Since November 22nd, 1982, a simple home of the Christian neighbourhood of Soufanieh in Damascus, is the scene of phenomenons which make its inhabitants relive the graces of the first Christians. Damascus which lives unexplained staggering events which follow one another at an amazing rythm: oozing of oil from a replica of an Icon of the Virgin Mary, exudation of oil from the face and hands of Myrna Nazzour, a normal and well-balanced lady, married six months earlier, who is living the Passion of Christ with stigmatas and having visions of the Virgin Mary during ecstasies.
The first event started on November 22nd, 1982. Myrna was praying with other members of her family while visiting her ailing sister-in-law, when suddenly, she felt a strange and indescribable phenomenon: all her body was shivering as if some force was coming out from inside her (to quote her expression) Oil had just started to exude from her hands for the first time.
The second event to take place in the home of Myrna and Nicolas in Soufanieh, started on November 27th, 1982, coinciding with the anniversary date of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Saint Catherine Labouré in 1830, at the rue du Bac in Paris, France. Oil started to exude from a small replica of the Icon of the Virgin of Kazan, bought by Nicolas in July 1980, at the Alexandre Nevsky Orthodox church in Sofia, Bulgaria . This oozing of the Icon slowly followed the rythm of the liturgical cycle of the Christian feasts and lasted until November 26th, 1990. During these years, the oozing of oil was interrupted from November 27th, 1985 to November 25th, 1986, but the atmosphere of peace and prayers never stopped. During this period, not one drop of oil exuded and no apparitions occured. This period explains part of Christ's message on November 26th, 1985: “…and if My absence lasts, and the light disappears from you, do not fear, this will be for My glorification. “
Oil exudes from Myrna during prayers or while speaking about the phenomenon or during extasy. Oil flows on Myrna's hands, face, neck, eyes, stomach. Oil flows from people's hands outside the family and Syria but always in relation to the phenomenon of Our Lady of Soufanieh. When the blue Icon (the distinction is based on the color of clothes of the Virgin) is transferred in triumph to the Byzantine Greek-Orthodox church of the Holy Cross (approx 500 meters/yards from their house) on Sunday, January 9th, 1983, it ceases to exude oil and it is replaced by the purple copy of the Icon starting January 17th, 1983. Oil flows on more than a thousand photographic reproductions of the Icon. It gushes out of the ground of the terrace at the place where the Holy Virgin has appeared. It flows from a three dimensional painting of the Holy Virgin; a prayer book; the wall behind which a niche is placed, under key, the blue Icon; from the panes closing the 2 niches (the one in the entrance and the one in the hall); from the cotton inside a box destined to be distributed to the sick; a medal carried around the neck of Myrna etc.
Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Holy Virgin Mary has appeared to Myrna five times: First on Wednesday December 15th, 1982; there was no message and Myrna ran away, frightened. Secondly on Saturday December 18th, 1982: the first message was published in literary Arabic. Thirdly Saturday January 8th, 1983: one word was pronounced by the Blessed Virgin in dialectal Arabic. Next Monday February 21st, 1983 she was given the second message; a private message pronounced in dialectal Arabic. Finally on Thursday March 24th, 1983 Myrna received a third message again pronounced in literary Arabic. The messages consist of appeals for faith, love, repentance, humility, joy in the Lord, mutual forgiveness and Unity in the Church especially during the Feast of Easter.
All apparitions have taken place at night, on the terrace. Only Myrna saw the Holy Virgin. An intense atmosphere of prayer and peace around her and throughout the house prevails during the apparitions. The apparition manifests itself on the horizontal branch of an eucalyptus tree situated at the edge of the river about fifteen yards (meters) to the south of the house. A globe of light appears first, then opens, enabling the sight of a blue crescent high above that disappears once the Holy Virgin appears. The Holy Virgin is first sitting on the branch, then She stands up and walks towards the terrace of the house, leaving behind Her a wake of light. She crosses the iron railing and stops on the terrace. She is dressed in white, with a blue belt, covered with a sort of hood forming part of the dress and wearing on her right shoulder, a blue shawl (similar to the painting of the Assumption by Murillo). She holds in Her right hand between the index and the annular a rosary of crystal color. The right arm is folded at the height of the chest, the left arm down by Her side. Her feet are invisible. The Holy Virgin delivers Her message to Myrna and what She says is inaudible to the persons present. Myrna repeats slowly the message just heard. At the end of the vision, the Holy Virgin returns to the eucalyptus, moving backwards. Once on the branch, She disappears first, then the globe. 6 Myrna has also received countless messages without accompanying apparitions during relious ecstatic states.
So far, thirty-four until April 10th 2004 have been documented, eight of which were outside Damascus, Syria: One at the Greek-Catholic archbishopric of Khabab, Syria, (approx 40 miles) to the south of Damascus in the presence of the Archbishop Boulos Borkhosh (without message); One at the Syrian-Orthodox cathedral of Hassaké, Syria, at more than (approx 500 miles) to the North-east of Damascus (one message); Three at Màad in Lebanon, one of which at the church village (two messages); Two in Los Angeles, USA. (two messages) and One in Braasschaatt, Belgium (one message). In general, during these ecstasies, Myrna sees the Holy Virgin, or Christ. Usually the ecstasy is preceded by an exudation of oil from the hands, face or neck of Myrna. When she is about to see Christ, oil comes out also through her eyes and burns them before she goes into ecstasy. This stage is followed by the ecstasy itself, that is to say the state of disconnexion with the external world. During this phase Myrna does not see, hear, nor feel. Her body is stiff. She sees Christ in the form of a Person made up of light without distinguishing His face, which is not the case with the Holy Virgin. After having seen Christ, she returns to her normal state, and she takes time to recover her normal sight: her interior light prevents her from seeing anything. She has remained in this state during 72 consecutive hours, from November 26th till the 29th, 1984. Often, one to four physicians would be present during the ecstasies. A number of medical tests have been undertaken mainly on her sight, sensitivity and reflexes: all were negative. Besides the first two ecstasies of Monday October 24th, 1983, which have not been timed, the duration of the other ecstasies has varied between 5 and 75 minutes. Most of these ecstasies have been recorded on videotapes. These ecstasies were accompanied most of the time with messages summarizing the important Christian realities: Trinity, Creation, Incarnation, Divine Paternity, Mediation Of The Virgin Mary, Deserving The Kingdom Of Heaven, Repentance To The Lord, Necessity For Constant Prayer And Fasting, Sanctity Of The Marriage, Pressing Appeal For The Unity Of The Church, The Role Of Laity In The Work Of Unity.
The stigmata phenomenon manifests itself within the stigmatized person with the opening, in her/his body, of wounds (stigma) reminiscent of the five wounds of Christ, plus the crown of thorns. The wounds do not suppurate and the blood is pure. The stigmatization is accompanied with intense physical and moral suffering. It happens generally during the day, in remembrance of the Passion of Christ.
The first time they appeared, they were preceded by various symptoms: appearance of a sort of callosity in the middle of her palms, opening of the wound on her left side a few days before the simultaneous opening of the five wounds, etc... Having opened on the afternoon of Friday November 25th, 1983, the wounds are totally healed around 23:00 without leaving a scar. The wound of her left side was small, it measured a maximum of 1.5 cm (about half an inch). Eight physicians have seen the stigmata, while some of them have felt them.
The second occurrence of the stigmata appeared suddenly on Good Thursday, April 19th, 1984 at 15:30. The wound of her side was deep. Father Malouli measured it (four inches). Someone advised Nicolas to take his wife to the hospital to stitch the side wound. His reply came loud and clear "He who has opened the wounds, will close them". Around 23:00 hours, all wounds were totally closed without leaving a scar.
The third occurrence of the stigmata appeared on Good Thursday, April 16th, 1987 in the presence of fathers Elias Zahlaoui and Joseph Malouli who have seen the first drops of blood spurt out from Myrna's forehead where a wound opened for the first time. The wound of the side measured 12 cm (4.75 inches). A French biologist, Mrs. Geneviève Antakly measured it, she calls it a scratch. This wound was open approximately ten minutes after the others and the following day it was totally closed: the two surgeons on-site have not touched them. The other wounds that were submitted to tests have taken several days to heal. Wounds on the forehead, hands and feet were healed without any treatment nor bandages. One has never used any disinfectant to clean the marks of the wounds. Archbishop Mgr Stephanos Haddad, Greek-Orthodox, has seen the first stigmata. He remained approximately one hour beside Myrna. The Syrian-Catholic Archbishop, Mgr Joseph Mounayer has witnessed the presence of the second stigmata. Father Nicholas Baalbaki, surgeon and Greek-Orthodox priest has seen and touched the third stigmata. After the opening of the third stigmata, two French biologists Geneviève and her husband Jean-Claude Antakly as well as two surgeons Louis Kawa and George Mesmar, were present. With the exception of the stigmata on friday November 25th, 1983 (1st anniversary), it was noticed that the stigmata open only when Catholic and Orthodox celebrate Easter together. The other years, nothing happens, not even a droplet of oil, neither during the Catholic Easter nor during the Orthodox one. On Good Thursday 1990, the stigmata opened in three stages: at 11:14 the five wounds on the forehead, at 13:26 the wounds on the hands and feet, at 13:31 the side wound that measured 12 cm (4.75 inches).
The fourth occurrence of the stigmata appeared on Good Thursday, April 12th, 2001 in the presence of fathers Elias Zahlaoui, Boulos Fadel, Antoine Mousleh, Jean-Pierre Devedeux and Fadi Tabet. The wound of the side measured (4.75 inches). The fifth occurrence of the stigmata appeared on Good Thursday, April 8th, 2004 in the presence of fathers Elias Zahlaoui, Boulos Fadel, Joseph Besnier, Nicolas Bustros, Louis-René Gagnon and Adel T. Khoury. The wound of the side measured (1.5 inches).