The feast of the Life-Giving Spring that we celebrate on the Friday of Renewal Week is a feast of our Panagia. The following is written in the Synaxarion of the day: “On the Friday of Renewal Week we celebrate the dedication of the church of our Most Holy Lady and Mother of God of the Life-Bearing Spring; we even remember the supernatural miracles that took place in this church of the Mother of God.”
The Panagia is called Life-Giving Spring (Ζωοδόχος Πηγή, Zoodochos Pege), since she gave birth to Life, who is Christ. The epithet “Life-Giving Spring” was first given to the Panagia by Joseph the Hymnographer in the ninth century, in a composition of a hymn to the Panagia.
The feast, as mentioned above, refers to the dedication of the Sacred Church of the Panagia, known as the “Life-Giving Spring in Baloukli”, outside the walls of Constantinople, where there was a spring of holy water that did and does many miracles.
The Sacred Church of the Life-Giving Spring in the City was first built by Emperor Leo the Thracian, who was virtuous and forgiving, even before he became emperor and was a simple soldier, when he met a blind man outside the Golden Gate of Constantinople. The blind man asked for water to drink, and Leo looked for the source of the spring of water in the area, which was overgrown with trees, and he was unable to find it. He became very sad that he was unable to find water for the blind man. He then heard a voice say to him: “King Leo (he was called a king even though he was just a soldier, which became verified ), come deeper into the woods, and after receiving in your hands this turbid water, quench the thirst of the blind man and wash his eyes, and then you will know who I am who dwells in this place.” Leo immediately did what the voice ordered him to do and the blind man received his sight. The voice was that of the Panagia.
Leo, when he became emperor, out of gratitude and honor built on the site of that holy water the sacred church in honor of the Panagia, the Life-Giving Spring. When over a period of time this sacred church collapsed, other emperors – Justinian and Basil the Macedonian – took it upon themselves to have a new church built, even more grand than the previous.
Another tradition says that the first church was built by Justinian, after seeing in a vision while he was hunting there a small church and a Priest in front of a spring, saying to him that it is a spring of wonders. There he built a monastery with the materials left over from Hagia Sophia.
This church in the Queen City collapsed in the fifteenth century. According to reports from 1547 the church no longer existed. Only the holy water was there. In 1833 Patriarch Constantios I, with permission from the Sultan, rebuilt the church over the ruins of the old one. Thus on February 2nd in 1835, Patriarch Constantios with twelve other Hierarchs dedicated the new Church of the Life-Giving Spring in Baloukli. Baloukli means “the place of the fish”, since the Spring contains fish.
In this church many miracles took place, even to noble families of the empire, a typical example being the release from sterility of Empress Zoe, who after the miracle from the Life-Giving Spring gave birth to Constantine Porphyrogenitos, who became emperor in Byzantium. In this church also were healed the emperors Justinian, Leo the Wise, Romanos Lekapenos, Andronikos III, Patriarch Stephen of Constantinople, Patriarch John of Jerusalem, many empresses and many senior officials of the empire, as well as clergy and monks, and many ordinary Christians. In the fourteenth century Nikephoros Kallistos wrote about the holy water of the Spring, and compiled a list of 63 miracles.
The icon of the Panagia of the Life-Giving Spring depicts the Panagia in a fountain from which an abundance of water flows out, carrying in her arms Christ who gives a blessing. Two angels crown her holding a scroll that reads: “Rejoice, thou who art the King’s throne! Rejoice, thou who carriest Him Who carriest all!” Around the fountain are depicted the emperor and many sick with various diseases. They receive the holy water sprinkled on them by the healthy. At the corner is depicted someone emblazoned with fish, since as we said Baloukli means “the place of fish”.
The reverence and love of the people of Constantinople for the Life-Giving Spring has been transmitted to all Orthodox in many places, such as here in Nafpaktos, across from here in Aigio at Panagia Tripiti where a church was built in honor of the Panagia of the Life-Giving Spring, where many miracles take place, supporting the people in their everyday lives and in their faith in God.
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, “Παναγία, η Ζωοδόχος Πηγή”, April 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.