Syrian saint in safety after isis bombed his tomb

                 Here we are looking at the relics of Saint Elian of Homs
Here we are looking at the relics of Saint Elian of Homs

St Elian of Homs, a Great Saint of the 3rd century was resting peacefully in the monastery dedicated to his name in Al Qaryatain, near Homs (see photos below). That monastery has been completely destroyed by ISIS-bulldozers after they arrived in the town in August 2015. A week ago AFP contacted Mother Agnes Mariam, superior of our Monastery, to tell her that the remains of the Great martyr were uncovered. She then acted quickly to to save the remains and to return them to the Syrian Catholic community. The following is the account of this story.

Mother Agnes-Mariam: Al Qaryatain was liberated on the third of April. On the fifth an AFP journalist called me. He told me he had found the remains of saint Elain in the monastery dedicated to his name in Al Qaryatain. He assured me that he had contacted Father Jacques Mourad, superior of the Monastery who was in Rome, and that he confirmed that the bones were from saint Elian. Now when an area is liberated in Syria, first of all the Syrian army comes and takes away the mines. But then often, unfortunately, people come to loot the area. I realized we had to act quickly. I asked a member of our community to go to Al Qaryatain as soon as possible to gather the remains of the Saint.

        Photo taken of the tomb of St Elian in Al Qaryatain monastery, bombed by ISIS  (AFP, the sixth of April)
Photo taken of the tomb of St Elian in Al Qaryatain monastery, bombed by ISIS (AFP, the sixth of April)

Community member who went to save the saint's remains: “ Mother Agnes asked me to go to Al Qaryatain. Before leaving I looked for some pictures online of the remains of St Elian (see photo above). Once I arrived at the monastery I had trouble orientating myself, I had never visited the place before. I first entered the church, and went into the Holy of Holies but found nothing. I then went into another room, there I found about 30 handmade gas bombs. The people around me warned me not to go in and to be very careful. I continued looking and found another place, it was full of uncovered bones, but not of our saint. After a while someone shouted and said he found the bones. They were scattered around a huge stone with inscriptions on it - exactly as on the internet picture. I wouldn’t have suspected that the remains would lie on a pile of rubble; I thought they would be in a specific room or place. Apparently the terrorists piled up different tombs one on top of the other. All the surrounding people kept at a distance out of respect for the saint. I then proceeded to put the bones, one by one in the box that the sisters of our monastery gave us. I picked up everything I could find around the tomb. I also noticed a difference in the dirt in which I was digging. Some of it was really soft, I presume that  it was the flesh that was decomposed in that dirt, it was darker than the rest. We quickly gathered up the remains and moved on to the nearby village of Sadad. 


(Here below you can see to pictures of the monastery of Mar Elian, destroyed by ISIS bulldozers).

Once we arrived in the monastery we were all really happy and we had a great procession in honor of the saint (see photos below). We woke around his bones until late in the evening. But I still had some doubts as to whether these were the remains of Saint Elian or not. Later in the evening Sister Claire-Marie told me how Saint Elian died…”

Let’s pick up the biography of Saint Elian, written by Gabriel Saad [1] to get to know our saint. “Elian was a great physician who went around healing the citizens of Homs-Syria. While he healed people he preached the Word of God, and operated miraculous healings in the name of Jesus Christ. At that time, in the year 284 of our era, heavy persecutions, decreed by Numerian, raged against all the Christians of the Roman Empire. They were especially cruel in the city of Homs. Elian’s father was an important dignitary of the city governor. He was very embarrassed about his son’s behavior who fearlessly continued to preach Christ. He locked him up for eleven months. After that period city notables urged him with the following words: “You are not permitted, even if it is your son, to let him stay alive any longer, we fear the emperor’s anger against you and against the city (…) They threw themselves on Elian to kill him. But Khastares (Elian’s father) stopped them and told him that he had a special torture in stored for his son. Elian was then brought to the east of the city. It’s the sixth of February 285 (…) they shaved his head and pounded twelve long nails in his body: in his head, his hands and his feet (…) They figured he was dead, and so the persecutors left. But Elian retrieved his strength and was able to drag himself to a nearby cave, which served as workshop for a Christian potter. There, he gave his soul to the Lord”.


[1] (Copyrighted 1974, orthodox archbishopric of Homs)

Community member who went to save the saint's remains: "Later that evening, around midnight, we all gathered to pray around the saint’s remains. We wanted to secure the box with nails, and we thus had to arrange the bones so that the box would close just right. I looked at the scull but couldn't denote if yes or not it had holes in it due to the nails. I then started thinking, how is it possible that after having received a nail in his head the saint was able to drag himself to another place before dying. But later on I understood that when you pound a nail into a person’s head blood will not pour out, that’s why he woke up again after the torturers left him for dead, and that's how he was able to drag himself to the cave. Also it must have been a small nail because a big one would have killed him instantly. The next morning, before giving back the relics to the representatives of the Syriac Catholic Church, I wanted to see the bones again and look for some traces on the saint’s scull... I was really touched when I saw a perfect hole in the scull of the saint.

We thank the Lord for the passage of this Great saint into our monastery; we truly felt his intercession and his blessing upon us. We share with you here his last prayer. He expressed it right before his father sentenced him to death: “Oh my Lord Jesus Christ, hear my prayer and, in this hour, accept my demands. Give peace to whomever would make remembrance of me on the day of my martyrdom, and forgive that person his sins. Protect that person from the traps of the enemy. By your holy name Oh Lord, liberate this city and its surroundings from the adoration of idols. Defend your sheep against the wolves! Oh Lord! … may my tongue not remain silent (...) A band of dogs and brigands come up against me. But you, Oh Lord, do not deprive me of your mercy. Lord help me! (…) May those who hate you be covered with shame, you, Lord Jesus Christ, my God, who saves the world from the victory of the Evil One. Pardon also this city to have shed the blood of your innocent servants."


Saint Elian of Homs, pray for us, pray for Syria. Lord Jesus Christ, by the intercession of Saint Elian, save Syria from the enemy! To Jesus Christ our Lord be the glory, now and forever and ever. Amen!

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