Volcanic Ash and God- Constantinople 472
In the Synaxarion of 6th November, in addition to the saints of the day, we read the following “And on this day we remember the man loving mercy of God and the dust that came down or ashes that fell during the reign of Leo the Great”. The verses for the day say, “You threatened to burn us, but we did not burn, since You stirred Your anger with long suffering O Word.”
The explanation for the feast in the Menaion for 6th November reads:
In the Eighteenth Year of the Reign of the Emperor Leo the Great (i.e. 472 AD) on the 5th of November, during the midday hours, all of the sky (of Constantinople) was filled not with usual black clouds, but with clouds that were red like fire. Everyone was amazed and afraid that fire and flames would reign down, and bur them completely like at Sodom. People ran to the churches with tears and lamentations. But God who loves mankind moderated His punishment with His love and in the afternoon it started to rain until midnight. The rain sent down earth and dust that was as black as ashes and covered the ground and houses, more than an inch in depth. It burnt all the plants, grass and crops on the ground. It wasn’t easy to make this dust come off with water. Thus, God’s indignation at our sins was revealed.
In the days that followed many heavy and fast rains fell and washed the dust away. This means that our sins are like red and black dust on us, that consume every kind of virtue and need many tears and much repentance is needed to wash out the burning ashes of our sins, so that we can escape the punishment of hell, which will burn our bodies and souls, and thus gain the Kingdom of Heaven.”
This event, an unusual weather occurrence, which is described by the chronographer and historian Procopius and the Synaxaria of the Church in such alarming colours, made people interpret it as the wrath of God because of people’s sins. It was a righteous anger that would send down fire and burn everything, but in the end God’s love for mankind, the long-suffering of Christ and His love turned the fire into warm ashes which was eventually washed away.
The event must have been so terrifying that the Church has remembered it every year since, and has ordained that on the Sunday around this date (between the 30th October to the 5th November) the reading is taken from The Rich Man and Lazarus. A reading which talks about another life, about the need to repent, about the terrifying fire of hell, and punishment of sinners. That is to say, from a historical, meteorological event the Church reminds sinners of our salvation.”
It was the explosion of Vesuvius on the 6th November 472 . Clouds brought the warm ashes as far as Constantinople, creating the terrifying event described in the November Menaion, showing the relationship between spiritual laws and physical ones, as they were established by God and understood by man.