Part two of the series of posts on the Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa will be focused on the procession which takes place on Bright Tuesday every year.
Each year on Great Saturday (Saturday prior to Easter Sunday) after the ninth hour is read in the katholikon of the Monastery, prior to the Holy Liturgy of St. Basil, The Holy Icon is transferred from its Chapel to the the katholikon of the Monastery. The Holy Icon remains there until the Monday of Saint Thomas, (Second monday after Easter).
On Bright Tuesday, the arrival of the Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa, to the Holy Monastery of Iviron, is celebrated.
On Bright Monday evening, Resurrection vespers take place in katholikon in which along with the Resurrection hymns, additional hymns celebrating the Holy Icon's arrival are chanted. The Monastery is full with pilgrims from all over the world, lay people, monks and priests. There is a mood of excitement throughout the whole Monastery leading up to the next days event. Pilgrims camp in the Holy Monastery's grounds since all the accommodation is taken due to the high numbers of pilgrims.
On Bright Tuesday morning the midnight services commence in the Katholicon, the Resurrection Canon and odes to the Holy Icon are chanted through the course of the Orthros. I have had the priviledge of chanting these odes many years ago in the Katholikon. Once the Doxology of the Orthros is complete, ( this is usually at day break) the Sanctification of water service (Mikros Agiasmos) takes place just outside the Monastery's main entrance. This Holy Water is then used to sanctify the surrounds of the Monastery and the path that the Icon will take during the procession.
The ekklisiarch (Organiser of processions and in charge of the church services) has everything arranged in precision. By this time, the Monastery has over a thousand pilgrims waiting outside the Kaholicon to follow the procession. Leading the procession is the Priest selected to sanctify the grounds of the Monastery with the Holy Water followed by a monk playing the talandon, (wooden hand semantron), followed by two students of the Athonias Academy holding lanterns. Behind the lantern bearers follow the chanters who chant the Resurrection canon and the canon to the Panagia Portaitissa. Immediately following the chanters are the Priests and then the Bishop. Two Deacons who have censers and are censing the Holy Icon.
A photo of me as a lantern bearer in 1993.
The Icon bearers consist of Priests, monks and pilgrims. Hundreds of people wait patiently in order to get one minute of carrying the Holy Icon. The Monastery's monks used to tell me that the weight of the Icon depended on the purity of your soul. You would see many elderly monks carrying the Icon with ease and young and strong men struggling to bear the weight.
The procession of the Holy Icon has a set path through the Monastery's surrounds.
It is taken to the cemetery, the vine fields, and to the Chapels that lie outside of the Monastery walls. The Holy Icon is then taken to the sea side in front of the Holy Monastery where a chapel has been built. The Holy Icon is taken inside the chapel for the completion of the Divine Liturgy. On completion of the Divine Liturgy, the Icon is then taken to the stand built just outside the Agiasma, where the Holy Icon was placed for the first time by the holy monk Gabriel. Then the antidoron is shared to the faithful by the Bishop presiding over the celebration.
His Grace Bishop Chrysostom of Rodostolou (see http://holymountain-agionoros.blogspot.com.au/2011/07/0046-his-grace-bishop-chrisostomos-of.html)
The faithful then venerate a Cross and an Icon of the Resurrection which are held by Priests, and a third Priest blesses them with Agiasma (Holy Water) from Panagia Portaitissa's Agiasma.
The following videos give us an insight into the procession.
Once all of the faithful have taken their antidoron and blessings, The Icon is taken back up to the Monastery's Katholikon for the conclusion and apolysis of the Divine Liturgy.
A rich feast of fish cooked in the classic Mount Athos style is then served in the refectory of the Monastery over three or four sittings depending on the number of pilgrims present.
All images courtesy of publications from the Holy Monastery of Iviron, Mount Athos.
In Part 3, I will take you through the Miracles performed by the Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa.