Monday, December 17, 2012

0061 - The Holy Icon of Panagia Tricherousa – Holy Monastery of Hilandariou Mount Athos.


The beautiful Icon of Panagia Tricherousa is kept at the Holy Monastery of Hilandariou on Mount Athos. It is an old Byzantine Icon of Holy Theotokos. The face of Panagia is life like and sweet which conjures emotions in the venerator and leaves you in awe of Her presence. The Icon for reasons of protection and showing of respect is covered with a golden riza on which are attached 5,000 precious stones, donated by centuries of faithful that have venerated the Holy Icon.


The Icon’s history:
The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Tricherousa belonged to the family of St. John Damascene and was always kept in the chapel inside the Saint’s home. St. John Damascene was the chief advisor of the Caliph Walid of Syria between the years of 705-715 A.D. for all matters concerning the Christian population of the Caliphate.
During this time period, in the reign of Leo the 3rd Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople, the heresy of Iconoclasm became prevalent. Emperor Leo the 3rd was a staunch opponent of Icons which he thought formed idolatry. St. John proved to be a great supporter of the use and veneration of Icons and with his many writings was one of the many Fathers that upheld the use of Holy Icons.  In an effort to silence St. John, Emperor Leo sent word to Caliph Walid of Syria, that St. John was conspiring to overthrow his rule in Syria.

Once word was received, Caliph Walid immediately ordered St. John Damascene’s arrest and ordered that the Saint’s right hand be cut off in the main square of Damascus in the presence of the public. The Caliph’s order was immediately upheld and the Saint’s right hand was cut off. Saint John Damascene was then given his hand and sent away. Throughout the course of that night, St. John prayed unceasingly before the Holy Icon of Panagia Tricherousa in order for his hand to be healed so that he could continue his efforts against the heresy of iconoclasm.
During the course of the night, in immense pain, he fell asleep for a small period of time and had a vision of Panagia through the Icon before him telling him that from this time onwards your hand will be healed.
St. John awoke shaken from his vision, however immediately realised that His hand had been miraculously re-attached and his pain had subsided. To show his gratitude to the Icon, he had a silver plate in the likeness of His own hand made and attached it to the left hand bottom of the Icon of Panagia. This is how the Holy Icon was named Tricherousa (Three handed).
After this great miracle, St. John Damascene decided to leave the city and become a monk in the Holy Monastery or Lavra of St. Savva the Blessed in Palestine. 


He took his much loved Icon of Panagia with him. In the year 1217 A.D. St. Savvas of Chilandariou Monastery, Son of the King of Serbia Stephan Nemania (after named Symeon) visited the Lavra of St. Savvas whilst on a pilgrimage. Whilst at the Monastery, he was gifted with the Icon of Panagia Galaktotrofousa (Milk Feeder) the Crossier (staff) of the founder of the Lavra and the Holy Icon of Panagia Tricherousa, which he took with Him to the Holy Monastery of Hilandariou of Mount Athos. The Holy Icon remained at the Monastery until the year of 1347.

In the year 1347, the Serbian King Dousan upon departing from the Monastery on a pilgrimage, decided to take the Holy Icon with him as a blessing from the Monastery. The Holy Icon was placed in the Holy Monastery of Studenitsa in Serbia for veneration and safe keeping. 
At the beginning of the 15th century, the Serbian kingdom was invaded by the Ottomans. In an effort to save the Holy Icon of Panagia Tricherousa, the Icon was placed in the saddle bag of a donkey and concealed well. The donkey was then left to be guided by Panagia to a safe place of Her choosing.
Some months later, under miraculous circumstances, the quiet donkey showed up at the Holy Monastery of Hilandariou at Mount Athos having walked through the mountainous regions of southern Serbia and northern Greece. The monks once realising what precious cargo the donkey was carrying immediately greeted the Holy Icon with full honours and a procession. Legend says that once the Holy Icon was placed in the altar of the Monastery’s Katholikon (Church) the blessed donkey passed away.

Until this day, the Holy Icon of Panagia Tricherousa is considered the Abbot – Protector of the Holy Monastery of Hilandariou and Protector of the Serbian Orthodox people. 

The Abbot of The Holy Monastery of Hilandariou.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

0060 - The Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa - Holy Monastery of Iviron (Part 2)

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

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.

The following video shows highlights from the day leading up to Bright Tuesday and the procession itself. Fantastic video worth watching all of it if you can spare the time.

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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

0059 - The Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa - Holy Monastery of Iviron (Part 1)

Panagia Portaitissa, as mother of the whole world unceasingly grants mercy to the pain She sees in the hearts of the troubled people that seek her help.
She speaks each persons language and understands their problems. She accepts the childlike expression of gratitude of Her children. One sees Her as merciful and uses Her presence as a balsam for his wounds. The other sees Her as a philanthropic judge, who guides him in his life.
And you will constantly see in Her image, a peaceful yet stern expression from the centuries of incense and prayers which She accepts daily, filled with love and indescribable pain from all She hears.
Her Icon is covered in a gold plated cover of Byzantine period but of plain proportions, loaded with offerings for Her assistance in sickness and gifts for Her help in achievements and healing. Archimandrite Vasilios Gontikakis - Former Abbot of The Holy Monastery of Iveron.
The story of the Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa begins in the period of Iconoclasm in the Byzantine empire. During this time, by royal edict, it was ordered that all Icons be located and destroyed as the emperor of the time was mistakenly misled to believe that the images of our Lord, the Theotokos and the Saints were a form of idolatry.
A widow in the city of Nicaea (modern day Turkey) had a beautiful and grand Icon of Panagia Eleousa (Merciful). In order to save the Icon from the iconoclasts which were destroying Icons in her city, she took the Icon to the sea and placed it in the water with a deep belief that the Icon would go to a place where it would be safe from he madness which was taking place in the empire. Immediately once she palced the Icon in the water and said a prayer, the Icon remained upright, and began travelling that way over the water and into the distance. The widow thanked God for hearing her prayers that the Icon may be saved.
Some time later, the Icon appeared just of the east coast of the peninsula of Mount Athos, where the ancient city of Kleonos was and the Monastery of Klimentos which later became the Holy Monastery of Iviron. The Icon remained upright and a bright light shone from the Icon and beamed up to the sky, as it was floating on the water, just off the coast.

Once the monks of the Monastery seen the Icon, many of the them attempted to retrieve the Icon using their boats, however, anytime they would get close, the Icon would retreat. This continued for much time until a holy monk by the name of Gabriel saw a vision in which the Theotokos invited him to go and retrieve her Icon. The holy monk Gabriel, practised ascetisism in a cave located near the peak of small Athos, the tallest peak above the Monastery of Iviron. A cell has been built where the cave was located and it is where the former Abbot of the Monastery Father Vasilios resides today.

 A bad photo I took at dusk of Cell of the Holy Monk Gabriel on the mountain above the Monastery.

The holy monk Gabriel came down to the Monastery and approached the sea side. He walked on the water as if it was land until he approached the Icon.

After he venerated it with much reverence and prayer, he picked it up and carried it to the coast. When he placed the Icon on a rock not far from the water, a stream of sweet water immediately came from the rock. This place exists today the stream has never ceased since that day.

                                      My cousin John and I, at Panagia Portaitissa's Agiasma in 2008.

All the monks of the Monastery, with much reverence, venerated the Holy Icon and began the procession from the coast to the Catholicon of the Monastery. The monks placed the Icon in the centre of the Church. The next day, the Icon had removed itself from the Church and placed itself next to the entrance of the Monastery. This occurred three times. After the third time, the Theotokos appeared to the holy monk Gabriel and told him, "I did not come here to be protected, rather, to protect the Monastery from all evil". From that day, the Icon was placed inside a chapel which was purposely built for it adjacent to the entrance of the Monastery inside the walls. This is why the Icon was given the name Portaitissa. Porta in Greek means Door.

Panagia Portaitissa is considered to be the protector of all of Mount Athos and it Monasteries. Legend says that when the Holy Icon disappears from Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain will cease to be what it is today.
The Holy Icon of Panagia Portaitissa is only moved from its chapel adjacent to the entrance of the Monastery twice a year. On Bright Tuesday, the first Tuesday after Easter, and on the feast day of the Monastery, The Dormition of The Most Holy Theotokos. The Icon has never been outside of Mount Athos or the boundaries of the Monastery since it arrived.

In part 2 I will focus on the procession of the Holy Icon that takes place on Bright Tuesday.

Monday, July 30, 2012

0058 – The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Pirovolithissa – Holy Monastery of Vatopedi

In 1822, a Turkish unit of soldiers arrived at the Vatopedi Monastery gates in order to rob the Monastery of its riches and destroy as much as they could. One soldier, who also happened to be the nephew of the officer leading the unit, dared to fire a shot at the Icon of Panagia which is painted on the wall directly above the entrance of the Holy Monastery. The shot hit the right hand of the Theotokos, the bullet mark is still visible to this day.

Immediately after he fired the shot, something came over him and he went insane. He hung himself on an olive tree opposite the Monastery gates. The officer of the Turkish unit, witnessing these events, was overcome with fear and concluded that what had happened was due to his nephew’s sacrilege. He ordered his body to be thrown away without a proper burial.

0057 – The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Pantanassa – Holy Monastery of Vatopedi.


The Miraculous Icon of The Most Holy Theotokos, Panagia Pantanassa is a portable Icon dating back to the 17th century. It is placed at the left hand proskynitarion of the north eastern pillar in the Katholikon of the Holy Monastery.

One day a young man from Cyprus entered the Church and went to venerate the Holy Icon. At this point, Elder Joseph of Vatopedi+ saw a sharp light coming from the face of Panagia on the Icon and an unseen force dropped the young man to the ground.

Once he came to his senses, he confessed that he lived a life of sin and was involved in dark magic. The miraculous action of Panagia Pantanassa made this young man change his ways and become a believer.

The Holy Icon also has the special Grace from God to heal people with cancer. There are many accounts from people across the world, which have been healed from their cancer after reciting the paraklesis service of Panagia Pantanassa.

Many more miracles have occurred recently in Russia after the request of the Moscow Patriarchate for two copies of the Holy Icon to be sent from the Holy Monastery. The first copy of the Holy Icon is at the Church of All Saints in Krasnoe Selo in Moscow and the second is at the Monastery of Christ’s Transfiguration in Novospaski. The most notable miracles have taken place at the centre for childrens oncology in central Moscow.


The Holy Icon is celebrated on the 15th (28) of October. In Russia it is celebrated on the 18th (31) of August, three days after the Dormition of Panagia.  

Photos and original text from

Monday, July 16, 2012

0056 – The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Elaiovritissa – Holy Monastery of Vatopedi

The Holy Icon of Panagia Elaiovritissa is dated to the 14th century and is located in the (Docheion) olive oil store of the Holy Monastery of Vatopedi. On the Friday of Bright Week (1st Friday after Easter) a procession of the Icon takes place from the olive oil store to the Katholicon of the Monastery, this is the days the Holy Icon is celebrated.
According to tradition, the following Miracle is attributed to this Icon. In the time when Saint Gennadios was the keeper of the olive oil store, the Monastery suffered from a shortage of olive oil and Saint Gennadios only allowed for the olive oil to be used for the needs of the Church.

The cook of the Monastery protested this decision to the Abbot of the Monastery. The Abbot decided to make the olive oil available to all of the fathers and trusted in the providence of our Most Holy Theotokos to take care of the needs of the Monastery. A few days had passed at Saint Gennadios went to the olive oil store to distribute oil to various parts of the Monastery. When he opened the door, he noticed that the olive oil wells were so full that there was olive oil spilling from them onto the ground and had reached the door. From that point a beautiful fragrance came from the Icon which was placed in the room, this fragrance continues to this day.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

0055 – The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Esfagmeni – Holy Monastery of Vatopedi

The Miraculous Icon of Panagia Esfagmeni is a wall fresco dating to the 14th century and is located in the Narthex of the chapel of St. Demetrios which is adjacent and part of the structure of the Katholicon of the Holy Monastery.

According to a manuscript dating to the 17th century which is titled “Proskinitarion of Vatopdedi” under the heading of “In reference to the Icon of The Esfagmeni” the following is written:
The then care taker of the Church who was a Hierodeacon, after a lengthy and tiring all night vigil which he was charged with undertaking all of the tasks of the Church (For those who have been to Mount Athos and experienced an all night Vigil, the church caretakers workload is enormous), he went to the refectory and asked from the monk in charge for a little bread and wine in order to quench his hunger. The monk in charge of the refectory refused him abruptly because everything had been cleaned and set away already. The Hierodeacon was enraged, he headed toward the Church holding a knife and was saying “I undertake all of this effort and duty for the Church and they cannot even set aside some bread for me to eat” Whilst muttering these words, the evil one took a hold of him, and he raised the knife whilst in front of the Icon of Panagia and stabbed the Icon on the right hand cheek next to Panagia’s eye. Once the blow was struck, a wound appeared on the Holy Icon as if it was alive and much blood flowed from the Icon. From this day, the Icon of Panagia was named Esfagmeni (the slain). Some of the blood from the Holy Icon sprayed into the Hierodeacon’s eyes, and from that moment on he was blinded. He then realised what he had done, he fell to the floor and whilst hitting his head on the marble floor was crying to himself saying “I am a murderer and now worthy of death”.

The Icon without its silver cover.

After some time had passed, the miracle was quickly realised by the rest of the Fathers of the Monastery and they all gathered to witness the blood coming from the wound on the Holy Icons face. The knife lay on the marble floor still coated with wet blood; there was a large pool of blood beneath the Icon, and the Hierodeacon who had committed the unholy act,  lay on the ground, speaking in incomprehensible words as a possessed person does. All of the Fathers were overtaken by fear. The Abbot of the Monastery at once instructed the Fathers to conduct an all night vigil to pray for the forgiveness of the Hierodeacon who had committed the crime. After many vigils, and some months had passed, the Holy Virgin appeared to the Abbot and told him the Hierodeacon’s sin was forgiven. From the moment the Abbot awoke from his vision, the Heirodeacon’s sight was restored.

The Hierodeacon, with his sight now restored sat opposite the Icon for three years crying and asking for forgiveness for his actions. One day he heard a voice from the Icon “Your sin has been forgiven, however, your bold hand shall remain black and lifeless for the rest of your life and its flesh will not dissolve after your repose”.  This in fact was the case, the Hierodeacon’s hand was lifeless and black while for the rest of his life. After his repose and his exhumation as is normal on Mount Athos, his hand was still black, and the flesh was undissolved. The fathers encased this hand in a glass case and placed it in a drawer beneath the Icon of Panagia, which he had struck. Ever since this miracle took place, a silver lamp was placed in front of the Icon, which always has an eternal flame.

Translated from the manuscript Codex 293 of the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou from the 17th Century.

Writers Note:

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to venerate this Holy Icon in person at the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou. I have also seen the hand of the Hierodeacon which is blackened, its skin still in place and veins also visible. It is placed near the Icon. When you are there next, ask the caretaker monk who is giving you the tour of the Church to see it. He will be more than willing to show you.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

0054 - The miraculous Icon of Panagia Paramythia - Holy Monastery of Vatopedi

The miraculous Icon of Our Lady, Panagia Paramythia is to be found on the wall of the right hand choir in the chapel that bears the Icon's name. This Icon has been removed from a wall painting in the exonarthex of the katholikon of the Monastery, and is dated by tradition to the 14th century. The Icon's appearance and miraculous tradition comes from the following tradition as told by the fathers of the Monastery.

On January the 21st sometime in the 14th century, after the Orthros service was completed, the fathers were on their way to their cells to rest prior to beginning the days tasks. It was at that time that the gates of the Monastery would be opened for the day. They were unaware that the Monastery was surrounded by pirates waiting for the Monastery's doors to open in order for them to plunder its treasures.
The Abbot of the Monastery remained in the katholikon deep in prayer as was his usual routine.

He was startled suddenly after hearing a voice that did not sound human. Filled with fear he looked around but not see anyone, no one was there. He concentrated to see where the voice was coming from and to his surprise he was drawn to the Icon of Our Lady in the exonarthex, which he fearfully approached. He listened closely to the voice coming from the Icon and heard Our Lady say "Do not open the Monastery's gate today, but go to the walls and get rid of the pirates" He gazed at the Icon and saw the most surprising miracle.
Our Lady's image was alive. Christ the child (as depicted in the Icon) also was alive. Christ raised his right arm to cover Panagia's mouth and gazed at Her with a very strict facial expression. He then heard Christ speak in a sweet child like voice "Don't Mother, don't tell them. Let them be punished as they deserve because they do not keep their monastic duties." Then Our Lady with care lifted Christ's hand and moved Her face gently to the right, repeated her advice for the second time "Do not open the doors of the Monastery today, go to the walls and rid the Monastery of the pirates, and be sure to repent because my Son is angry with you". She repeated the same words a third time and suddenly Their images became an Icon once again.
The Abbot who was full of amazement, gathered all of the fathers quickly and described the events to them in detail. The fathers all went to the Icon and were all amazed! The Icon had changed! It looked nothing like it was originally. The Icon remained as it can be seen today, with Our Lady's hand restraining Christ's hand from Her mouth, Her face slightly facing to the right trying to release Her mouth to talk and has a calm and motherly expression on Her face. Christ's hand attempts to cover His Mother's mouth and His facial expression is stern and strict.
This Icon is not made by human hands (αχειροποίητος) because it depicts an image that was not painted by human hands but by the Grace of God.
The monks to this day out of gratitude toward Our Lady, burn a perpetual flame before the Icon and a supplication service is conducted before the Icon daily.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

0053 - My absence and return.

Dear readers,

Firstly I apologise for the lack of posts over the last few weeks, for all of those who are unaware, I was ordained into the Diaconate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia (Ecumenical Patriarchate) on the 20th of May 2012.
I look forward to continuing my posts on the Miraculous Icons of Mount Athos.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


To all my readers. May the light of the Resurrected Lord shine bright in all of your hearts and give your souls a resurrection and a new beginning.
I hope you all had a blessed Pascha.

In Christ,


0052- The miraculous Icon of Panagia Vimatarissa or Ktitorissa - Holy Monastery of Vatopediou

The miraculous Icon of Panagia Vimatarissa or Ktitorissa is the premier Icon of the Holy Monastery of Vatopediou. It is placed at the central chair of the Holy Altar inside the main church (Katholicon) of the Monastery.
According to tradition, Arcadius, the young son of Theodosios the Great, Emperor of Rome, was involved in a ship wreck. He washed to shore and ended up under a bush under miraculous circumstances. He found this Icon under this bush. This site later became the site of the Monastery of Vatopediou and hence the name of the Monastery - The greek word for bush is Vatos and the Greek word for child is Pedi, Vato Pedi or Greek - Βατοπαιδιου. The Icon was placed in the Holy Altar of the Monastery when the Monastery was built. The Icon also receives the name Ktitorissa (the establisher) from this miracle.
The best known miracle of this Holy Icon is as follows. When Arab pirates decided to loot the Monastery (as was common practice in the 10th century), the Hierodeacon Savvas was the Vimataris (person responsible for the Holy Altar) of the main church (Katholikon). He managed to place the Icon in the well of the Holy Altar, together with the Cross of Constantine the Great and a lit lantern which was always placed before the Icon. He did not manage to save himself though, he was caught by the pirates and was sold as a prisoner on the island of Crete. 70 years later when  Crete was liberated by the Emperor Nikiforos Fokas, Hierodeacon Savvas was also freed and immediately return to his Monastery. 

Upon his return, he led the then Abbot of the Monastery Nicholas to the well inside the Holy Altar and instructed him to open it. It was a miracle! the Icon, and the Cross were found floating on the surface of the water and the lantern was still lit before the Icon, even though though it was lit 70 years before.  The Icon also receives the name Vimatarissa because of the where it was placed for 70 years.
Ever since this occurrence, a Paraklesis service to Panagia is chanted before the Icon every Monday afternoon, and the Holy Liturgy is conducted in the main church (Katholikon) every Tuesday, apart from Sundays and major feasts of course, and all processions conducted at the Monastery, always have the Holy Icon of Panagia Vimatarissa or Ktitorissa first in line of the procession. 

On the Tuesday after Easter each year, a procession of the Holy Icon is done around the Monastery in honour of Panagia. 

Photos thanks to, &

0077 - A tribute to His Eminence Metropolitan of Kinsasa Nikiforos (Former Headmaster of Athonias Ecclesiastical Academy Mt Athos)

  There comes a time when we all must say goodbye, in this life, to those that have made a significant impact upon us and have moulded us to...