Tuesday, July 9, 2013

0063 - The Holy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa, Holy Monastery of Pantocratoros Mount Athos

The Holy and miraculous Icon of Panagia Gerontissa is located at the Holy Monastery of Pantokratoros, Mount Athos and is the Monastery’s most valued possession.

Tradition states that the Icon was donated to the Monastery by the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Alexios Komninos the 1st.  It is a copy of the mosaic Icon of Panagia which was located at the Pantocratoros Monastery in Constantinople, which was built by the same emperor.

It is the only ancient Icon on Mount Athos that depicts the Theotokos in full and in a prayer pose (Deisis).

The first miracle attributed to the Icon dates back to the time of emperor Alexios Komninos the 1st, when he instructed that the Monastery be built 500 metres from where it stands on a rise where the current chapel of St. Athanasius of Alexandria stands.
During construction, every evening after the workers had departed the building site, their tools and the Icon would disappear from the current site and re-appear 500 metres away at the current site of the Monastery. This happened many times until the emperor came to the realization that the Icon of Panagia Gerontissa wanted the monastery in the location It was showing. As a result, the Monastery was built in its current location.

The Holy Icon’s original position was in the sanctuary behind the altar table. One day the Abbot of the Monastery who was very old, ill and frail, realizing that his death was near, asked the presiding Priest serving the liturgy, to speed up the Liturgy as he wanted to take Communion before he passed away. The presiding Priest did not listen to the Abbots request.

Then miraculously, Panagia, speaking through Her Holy Icon, commanded the Priest to speed up the liturgy.  The Priest, immediately obeyed, and shortly after the old and frail Abbot took Holy Communion, he passed away. This is why the Holy Icon was named Gerontissa, due to its relationship with the then Geronta (Abbot) of the Monastery. The Hoy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa was then placed outside of the sanctuary and on the left hand side marble pole of the main church, where it remains to this day.

The Holy Icon was covered in an all silver oklad (cover) with the donations of a noble woman of Constantinople.
The amphora (water jug) that appears carved on the silver cover, was depicted in order to commemorate another miracle performed by the Holy Icon in the 17th century. The Monastery was short of oil for its daily use, and its monks decided to leave the Monastery in favour of other Monasteries that had all they needed.

The Abbot of the time appealed to the monks to trust in the providence of Panagia Gerontissa, and he prayed with all his heart for Panagia to provide for her Monastery. Some days later, one of the remaining monks saw oil coming out from under the door where the oil was kept. He opened the door and seen that the large oil container was so full that the oil was spilling from it onto the floor. From that time onwards and for the next 300 years, the monastery has never been out of oil.
Another miracle attributed to the Holy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa dates back to the evening of December the 1st 1948, when fire surrounded the Monastery, however the Monastery remained without any damage.

The Holy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa was placed inside a custom stand made of marble which was donated by the former Abbot of the Monastery Theofilos of Limnos. In 1997, the Icon was removed from the marble stand after 200 years under the supervision of the Archaeological institute. After months of tests and carbon dating the Holy Icon was confirmed to be from the 11th century, precisely in the reign of the Emperor Alexios Komnenos the 1st. 

The Icon in its current form was altered when the silver oklad (cover, poukamison) was added in the 19th century. It was crafted in St. Petersburg and is of priceless value. The face of Panagia and Her hands were repainted in order to match with the new silver cover. The archaeologists have discovered fragments of the original painting also.  

 Many miracles are attributed to the Holy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa, which is clearly visible due to the amount of gifts that have been left before the Icon.

Panagia’s face as depicted on the Holy Icon of Panagia Gerontissa, has a sweet and merciful expression leaving every pilgrim with a sense of happiness, hope and comfort. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

0062 - The Holy Icon of Panagia Fovera Prostasia - Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou Mount Athos

The Holy Icon of Panagia – Fovera Prostasia is the treasured Icon of the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou of Mount Athos 
The Holy Icon is dated to the 13th or 14th century and is located in the chapel attached to the Katholikon (Main Church) of the Monastery. 

Tradition of the Monastery tells us that the Icon was the only item left un-scathed in a fire that ravaged one of the monasteries dependencies in Crete. When discovered it was immediately returned to the Monastery at Mount Athos where it is kept to this day. 

The Holy Icon has been attributed to many miracles over the centuries and even most recently. In the 14th century, Pirates threatened the Monastery. The Monks immediately rushed to the tower in order to defend themselves and began chanting their Supplication to Panagia Fovera Prostasia. An unknown force immediately scared off the pirates and they left the Monastery unharmed.  
A more recent miracle attributed to the Holy Icon, was in the early 90’s when the Monastery was under the threat of an out of control fire in the forest. The Fathers immediately took the Icon and led it in a procession around the Monastery. In a matter of minutes strong rain developed and immediately put the fire out which resulted in the Monastery being saved. 
Elder Paisios loved the Holy Icon of Panagia Fovera Prostasia very much. 

Every year on Renewal Tuesday (first Tuesday after Easter) The Holy Icon of Panagia Fovera Prostasia leads a procession around the Monastery’s grounds and returns the salutations to the Holy Icon of Panagia Axion Esti, which had visited the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousiou the day before.  

Thank you!! Ευχαριστώ!!

A very special thank you to my friend KP who has written a beautiful article regarding my Ordination to the Priesthood. I look forward to continuing my posts this month once I have become familiar with my new duties and the long and difficult road ahead.

Ένα ιδιαίτερο ευχαριστώ στον φίλο μου ΚΠ ο οποίος έγραψε ένα όμορφο άρθρο σχετικά με την εις Πρεσβύτερον Χειροτονία μου. Ανυπομονώ να συνεχίσω τις αναρτήσεις μου αυτόν τον μήνα μόλις έχω εξοικειωθή με τίς καινούργιες υποχρεώσεις μου και τον μακρύ και δύσκολο δρόμο μπρόστα μου.

Ευχαριστώ επίσης τον φίλο Γιάννη Κονστιώτη, συγγραφέα της ιστοσελίδας http://agioritikesmnimes.blogspot.com.au/

Sunday, February 3, 2013

0062 - The Holy Icon of Panagia of the Akathist - Holy Monastery of Dionysiou Mount Athos

One of the most treasured and revered Icons of Mount Athos is that of Panagia of the Akathist Hymn or Salutations of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou. It is the oldest Icon chronologically of all of the others of Mount Athos.

It is made of beeswax and mastich, a product derived from tree sap along with myrh. On the back of the Holy Icon, a silver plate is fixed and the Emperor Alexios 3rd Komninos and Saint Dionysios, the founder of the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou are depicted on it. The following writing is also inscribed on the back. "This is the miraculous Icon which Patriarch Sergios held whilst circling the walls of Constantinople and which ridded the city of the barbarian siege and was donated to the Monastery of Dionysiou by Emepror Alexios."

It is therefore the Icon that Patriarch Sergios, during that historic night in the year 626 A.D., used to lead the procession with other clergy and faithful, around the walls of Constantinople, thus giving the small number of soldiers and the polpulation the courage to continue to defend the City of Cities. It is historically accepted that the supernatural powers of the Holy Icon was key in defending Constantinople and ridding her of the Avar invaders. There is no other historical explanation since the Byzantine army with Heraclius was in Persia waging war and was not there to defend the city. The leader of the Avars, Hagano, surrounded the entire city via land and sea. He sent a message to the defenders of the city, "Don't be fooled by your God, tomorrow I will be the ruler of your city."

This statement had a negative impact on the soldiers and population of the city and affected their confidence in defending the city. In the midst of this fear, Patriarch Sergios issued a statement to the soldiers and people of the city, in reply to Hagano’s comments. “It is a shame to lose faith. Think as people that they do not believe in God and in the results of a Holy war. I entrusted the city and its people into the hands of Our Lady, The Theotokos. Let us pray fervently to Panagia.” Once the message had spread, a sense of confidence and renewal in the soldiers and people took hold. Patriarch Sergios, immediately held a procession led with the Holy Icon of Panagia of the Akathist Hymn, the Holy Belt of Panagia, relics of saints and thousands of faithful around the city walls. One of the greatest miracles then occurred. The invaders heard what sounded like many thousands of soldiers commencing an attack against them. It was in fact an attack by an unseen force which destroyed the majority of their forces and left their remaining soldiers confused, who in turn fled.   

This was the result of the fervent prayers and tears of the faithful who rejoiced with fervor at this joyous occasion and glorified the Lord and the Holy Icon of Panagia. All the faithful of the city gathered at the Church of Blacherna, where Patriarch Sergios chanted the famous hymn: Τη Ύπερμάχω Στρατηγώ τα νικητήρια….. for the rest of the night, a vigil took place before the Holy Icon, where all of the salutations of the Theotokos were chanted thus resulting in the first ever occurrence of the Akathist Hymn service, the service took its name from this occurrence.
The church of Panagia Blachernon as it stands today in Constantinople

In the 13th century, the Holy Icon of Panagia of the Akathist Hymn, was donated to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou, Mount Athos, by Emperor Alexios. Another miracle attributed to the Holy Icon is as follows:
In 1592, an Algerian pirate named Ef Artavan Alfa took off from the island of Skyros, with a large number of his men, to loot the Monastery of Dionysiou. He had been informed that a highly revered Icon of the Theotokos was treasured at the Monastery. Once he reached the Monastery, he and his men, about 200 in number with heavy weaponry, began to threaten the monks of the Monastery. The Abbot of the Monastery in an effort to save the Monastery and the monks from certain destruction and death, decided to offer the pirates precious gifts. A monk from one of the windows of the Monastery, called out to Artavan “In the spirit of friendship lets end this without blood being spilt. We have decided to give you 50,000 florins, oil and wine”. Artavan the pirate responded with “We agree, however, I would like to select one item of my choice from your Monastery in addition to this”. The Abbot agreed, and Artavan with 10 men were allowed inside the Monastery. Once inside the Katholikon (Main Church) of the Monastery, Artavan immediately spotted the Holy Icon of Panagia of Akathist and went to take it from its stand. The Abbot immediately protested saying, Icons are for Christians not for Pirates, however, the pirate threatened them all with death if they dared to stop him. The Abbot then responded, take the Icon, however, you will leave here with my curses.

The pirates, having loaded their ship with all that was offered and the Holy Icon, departed the Monastery’s shores headed back to the island of Skyros. That night, Panagia appeared to Artavan in a dream and said to him “why did you take me sly one? Take me back where I was in peace immediately”. Artavan awoke immediately however, did not take this seriously. Within the hour, the weather changed and the pirates found themselves in the midst of a great storm. The ship was now in danger of sinking. Artavan now left with the possibility of losing everything he had gained, including thje Icon, went to the chest in which he had placed the Icon and found it full of myrrh with the most beautiful fragrance. At this point he realized that his actions had caused them to be in danger of their lives. He took the Icon in his hands, and immediately the storm ceased. All of the other pirates, with fear in the hearts, begged Artavan to take the Icon back to the Monastery.
A few hours later, they were back at the shores of the Monastery, Artavan, sent a pirate named Sarif to the Abbot, and he said “Man of God, we realize that what we did was a vile act, my lord awaits you on our ship to take back the Holy Icon and release us of your curse”. The monks immediately went to the ship and took the Holy Icon into their possession.

The most significant of this entire occurrence was that many of the pirates remained at the Monastery, were taught Christianity, baptized and became monks.  

Another of the many miracles of Panagia of the Akathist took place in 1753. Bishop Evgenios Voulgaris, a teacher at the Athonias Academy of Mount Athos, was suffering from a very bad stomach ulcer.
At that time, his condition was considered as fatal, due to his inability to eat and from the enormous pain. His doctors were unable to cure him. As a last effort to save him, the Abbot of the Monastery thought it would be a good idea to bring the Holy Icon of Panagia of the Akathist to Bishop Evgenios Boulgaris, and cross him with it, in order to give him some strength. Bishop Evgenios immediately began praying with the salutations of Panagia and venerated the Holy Icon. Once the Icon touched his lips, he immediately felt the pain subside and he was cured of his terrible illness.

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...