A Simple Biomedical Presentation of the First Miracle of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi Who Smiled 45 Minutes After His Death
The Elder Joseph's facial expression immediately after his death.
28 Ιουλίου, 2009
(The author is a well known researcher in the field of Sports Medicine in Germany)
Part 1. The Contemporary Situation
The present contribution describes a miracle that, as far as we know, is almost unheard of in the entire history of Christianity. A dead person (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi) smiled. Impressive is the fact, that this smile occurred 45 minutes after his death. This is photographically documented. There have been reported a lot of miracles with dead persons (prophets, saints, e.t.c.). But almost never before did there occur a miracle like the one that happened on July 1, 2009 in the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi (Mount Athos, Greece).
For many months, the spiritual family of Elder Joseph (namely the Brotherhood of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi and especially Abbot Ephraim) has suffered a unique, for our days, persecution. The latter consists of all kinds of lies and slander. Every father is sad when his children are acused. But he is much more sad when the acusations are faulty. Elder Joseph, being the spiritual father of this family, suffered from this persecution as well. But where sin abounded (in this case the unjust and systematic persecution of the Vatopaidi Brotherhood and of Abbot Ephraim by the pathetic watchdogs of the New World Order), grace did much more aboud (in this case the smile from eternity) (Apostle Paul, Romans 5:20).
The smile from eternity, is another actual confirmation of the word of a former persecutor of the Christianity (Saul). He recognized the Truth (Jesus Christ), converted to the True Faith, became an Apostle (Paul) and sacrificed himself – he was martyred for the Truth. The present persecution (of the Vatopaidi Brotherhood) is impressive. But much more impressive is the reply of God, namely the smile from eternity. May this smile strengthen the faith of the believers, and enlighten the mind (nous) both of the persecutors and of those who want to know the truth.
It would be good that every one who would like to find the truth, to ask himself the following:
1) Why did the Mass Media not make any mention of such an impressive miracle?
2) Why did there not take place (in the Mass Media) a rudimentary discussion concerning the facts that the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi was found by the court to be not guilty?
As far as concerns the second question, there are interesting texts:
a) Ξεκινάει η Δικαίωση της Ιεράς Μεγίστης Μονής Βατοπαιδίου (in Greek – "The Justification of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi Begins") 11 Ιουλίου, 2009.
b) Το δικαστήριο Ξάνθης δικαίωσε την Μονή Βατοπαιδίου (in Greek – "The Court of Xanthi Justified the Monastery of Vatopaidi") 11 Ιουλίου, 2009.
c) Information Bulletin concerning the Holy Monastery of Vatopaidi
d) Open Letter of the Abbot Efraim
Part 2. The Miracle – Biomedical Presentation
From the moment of death, all organs stop their function: the heart, the brain, the lungs, the muscles, e.t.c. As far as the muscles are concerned, it is well known that when someone dies they become rigid (muscular stiffness). For this reason, from the moment of death, no mattter how hard somebody tries, it is very difficult to move (by using normal means), e.g. the arms or other parts of the dead person’s body.
This was the case for Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi as well: when he died, his mouth was open. No matter how hard the monks tried, they could not manage to keep it closed (the relevant pictures document this fact). This phenomenon (from a biomedical viewpoint) is due to the earlier mentioned muscular stiffness.
A person who is alive can smile because the facial muscles can contract. But nobody, due to muscular stiffness, can bring the facial muscles of a dead person in such a position that the dead corpse smiles. Since it is impossible for somebody to close the mouth of a dead (even if he ties it), it is far more inconceivable to bring his facial muscles in such a position, that the face of the dead has a smile. [VatopaidiFriend: But even if there was no muscular stiffness, is a person's face made of plasteline, for a smile to be "moulded"?]
According to contemporary scientific knowledge, nobody by any means can cause a dead person to smile. On the other hand, if this possibility existed (namely to bring a smile to the dead by artificial means), it would have been already applied to other dead people.
This is the great miracle that occurred in the case of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. Not only did his mouth close, but he even smiled. Even more impressive is the fact that this smile was documented (photographed) 45 minutes after his death. Moreover, it is surprising that the Elder Ephraim (the Abbot of the Monastery of Vatopaidi) insisted that the monks should reveal the face of Elder Joseph. Did he receive information from God?
About two years ago I had the blessing to meet the ever-memorable Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi. At that time he had exactly the same smile that he had after his death, the smile that comes from eternity.
O death, where is thy sting?
Contemporary science does not have the means to analyze the smile that comes from eternity. By using human means, it can just register it and photograph it.
The Grace of God and miracles cannot be scientifically investigated, but they can be lived.
Eternal be your memory Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi! Pray for us!
A many years pilgrim of Mount Athos (30 years).
See here: Why’s the Smile of Elder Joseph From Eternity? (text and pictures)
Questions Regarding the Postmortem Smile of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi
I received some questions to ponder regarding the alleged miracle of Elder Joseph's postmortem smile reported here. Some have dismissed it as a medical mystery that should not be simply accepted as a miracle without scientific analysis, while others have objected that a piece of cloth can be traced in the photos shutting the mouth of the Elder. I will give my observations in light of these questions.
I agree we should not throw out the word "miracle" for everything we think comes from God unless there is actual confirmation or evidence for it being a supernatural event. So let us examine some simple facts to see if the word "miracle" is applicable to this unusual circumstance. Of course, I am doing this only in light of the acceptance of the Elder's sanctity and the fact that he was a man of many spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. I am furthermore accepting the testimony of the eye-witnesses as true.
To come to a more objective conclusion I went through a bunch of medical sources on the subject of rigamortis, postmortem movements, and even of cases of smiling dead people.
I should point out initially that this "miracle" is not entirely unique in Christian tradition, as is claimed. For eample, according to the biography of St. Symeon Stylite, he would not allow any woman to come near his pillar, not even his own mother, reportedly telling her, "If we are worthy, we shall see one another in the life to come." Martha submitted to this. Remaining in the area, she also embraced the monastic life of silence and prayer. When she died, Symeon asked that her remains be brought to him. He reverently bid farewell to his dead mother, and, according to the account, a smile appeared on her face.
There seems to be a consensus from the various sources that upon death the muscles relax and it takes no less than 2 hours for rigamortis to set it in. Rigamortis lasts any where from 24-36 hours, though it could last a few days longer and unlikely to last any less.
Furthermore, regarding postmortem movement, it appears that this cannot happen during any time while in rigamortis (usually the facial muscles are one of the first to stiffen). Sometimes right after death the body starts convulsing as it releases oxygen and muscles begin to relax which could in turn cause movement. Nothing happens during rigamortis, but when that time ends the muscles will again relax and could cause movement many days after a corpse is deceased.
As far as smiling dead people are concerned, there seems to be a consensus also that it is impossible to have a natural smile while dead no matter how happy you are when dying. Smiling requires muscles and since the muscles relax it cannot be maintained. However, if the head is a bit lifted you could die with your mouth closed and when rigamortis sets in the side muscles of the mouth could make you to appear to be smiling when they stiffen. Also, before embalming, someone could force a smile on a corpse for the funeral.
In the case of Elder Joseph, upon death we know that his muscles relaxed and his mouth opened and he died in that position. Interestingly rigamortis set in quickly while his mouth was open. We know the monks tried to close his mouth for the funeral service but could not. Also, when rigamortis sets in, you cannot tie anything around the mouth to close it either; it must be tied while the muscles are still relaxed and releasing the oxygen. Postmortem movements where rigamortis sets in are impossible also. The amazing fact in all this is that the smile occurred 45 minutes after death while in a state of rigamortis. Also, mouths, like eyes, do not close on their own once opened after death though they can do the opposite.
Also, I studied all the pictures I possess to get a better idea of what happened. Within the first 45 minutes of death it appears that the only thing around Elder Joseph's neck was the Great Schema. The smile actually happened while he was wearing only the Great Schema and nothing else around his neck. Later on at some point they placed a black monastic funeral sheet of some sort around him which in closeup shots make it appear his mouth was tied. Below are some better photographs I found that reveal this.
Is it a miracle? In light of this objective evidence, though I am no expert, I definitely would not dismiss it as not being a miracle. It is certainly unusual and not normal thus making it very appropriate. And usually anything unusual in a saintly person does have a purpose and is more likely to be a miracle rather than in any other normal circumstance.
Funeral of Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi: A Smile From Eternity
Funeral of Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi: A Smile From Eternity
Report from: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/
Translated by: John Sanidopoulos
July 2, 2009
Yesterday at 6:00PM the farewell service for Blessed Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi took place in the Katholikon of the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi, and at 9:00PM was followed by refreshments in the Synodikon of the Monastery and Trapeza.
At the funeral there were 4 archbishops, 10 abbots, the Holy First Elder Symeon of Dionysiou with the Sacred Supervisors of the Holy Mountain, as well as dozens of priests and hundreds of faithful who upon hearing of the passing of the Blessed Elder came to the Monastery from many parts of Greece and Cyprus leaving behind any pending tasks or activities (one of whom was me).
Those who spoke at the funeral were the following in order: His Excellency Metropolitan of Limassol Athanasios; the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Vatopaidi Archimandrite Ephraim, who as a spiritual child of the Elder was especially moved and emphasized the great paternal love of the Elder having lived all these years and associated with the Elder. There followed His Eminence Metropolitan of Kastoria Seraphim who spoke of the Elder offering himself towards lay christians with his comforting and discerning words and letters, and further became a model of forgiveness and forbearance to those who wrongly criticized and slandered him. At the Synodikon the Abbot of the Sacred Monastery of Simonas Petras Archimandrite Elisaios emphasized that Elder Joseph was a point of reference for the Holy Mountain, who counseled with the desire for the monks to love God. Every meeting with the Elder was an experience.
Those who attended the funeral had the blessing to give the Elder a last embrace and to receive for the last time his blessing. However those who were there were not found to be with a cold relic, but gazed at a jovial, personable person as if he was giving them a smile from eternity. As for me, this was the first time in my life that I saw such an expression as if he was alive, though dead (you can see the face of the Elder in the photographs).
The entombment of the Elder did not take place at the cemetery of the Monastery, but in a place northeast of the Katholikon which he had prepared for himself a few years before.
All those present were confident of the Elder's rest at the right hand of God. The emotions were mixed, sadness mixed with resurrection joy. May we have his blessing.
Chris Evstathopoulos, Athens