During the celebration of the Divine Liturgy every Sunday, we hear the beautiful, and inspiring hymn called “Axion Esti” which follows the prayer (as we kneel) called the “Epiklesis.” This hymn was written originally in the year 720 by St. Cosmas, one of the greatest hymnographers of the Christian Church. The hymn, however, began with the words ‘Thee that art more honourable than the Cherubim (Tin Timioteran).” It was well over one hundred years later that this hymn was added to the Divine Liturgy, but with an added beginning as the result of the following miraculous event. This beautiful icon was painted in the seventh century and has since graced the sacred walls of the Cathedral of Mt. Athos.
On June 11, 980A.D. as a group of monks were conducting an all-night vigil before this icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they suddenly noticed a monk standing on the right of the icon whom they did not recognise at all. He was unknown to the monks, and no one could explain his abrupt presence. This unidentified monk began to chant the beautiful hymn written by St. Cosmas, but rather began with the words “Axion Esti os Alethos Makarizin Se Tin Theotokon” which means “It is very meet to bless Thee, Theotokos the ever blessed and most pure Virgin and Mother of God.” The monk then explained to the others that he was the Arch-angel Gabriel and that these words should be added to the hymn. The Arch-angel then vanished from their sight, leaving the monks amazed at the power of God. Since that day on June 11, 980 A.D. the additional words to the hymn of St. Cosmas have been sung by all Orthodox Christians around the world. The icon of the Blessed Mother Axion Esti is still venerated today in the Cathedral of Mt. Athos.
“It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, / ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God. / More honorable than the cherubim, / and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim. / thou who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word. // true Theotokos, we magnify thee!”
This icon is commemorated on July 13 / 26.
Most Holy Theotokos, save us!