Here's another one of these "miracles" which to me seems to have a strong

Roman Catholic flavor. For the readers information, the Roman Catholic Church

Rarely sticks its neck out and confirms these are in fact miracles. Then again,

They don't need to; everybody else jumps for the chance to do it for them.

Phil Scovell, sysop.


I drove thirty miles last week to see a painting weep. I

came away not sure of what I saw, wondering about other things as


St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church sits in a bungalow

community on the Northwest Side of Chicago, across the street

from a shopping mall. Built in 1961, it seats only about 400

people. The vestibule is small, the aisles narrow. The place

cramps the movement of hundreds who had come for a glimpse at a


Father Philip Koufos, pastor of the church, first saw the

sight on December 6, St. Nicholas' Day.

In Orthodox churches, a decorated wall, or iconostasis,

partially conceals the altar from the congregation. Father

Koufos and two parishioners had approached the wall to light

votive candles. Among the images on the wall was an icon of the

Virgin Mary holding the young Jesus, painted by a man named

Kostas Yousis in 1961. He'd made the virgin's eyes wide and

sorrowful, in the manner of icons. But never before had Father

Koufos noticed moisture there.

"First I saw a long stream of wet coming out of the eyes

down to the bottom of the icon. As we further examined it, we

saw multiple sprays come down and exude from the

actual squirting."

"I immediately fell on my face. My parishioners thought I

had fainted...I was in shock. Then as I recovered myself, we

looked everywhere to see if water was coming down from the

ceiling." They found nothing but the wet, staring eyes of the


The pastor tried to keep the matter quiet, but the story

spread out of the tiny church onto TV screens and into

newspapers. Now here were hundreds of people, men and women from

all over the city, come to see the weeping icon.

I hesitated to move toward the painted wonder near the

altar. A Protestant, I feared I might make some error of

protocol and give offense. A black man, I didn't know how the

Greeks and Turks and Slavs might react to me. Then there was the

icon itself. I wanted to think a bit, to talk to some who'd seen

it before I went forward. I wanted to do a little praying. Even

before seeing it, the thing frightened me.

They did not resent my presence. They stared, not at me,

but at my notebook, as if it were magical. "Are you with Channel

Five?" they asked. "Are you with the Sun-Times?"

A Catholic woman tells me that her rosary beads turned from

blue to green as she drove to the church. Another Catholic woman

sits and talks to me. "Mary is weeping," she says, "because

we're hurting her son." These two have no doubts.

Another woman in a red parka is more skeptical. "It's over

by the hands. I didn't see any by the eyes. I would have to

examine it closer. It looked like a streak of varnish to me."

There are a few blacks here. One of them, a South Sider,

takes me aside to say that a calendar had miraculously appeared

in his Bible, a calendar which had predicted the weeping icon,

and foretold that the wonder would cease on December 15. His

church had rejected him, he said; they thought he was crazy.

I had not yet seen the picture. I put away my notebook and

joined the line. I did not have long to wait; the crowd had

thinned a little.

The virgin's eyes were dry when I approached her, but the

signs of moisture were there. Gleaming streaks ran from her face

and hands down to the base of the icon, glowing in candlelight.

"What does it mean?" I whispered.

A guide grinned at me. "I don't know. Maybe you'll be the

lucky one who tells us."

A TV reporter, shivering on the street, asked for my

opinion. Instead I asked for his. "It's Three-In-One oil on an

oil painting. When the candles flicker the moisture seems to

move." He speaks with more fervor than anyone in the church.

Perhaps it was the cold. "I'm a devout Christian, but I'm a

reporter. I've learned to be skeptical."

So have I. Back at the office I called a group in Buffalo

New York that checks out reports of supernatural events. They

promised to send out an investigator and keep me posted. I'll

let you know what they discover.

But suppose they can find no explanation for the icon's

tears? Is this a miracle, then? Or is it a natural event not

yet comprehended by science? The trouble with the unexplained is

precisely that it explains nothing.

Is it any wonder that Christmas has become little more than

a spending spree? Gifts, decorations, credit cards are all so

easy to understand. It's when we consider a virgin giving birth

in a barn that the confusion starts. When the going gets tough,

the confused go shopping.

I crossed over from St. Nicholas to the shopping mall, a

modernist cathedral fragrant with the scent of Japanese

electronics and Hong Kong clothes. It was warm, well-lit. I

felt safe there. I did a little shopping.

By Hiawatha Bray

Computers for Christ - Chicago

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