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Archive for the ‘Art and Iconography’ Category

(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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(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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mp ic nekHere are the icons for our home chapel. We don’t actually have the chapel yet, or the home for that matter, but the plan is that when we have the space we’ll set up a full chapel in our home – or more likely in a spare room of an apartment. These icons, measuring 12” x 16”, have been a work in progress the past two and a half years. I’m really thankful they’re all finally ready for use.

st. nektarios

Now when we are in Fredericton (at a make shift chapel for Divine Liturgy on Saturdays) we can use these hand-painted icons instead of copies. All that’s left is for me to varnish them.

panagia and christPhew! You have no idea how happy I am to see them completely finished and ready for liturgical worship!

Doxa se o Theos!

I chose to paint Christ as the Highpriest because I felt He should surpass the majesty of St. Nektarios as a Hierarch. He turned out to be my favourtie of the three.

christ the high priest

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(Originally posted here last year)

Fr. Joahcim of Mt. Athos

I don’t know the practices and customs of other Orthodox countries, but in Greece many laity try to observe what is called the “three-day” (trimero), the first three days of Great Lent, by abstaining from all food and drink. From what I gather it is a custom always practiced in Orthodox monasteries. I’ve been told it used to be kept for the first six days in earlier times.

The idea behind it is to enter the Fast as strictly as possible, fasting from all food and drink the first three days then on Wednesday communing at the first Pre-sanctified Liturgy of Great Lent. In Greece the Pre-sanctified Liturgies are celebrated on Wednesday and Friday mornings.

For those who are unable to abstain from all food and drink I know it is also customary to eat flat bread (something the bakers make special for “Kathara Devtera”, Clean Monday) and halva. Others who try to keep the three-day a bit more strictly eat some nuts and drink some juice in the evenings. Others fast from food but take drink throughout the three days. I’ve heard that it is common to at very least not eat cooked food on Clean Monday, (hence the flat bread and halva). I suppose people fast as strictly as their strength and health allows them. But as our priest said this morning, “For those who can keep the ‘three-day’ they will find it makes the rest of the Fast much more manageable.”

However you observe the first three days of the Great Fast I wish you all good strength and a productive Lent! May we contend well so that we will be found worthy to ascend with Christ to Golgotha, and see His Glorious Resurrection!

And on this day of Forgiveness Sunday I’d like to take the chance to say forgive me.

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My iconography teacher preparing to put gold leaf on my icon of St. Nektarios.

(An excerpt from my Master’s thesis)

If one does not live piously he should not presume to paint holy icons.  For not only does the Stoglav council commend the iconographer to a life of piety, but gives the warning that those who neglect to lead such a life will have the honor of painting holy icons taken from them:

If any of these same master painters or any of their students takes to living not according to canonical commandment, in drunkenness and impurity, or in any sort of impropriety, the prelates shall place such persons under interdiction, and thenceforth they shall be excluded from icon production and ordered not to involve themselves in it, fearing the spoken words:  “He is cursed who performs God’s work negligently.” [Jeremiah 48:10][1]

Whether this particular canon was merely applied locally in 16th Russia or universally (which would be the ideal) the underlying sentiment remains the same:  A pious life befits one who transmits either his own spiritual vision or that of others.


[1] Stoglav council, Chapter 43.

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(Originally posted last year, here)

Tomorrow we celebrate our Holy Father among the saints, Basil the Great, and great he is! His wisdom and virtuous life are a wonderful testament to what a Christian is capable of if he abandons himself completely to God.

St. Basil Comes from Caesarea

In Greece St. Basil’s feast day coincides with the traditional day of gift-giving. (Now a days, thanks to globalism, this has transferred to Christmas day in most Greek homes). Hence the confusion of thinking Santa Claus is “Agios Basilis,” St. Basil. Greeks have, unfortunately, embraced modern Santa Claus, but think of him as a modern version of St. Basil, instead of a modern version of St. Nicolas. So, two saints are dishonoured by modern, commercial Santa Claus. In an attempt to encourage children (and adults) to remember the true likeness of St. Basil, ie. not as an overweight “Coke-a-Cola” Santa Claus, Uncut Mountain Supply put out this icon.

In Greece the tradition of cutting the vasilopita is kept. You can buy vasilopita (Basil-pita literally, but more like cake) from just about anywhere here in Greece. It is shaped in a circle and some (like ours pictured) have a XΠ on it for Χρόνια Πολλά (many years) as well as the year, since St. Basil’s feast day coincides with the new secular year.

Before cutting the vasilopita we first pray St. Basil’s apolytikion, and then we cross the ‘pita’ with a knife three times saying, “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” and “Through the prayers of St. Basil the Great”. Then we cut the first piece for Christ, the second for Panagia (the Mother of God), and the third for St. Basil. The rest are for the number of people present. This year we also cut one for St. Anthony the Great (patron of our parish) and St. Nektarios of Pentopolis (because we love him) since we were only four people and the ‘pita’ was large. Fr. John (my husband) found the “foulouri,” the coin, in his piece. It’s a blessing.

Below is the most popular carol sung in Thessaloniki in St. Basil’s honour on New Year’s Eve. I’m not sure if it’s the most popular everywhere, but it sure is here. You can hear a version of it here - not the best, but the best I could find. There are many versions of this carol, the one below was translated by Holy Protection Monastery in Rhodes. You can visit their blog here.

There is a tradition that says that St. Basil chooses to stay at someone’s house the night before his feast, someone with a pure heart. It’s not uncommon (at least in the past) to set a place for St. Basil at one’s dinner table on New Year’s Eve in hopes of him visiting you. So, if a stranger knocks on the door tonight think of St. Basil and perhaps invite him to dinner!

St. Basil comes and passes by
He overlooks us, I know not why
He comes from Caesara Town
Mistress bring, mistress, bring, mistress, bring us something down

He carries pen and paper white
And sugar candies, sweet and bright
He brings his pen and ink for writing
You should see, you should see, you should see me in the fighting

The pen, it jumped up with one bound
And on the paper scribbled round
And then the paper started speaking
Yes, we swear, yes, we swear that the paper started speaking

The paper said, “Tis New Year’s Eve!
Oh, Mistress fair, I beg your leave;
Joy be your lot the whole year round
May your house, may your house, may your house be holy ground!”

“The New Year follows on Christ’s birth
So holy Christ who walks the earth
May bless you, every girl and boy
And fill all, and fill all—and fill all your hearts with joy!”

Merry Christmas and may we have St. Basil’s blessing!

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