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Archive for the ‘Art and Iconography’ Category

Looking through old files of photos and videos I found this video of the holy icon of Axion Esti (It is Truly Meet) arriving at the port of Thessaloniki from Mount Athos for the feast of St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and the 100th anniversary of the city’s liberation from Ottoman rule (October, 2012). We were blessed to be there and to record the procession which began at the port and led to the Church of St. Demetrios.

Below is the history of the icon, from the Pemptousia’s website here:

The icon or “Axion Esti”, which is said to be miraculous, is kept in the sanctuary. This is the most saintly icon of the whole monastic state. Placed on a throne behind the altar, it is about 3′ l’ by 2′ 2″ in size. The center of the icon is domi­nated by the Virgin holding the Child Jesus, while its oblong perimeter is occupied by twenty small medallions, each picturing the patron saints of the monasteries of Mt Athos. The following story is told about this icon. North-east of Karyes, in the direction of Pantokratoros monastery and at a place called Sakkos, there were a few kellia, one of them dedicated to the Assumption of the Bles­sed Virgin. One Saturday afternoon the Elder of this Kelli before starting for Karyes, where he intended to attend the vigils at the church of the Protaton, instructed his hypotaklikos to read the vespers himself. That evening a young monk who was a complete stranger appeared at the kelli and begged leave to stay for the night, which was granted. During matins next morning, the hypotaktikos was preparing to chant Kosmas’s hymn to the Virgin Mother before her icon. This begins with “Την τιμιωτέραν των χερουβείμ” (“More honourable than the Cherubim”) but he was in­terrupted by the visitor who started chanting the then unknown hymn “‘Αξιον εστίν ως αληθώς μακαρίζειν σε την Θεοτόκον, την αειμακάριστον και παναμώμητον και Μητέρα του Θεού ημών” (“It is truly meet to call thee blessed, the Theotokos and ever-virgin, all-immaculate and Mother of our God”).

Having finished this he continued with that of “Την τιμιωτέραν των χερουβείμ.” Greatly moved, the hypotaktikos begged the guest to write down the hymn for him. Finding no paper or ink he produced a marble slab on which the stranger carved the hymn with his bare finger. He ordered the monk that the hymn should thereafter be sung in praise of the Virgin. He then vanished. When the elder returned and was told what had passed between the hypotaktikos and the stranger, he at once notified the Assembly of the Elders at Karyes. Those had both the icon of the Virgin before which the angel-carved hymn was first sung, as well as the marble slab brought to the Protaton. The icon was placed on a throne in the sanctuary, with a hanging lamp burning before it day and night while the marble slab was sent to Constantinople and both the Emperor and the Patriarch were accordingly informed. Furthermore they communicated the event to al1 the fathers on the Holy Mountain, whom they instructed that the hymn should be sung henceforth. The kelli in question was named “Axion Estin” and its locality is still called “the Pit of Singing”.

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(Source) Like the Panagia Portaitissa, the Glykophilousa Icon is one of those which were saved during the iconoclastic period and brought miraculously to Mount Athos. It originally belonged to Victoria, the devout wife of the senator Symeon. Victoria was one who venerated the holy icons, especially that of the Most Holy Theotokos, before which she prayed each day. Her husband was an iconoclast who found her piety offensive, for he, like Emperor Theophilos (r. 829-842), found the veneration of icons distasteful. Symeon told his wife to give him her icon so that he could burn it. In order to save the icon from being destroyed, she threw it into the sea, and it floated away standing upright on the waves. After a few years, the icon appeared on the shores of Mount Athos near the Monastery of Philotheou, where it was received with great honor and rejoicing by the Abbot and Fathers of the Monastery, who had been informed of its impending arrival through a revelation of the Theotokos.

A spring of holy water sprouted forth on the very spot where they placed the icon on the shore. Every year on Monday of Bright Week there is a procession and blessing of water. Numerous miracles have occurred.

Although there are many miracles of the Glykophilousa Icon, we will mention only a few. In 1713, the Mother of God answered the prayers of the devout Ecclesiarch Ioannikios, who complained about the poverty of the monastery. She assured him that she would provide for the material needs of the monastery.

Another miracle took place in 1801. A pilgrim, after seeing the precious offerings (tagmata) hanging from the icon, a certain pilgrim planned to steal them. He stayed in the Temple after the Ecclesiarch closed it. Then he stole the offerings and left for the port of Iveron Monastery. There he found a boat that was leaving for Ierissos. After a while the ship sailed, but despite the excellent weather, it remained stationary in the sea. When the Ecclesiarch saw what had happened, the abbot sent monks out in various directions. Two went to the port of Iveron and when they saw the immobile ship, they realized what happened. Getting into a boat they went to the ship came aboard. The guilty man who committed this fearful sacrilege asked for forgiveness. The monks were magnanimous and did not want the thief to be punished.

A pilgrim from Adrianopolis visited Philotheou Monastery in 1830. He listened attentively to a monk tell the story of the holy Icon and the miracles associated with it, but he regarded the account as a fictitious tale which only a child might believe. The monk was grieved at the man’s unbelief, and tried to persuade him that everything he had said was absolutely true. The unfortunate pilgrim remained unconvinced.

That very day, as the pilgrim was walking on an upper balcony, he slipped and began to fall. He cried out, “Most Holy Theotokos, help me!” The Mother of God heard him and came to his assistance. The pilgrim landed on the ground completely unharmed.

The Glykophilousa Icon belongs to the Eleousa (the Virgin of Tenderness) category of icons, where the Mother accepts the affection shown by the Child Christ. The icon is commemorated by the Church on March 27 and also on Bright Monday. The icon depicts the Theotokos inclining toward Christ, Who embraces her. She seems to be embracing Him more tightly than in other icons, and her expression is more affectionate.

The Icon is located on a pillar on the left side of the katholikon (main church).

The Glykofilousa icon (celebrated today, March 27) is similar to the one celebrated in Russia on March 19:

(Source) The Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself in the year 1103 at Smolensk. There is another Smolensk “Tenderness” Icon from the vicinity of Okopa (down from Smolensk). This icon was in the encampment of the Russian armies of the military commander Shein, restraining the Polish besiegers from destroying Smolensk for twenty months (1611-1613).

Here is an icon of Tenderness from the Orthodox parish behind my old apartment in Greece. Such sweet, tender love depicted in line and colour!

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three hierarchsLet us who love their words gather together

And honor with hymns the three great torch-bearers of the triune Godhead:

Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom.

These men have enlightened the world with the rays of their divine doctrines.

They are sweetly-flowing rivers of wisdom filling all creation

with springs of heavenly knowledge.

Ceaselessly they intercede for us before the Holy Trinity!

The above photo is of my cross-stitch of the Holy Three Hierarchs. St. Basil the Great and St. John Chrysostom are visible, St. Gregory the Theologian is under the fold on the right. I’ve been working on this for just under two years. I pick it up here and there. I used to do it often on Sunday afternoons when our priest in Thessaloniki would give a 2 hour “mathima” (class) on various interesting theological topics. I once got scolded by a lady there for cross-stitching this because it was Sunday but it was difficult for me to concentrate on a 2 hour Greek lecture (without falling asleep) if I didn’t keep my hands busy. So, although I felt bad for scandalizing her I didn’t stop bringing it to “class” with me, I just wouldn’t do it if she were there that day ;)

The reason why I have been cross-stitching an “icon” of the Three Hierarchs (other than because I like all sorts of crafts) is because years ago my husband wanted me to paint on icon of them for our home chapel – I felt three full length saints was a little above my skill level at the time and we so comprised on St. Nektarios (not that I can really saying having such a great patron for our home chapel is a “compromise,” but still). In exchange for a hand-pained icon of the Hierarchs I will frame my cross-stitch for Fr. John, some day. (I probably have a few years left to go).

We had planned on having a vigil for the Three Hierarchs last night at the Mission but we had to cancel because the university campus closed on account of the snow storm we had. Fr. John was very saddened, especially since we haven’t had snow since Dec 25 so it seemed harsh to have a snow storm on the night we planned on a vigil, but God controls the elements so… that’s that. Perhaps next year…

May the Holy Three Hierarchs (the patrons of education) pray for us all who study and seek to become “rich in wisdom”!

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gennisi-tou-sotiros-hristouMerry Christmas!

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things above

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(History of the icon, from this post)

The holy icon pictured above is called “Diasosousa” (the one who saves) and is housed at St. Anthony’s church here in Thessaloniki. St. Anthony’s is a metochian of St. Theodora’s monastery in the same city. She is miracle-working and her feast day is today, October 28 (“Ohi Day”). The liturgical feast of the Holy Protection of the Theotokos was transferred to this date some years ago in Greece because the people felt that it was through the Theotokos that they successfully withstood Italian troops (in cahoots with the Nazis), who on Oct. 28, 1940 wanted to come into Greece and set up military stations in unspecified locations. Since Greece refused to allow this, they were forced to enter the Second World War.

During this period of war a group of Greek men (I think there were five) were being chased by German soldiers in Thessaloniki. They ran into the church of St. Anthony in order to hide. At that time it was a monastery and the Abbott was in the altar. When the Greeks came in they told the Abbott they needed to hide from the Germans. The church is quite small and there is no obvious hiding space. The Abbott told them to all stand behind the above icon of the Theotokos – which at that time was located next to the iconostasis and didn’t have such a majestic encasing nor rizzo (the silver covering over the icon).

When the Germans came into the church they looked everywhere for the Greek men: around the stasidia (seats), in the altar, everywhere, but they couldn’t find them. Panagia had made them blind to the five men standing behind her. They left in great frustration and the Greeks came out from behind the icon. Just then they noticed that the Theotokos was covered in myrrh. One of them (I think it was the Abbott) said, “She is sweating from the stress of having to hide you. Let’s kneel down and say a Supplicatory canon to her.” And this is how the icon came to be known as “the one who saves”.

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christ hartoniIn honour of the fast we keep in anticipation of the feast of the Most Holy Lady Theotokos’ Dormition, and since we’re moving to Newfoundland and I need to disperse a few of my things, I’m giving away the first icon I painted in my iconography class in Thessaloniki.

It isn’t my first icon, it’s probably my third or fourth. It’s on hard cardboard (χαρτόνη in Greek, I don’t actually know if that’s what we’d call it in English) because that is how we painted our first practice icon in the class. But I think it’s beautiful in its own way and I would love for it to go to someone who would appreciate a handpainted icon, even one on cardboard. It is about 9′ x 14′.

So, to enter to “win” this icon of Christ (which is a copy of St. Theophanes the Cretan’s Christ, shown here), leave a comment or e-mail me. My only request is that you remember my family and me in your prayers. The giveaway is open until midnight, Sunday, August 11, the Afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.

UPDATE (Aug. 11/13): I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all your prayers for me and my family. It means a great deal to me to know so many fervent prayers were “sent up” for us. We drew a name out a hat and the name was Laskey Collective. Congratulations, dear friends!

evlogia kyriou

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