, threw on a rassa, and made a monastery.”

Monk at Blanco monastery.
Monk at Blanco monastery.

The homily would usually turn to the poor spiritual state of monasticism in America before Geronda Ephraim came, and how Geronda Ephraim brought an authentic monastic tradition here as opposed to the less authentic and less spiritual practices [i.e. no blind obedience, no Jesus Prayer, etc.] of the other monasteries here. “Before Geronda Ephraim came to America, the state of monasticism in this country was a sad state of affairs and somewhat spiritually sterile (other than Jordanville, of course). Two of the more ‘famous’ monasteries —St. Herman of Alaska and Holy Transfiguration — had abbots that fell into delusion, schism, and sexual improprieties. The list can go on and on. Since Geronda Ephraim started building monasteries here in 1989, the increase in spirituality among the orthodox faithful and the resuscitation of the spiritual pulse of the orthodox church has been witnessed. No longer is the Greek Orthodox Church in America a spiritually barren desert…”

In the monasteries, Geronda Ephraim is constantly compared to St. Kosmas Aitolos, Equal-to-the-Apostles.
In the monasteries, Geronda Ephraim is constantly compared to St. Kosmas Aitolos, Equal-to-the-Apostles.

And then the homily would shift to how Geronda Ephraim is one of the greatest apostles and missionaries in the history of the church, following in the footsteps of St. Kosmas Aitolos. It would be explained that this is God’s will and Geronda Ephraim is doing God’s work and nothing can stop it. It was explained as if it was like a rushing river—the bishops, priests, Masons, Jews, etc. can try to put dams up to stop the flow, but Geronda’s work will just move around these dams and continue on its course—because it is God’s will.

Bishop Constantine Essensky lived at the Blanco monastery from 1991-1996.
Bishop Constantine Essensky lived at the Blanco monastery from 1991-1996.

[Note: Last month, Bishop Constantine (Essensky) (1907-96) who lived at the Blanco monastery from 1991 until his repose in 1996, was found incorrupt and reburied in Jordanville. Bishop Constantine was one of the bishops involved in conveying the correctional consecration (“Cherothesia”) to the two Matthewite Bishops in the early 1970s at Holy Transfiguration Monastery at Boston. http://eadiocese.org/News/2014/dec/bpconstantine.en.htm

Fr. Benedict Greene

Samuel A. Greene, Jr., founded the Christ of the Hills Monastery (COTH) in Blanco, Texas in 1972. In 2000 Fr. Benedict pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse - in 2007 he committed suicide while facing charges of parole violation.
Samuel A. Greene, Jr., founded the Christ of the Hills Monastery (COTH) in Blanco, Texas in 1972. In 2000 Fr. Benedict pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse – in 2007 he committed suicide while facing charges of parole violation.

Samuel A. Greene Jr. (63) founder of a monastery that closed amid scandal over the alleged sexual abuse of novice monks and a fraudulent weeping Virgin Mary painting. Greene, who founded the monastery in 1981, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. He was due in court Sept. 14, where prosecutors planned to seek to have his probation revoked. His death was being investigated as a suicide. His body was found in his home on the grounds of Christ of the Hills Monastery in Blanco, Texas on September 17, 2007.

Fake Priest, Fake Miracles in Texas http://www.unitypublishing.com/Apparitions/ChristTheHillsMonisary.htm

From ‘Land Man’ to monk, Father Benedict now charged with child abuse http://lubbockonline.com/stories/082006/sta_082006134.shtml

OBITUARIES Samuel Greene Jr., 63; Texas monk accused of abuse http://articles.latimes.com/2007/sep/20/local/me-greene20

For nearly two decades, Russian Orthodox monks accepted teenage novices at Christ of the Hills monastery in Blanco County.
For nearly two decades, Russian Orthodox monks accepted teenage novices at Christ of the Hills monastery in Blanco County.

OVERVIEW

Monk details sex, drugs, weeping icon at Texas monastery http://www.brownsvilleherald.com/news/local/article_80d5a4bc-d2de-554a-a694-401d2023765e.html

Blanco monks, church settle sex abuse case About $500,000 will be paid to man who said he was assaulted repeatedly at monastery. https://web.archive.org/web/20070121195504/http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/nation/12/15/15monks.html

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS

The monastery gained national attention in 1985 over claims a picture of the Virgin Mary cried tears of myrrh, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors and more than $1 million in donations.
The monastery gained national attention in 1985 over claims a picture of the Virgin Mary cried tears of myrrh, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors and more than $1 million in donations.

1999: Felonious Monk? How Samuel Greene and his Blanco monastery fell from grace. http://www.texasmonthly.com/content/felonious-monk?fullpage=1

2001: Crying in the Chapel The Most Holy Theotokos Icon of New Sarov Sheds Tears of Myrrh at Blanco Monastery. http://www.austinchronicle.com/features/2001-06-22/82144/

Blanco Icon

2002: Sex case unsettles abbey — and cuts into profits http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/636326/posts

2006: State trying to seize property https://web.archive.org/web/20060813170938/http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA081206.05B.ART0.1bee368.html

Walter Christley
Walter Christley (Hierodeacon Pangratios)

2006: Derek “Fr. Aidan” Keller and Blanco’s Pedophile “Monastery” http://westernorthodox.blogspot.ca/2006/08/derek-fr-aidan-keller-and-blancos.html

William Edward Hughes
William Edward Hughes

2006: Sad or sinister? Trouble not new for monastery:  Self-styled monks face new charges after child-sex cases in ’99 http://www.religionnewsblog.com/15850/sad-or-sinister-trouble-not-new-for-monastery

2007: Monk’s final pill-popping is detailed.  https://web.archive.org/web/20070813022022/http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA092007.03B.monkdeath.305ba23.html

Alfonse Salazar of San Antonio passes the Ark-shaped school on the grounds of the former Christ of the Hills Monastery. Salazar bought the property in January & is in the process of cleaning out trash left behind & demolishing most of the buildings.
Alfonse Salazar of San Antonio passes the Ark-shaped school on the grounds of the former Christ of the Hills Monastery. Salazar bought the property in January & is in the process of cleaning out trash left behind & demolishing most of the buildings.

2009: Monastery with shady history to be sold. http://byztex.blogspot.ca/2009/12/monastery-with-shady-history-to-be-sold.html

2010: San Antonio man buys notorious monastery outside Blanco http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/San-Antonio-man-buys-notorious-monastery-outside-779379.php#photo-401880

Incorrupt relics of Bishop Constantine. He lived at the Blanco Monastery from 1991-1996.
Incorrupt relics of Bishop Constantine. He lived at the Blanco Monastery from 1991-1996.

2014: Bishop Constantine (Essensky) (1907-96) Found Incorrupt; Reburied in Jordanville http://nftu.net/bishop-constantine-essensky-1907-96-incorrupt-reburied-jordanville/

Ripoff Report: #217211 Complaint Review: Christ Of The Hills Monastery Aka Monastery Of Christ The Saviour Aka New Sarov http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Christ-Of-The-Hills-Monastery-Aka-Monastery-Of-Christ-The-Saviour-Aka-New-Sarov/Blanco-Texas-78606/Christ-Of-The-Hills-Monastery-Aka-Monastery-Of-Christ-The-Saviour-Christ-Of-The-Hills-Mo-217211

Cemetery at the Blanco monastery.
Cemetery at the Blanco monastery.