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.).
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.”
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].”
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.”
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.
[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)
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.”
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)
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:
“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:
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:
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.