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Akathist to the Holy Virgin
(From: http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/m_akathist_e.htm)

Background Information

THE AKATHIST HYMN is one of the most well-loved services of devotion in the Orthodox Church. Although there is some debate concerning the particulars of its authorship, many scholars agree with the pious tradition which states that the Akathist was composed in the imperial city of Constantinople, “the city of the Virgin,” by St. Romanos the Melodist, who reposed in the year 556. The Akathist Hymn has proved so popular that many other hymns have been written following its format, particularly in the Russian Orthodox Church. These include Akathists to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Cross, to various saints, etc.

The word “akathistos” literally means “not sitting,” i.e., standing; normally all participants stand while it is being prayed. The hymn is comprised of 24 stanzas, alternating long and short. Each short stanza (kontakion) ends with the singing of “Alleluia.” Each longer stanza (ikos) ends with the refrain: “Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded.”

The majority of the hymn is made up of praises directed to the Mother of God, always beginning with the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel: “Rejoice.” In each of them, one after the other, all the events related to our Lord’s incarnation pass before us for our contemplation. The Archangel Gabriel ( in Ikos 1) marvels at the Divine self-emptying and the renewal of creation which will occur when Christ comes to dwell in the Virgin’s womb. The unborn John the Baptist (Ikos 3) prophetically rejoices. The shepherds (Ikos 4) recognize Christ as a blameless Lamb, and rejoice that in the Virgin “the things of earth join chorus with the heavens.” The pagan Magi, (Kontakion 5) following the light of the star, praise Her for revealing the light of the world.

As the hymn progresses, various individuals and groups encounter Christ and His Mother. Each has his own need; each his own desire or expectation, and each finds his or her own particular spiritual need satisfied and fulfilled in Our Lord and in the Mother of God. So too, each generation of Orthodox, and each particular person who has prayed the Akathist, has found in this hymn an inspired means of expressing gratitude and praise to the Mother of God for what she has accomplished for their salvation.

In the same way, may the readers of this booklet find the Mother of God to be a help and consolation for their souls as well.
Fr. Michael Carney

The Service

(NOTE: If saying privately, simply omit the portions marked **)

**Priest: Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!

**People: Amen.

(Tone 6)

O Heavenly King, The Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, Who art everywhere and fillest all things, Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life, Come and abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity, and save our souls, O Good One.

Reader: Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us. Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal have mercy on us.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, cleanse us from our sins, Master, pardon our transgressions, Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy Name’s sake.

Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

** Priest: (says the exclamation)

Kontakion 1
(Tone 8)

Choir: To Thee, the Champion Leader, we Thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos: but as Thou art one with might which is invincible, from all dangers that can be do Thou deliver us, that we may cry to Thee: Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride! (Customarily sung three times at the beginning of the Akathist, once at the end.)

Ikos 1

(Priest:) An archangel was sent from Heaven to say to the Theotokos: Rejoice! And beholding Thee, O Lord, taking bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to Her such things as these:

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:
Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!
Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:
Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!
Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thoughts:
Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:
Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him Who beareth all!
Rejoice, star that causest the Sun to appear:
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 2

(Priest:) Seeing herself to be chaste, the holy one said boldly to Gabriel: The marvel of thy speech is difficult for my soul to accept. How canst thou speak of a birth from a seedless conception? And She cried: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

(Priest:) Seeking to know knowledge that cannot be known, the Virgin cried to the ministering one: Tell me, how can a son be born from a chaste womb? Then he spake to Her in fear, only crying aloud thus:

Rejoice, initiate of God’s ineffable will:
Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence!
Rejoice, beginning of Christ’s miracles:
Rejoice, crown of His dogmas!
Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down:
Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to Heaven!
Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad:
Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar!
Rejoice, Thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none!
Rejoice, Thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 3

(Priest:) The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin for conception, and showed Her fruitful womb as a sweet meadow to all who wish to reap salvation, as they sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 3

(Priest:) Having received God into Her womb, the Virgin hastened to Elizabeth whose unborn babe at once recognized Her embrace, rejoiced, and with leaps of joy as songs, cried to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, branch of an Unfading Sprout:
Rejoice, acquisition of Immortal Fruit!
Rejoice, laborer that laborest for the Lover of mankind:
Rejoice, Thou Who givest birth to the Planter of our life!
Rejoice, cornland yielding a rich crop of mercies:
Rejoice, table bearing a wealth of forgiveness!
Rejoice, Thou Who makest to bloom the garden of delight:
Rejoice, Thou Who preparest a haven for souls!
Rejoice, acceptable incense of intercession:
Rejoice, propitiation of all the world!
Rejoice, good will of God to mortals:
Rejoice, boldness of mortals before God!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 4

(Priest:) Having within a tempest of doubting thoughts, the chaste Joseph was troubled. For knowing Thee to have no husband, he suspected a secret union, O blameless one. But having learned that Thy conception was of the Holy Spirit, he said: Alleluia!

Ikos 4

(Priest:) While the angels were chanting, the shepherds heard of Christ’s coming in the flesh, and having run to the Shepherd, they beheld Him as a blameless Lamb that had been pastured in Mary’s womb, and singing to Her, they cried:

Rejoice, Mother of the Lamb and the Shepherd:
Rejoice, fold of rational sheep!
Rejoice, torment of invisible enemies:
Rejoice, opening of the gates of Paradise!
Rejoice, for the things of Heaven rejoice with the earth:
Rejoice, for the things of earth join chorus with the heavens!
Rejoice, never-silent mouth of the Apostles:
Rejoice, invincible courage of the passion-bearers!
Rejoice, firm support of faith:
Rejoice, radiant token of Grace!
Rejoice, Thou through whom hades was stripped bare:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we are clothed with glory!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 5

(Priest:) Having sighted the divinely-moving star, the Magi followed its radiance; and holding it as a lamp, by it they sought a powerful King; and having reached the Unreachable One, they rejoiced, shouting to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 5

(Priest:) The sons of the Chaldees saw in the hands of the Virgin Him Who with His hand made man. And knowing Him to be the Master, even though He had taken the form of a servant, they hastened to serve Him with gifts, and to cry to Her Who is blessed:

Rejoice, Mother of the Unsetting Star:
Rejoice, dawn of the mystic day!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst extinguish the furnace of error:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst banish from power the inhuman tyrant:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst show us Christ the Lord, the Lover of mankind!
Rejoice, Thou Who redeemest from pagan worship:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost drag us from the works of mire!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst quench the worship of fire:
Rejoice, Thou Who rescuest from the flame of the passions!
Rejoice, guide of the faithful to chastity:
Rejoice, gladness of all generations!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 6

(Priest:) Having become God-bearing heralds, the Magi returned to Babylon, having fulfilled Thy prophecy; and having preached Thee to all as the Christ, they left Herod as a babbler who knew not how to sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 6

(Priest:) By shining in Egypt the light of truth, Thou didst dispel the darkness of falsehood; for its idols fell, O Saviour, unable to endure Thy strength; and those who were delivered from them cried to the Theotokos:

Rejoice, uplifting of men:
Rejoice, downfall of demons!
Rejoice, Thou who didst trample down the dominion of delusion:
Rejoice, Thou who didst unmask the fraud of idols!
Rejoice, sea that didst drown the Pharaoh of the mind:
Rejoice, rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life!
Rejoice, pillar of fire that guideth those in darkness:
Rejoice, shelter of the world broader than a cloud!
Rejoice, sustenance replacing manna:
Rejoice, minister of holy delight!
Rejoice, land of promise:
Rejoice, Thou from whom floweth milk and honey!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 7

(Priest:) When Symeon was about to depart this age of delusion, Thou wast brought as a Babe to him, but Thou was recognized by him as perfect God also; wherefore, marveling at Thine ineffable wisdom, he cried: Alleluia!

Ikos 7

(Priest:) The Creator showed us a new creation when He appeared to us who came from Him. For He sprang from a seedless womb, and kept it incorrupt as it was, that seeing the miracle we might sing to Her, crying out:

Rejoice, flower of incorruptibility:
Rejoice, crown of continence!
Rejoice, Thou from whom shineth the Archetype of the Resurrection:
Rejoice, Thou Who revealest the life of the angels!
Rejoice, tree of shining fruit, whereby the faithful are nourished:
Rejoice, tree of goodly shade by which many are sheltered!
Rejoice, Thou that has carried in Thy womb the Redeemer of captives:
Rejoice, Thou that gavest birth to the Guide of those astray!
Rejoice, supplication before the Righteous Judge:
Rejoice, forgiveness of many sins!
Rejoice, robe of boldness for the naked:
Rejoice, love that doth vanquish all desire!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 8

(Priest:) Having beheld a strange nativity, let us estrange ourselves from the world and transport our minds to Heaven; for the Most High God appeared on earth as a lowly man, because He wished to draw to the heights them that cry to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 8

(Priest:) Wholly present was the Inexpressible Word among those here below, yet in no way absent from those on high; for this was a divine condescension and not a change of place, and His birth was from a God-receiving Virgin Who heard these things:

Rejoice, container of the Uncontainable God:
Rejoice, door of solemn mystery!
Rejoice, report doubtful to unbelievers:
Rejoice, undoubted boast of the faithful!
Rejoice, all-holy chariot of Him Who sitteth upon the Cherubim:
Rejoice, all-glorious temple of Him Who is above the Seraphim!
Rejoice, Thou Who hast united opposites:
Rejoice, Thou Who hast joined virginity and motherhood!
Rejoice, Thou through whom transgression hath been absolved:
Rejoice, Thou through whom Paradise is opened!
Rejoice, key to the kingdom of Christ:
Rejoice, hope of eternal good things!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 9

(Priest:) All the angels were amazed at the great act of Thine incarnation; for they saw the Unapproachable God as a man approachable to all, abiding with us, and hearing from all: Alleluia!

Ikos 9

(Priest:) We see most eloquent orators mute as fish before Thee, O Theotokos; for they are at a loss to tell how Thou remainest a Virgin and could bear a child. But we, marveling at this mystery, cry out faithfully:

Rejoice, receptacle of the Wisdom of God:
Rejoice, treasury of His Providence!
Rejoice, Thou Who showest philosophers to be fools:
Rejoice, Thou Who exposest the learned as irrational!
Rejoice, for the clever critics have become foolish:
Rejoice, for the writers of myths have faded away!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst rend the webs of the Athenians:
Rejoice, Thou Who didst fill the nets of the fishermen!
Rejoice, Thou Who drawest us from the depths of ignorance:
Rejoice, Thou Who enlightenest many with knowledge!
Rejoice, ship for those who wish to be saved:
Rejoice, harbor for sailors on the sea of life!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 10

(Priest:) Desiring to save the world, He that is the Creator of all came to it according to His Own promise, and He that, as God, is the Shepherd, for our sake appeared unto us as a man; for like calling unto like, as God He heareth: Alleluia!

Ikos 10

(Priest:) A bulwark art Thou to virgins, and to all that flee unto Thee, O Virgin Theotokos; for the Maker of Heaven and earth prepared Thee, O Most-pure one, dwelt in Thy womb, and taught all to call to Thee:

Rejoice, pillar of virginity:
Rejoice, gate of salvation!
Rejoice, leader of mental formation:
Rejoice, bestower of divine good!
Rejoice, for Thou didst renew those conceived in shame:
Rejoice, for Thou gavest wisdom to those robbed of their minds!
Rejoice, Thou Who didst foil the corrupter of minds:
Rejoice, Thou Who gavest birth to the Sower of purity!
Rejoice, bridechamber of a seedless marriage:
Rejoice, Thou Who dost wed the faithful to the Lord!
Rejoice, good nourisher of virgins:
Rejoice, adorner of holy souls as for marriage!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 11

(Priest:) Every hymn is defeated that trieth to encompass the multitude of Thy many compassions; for if we offer to Thee, O Holy King, songs equal in number to the sand, nothing have we done worthy of that which Thou hast given us who shout to Thee: Alleluia!

Ikos 11

(Priest:) We behold the holy Virgin, a shining lamp appearing to those in darkness; for, kindling the Immaterial Light, She guideth all to divine knowledge, She illumineth minds with radiance, and is honored by our shouting these things:

Rejoice, ray of the noetic Sun:
Rejoice, radiance of the Unsetting Light!
Rejoice, lightning that enlightenest our souls:
Rejoice, thunder that terrifiest our enemies!
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the refulgent Light to dawn:
Rejoice, for Thou didst cause the river of many streams to gush forth!
Rejoice, Thou Who paintest the image of the font:
Rejoice, Thou Who blottest out the stain of sin!
Rejoice, laver that washest the conscience clean:
Rejoice, cup that drawest up joy!
Rejoice, aroma of the sweet fragrance of Christ:
Rejoice, life of mystical gladness!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 12

(Priest:) When the Absolver of all mankind desired to blot out ancient debts, of His Own will He came to dwell among those who had fallen from His Grace; and having torn up the handwriting of their sins, He heareth this from all: Alleluia!

Ikos 12

(Priest:) While singing to Thine Offspring, we all praise Thee as a living temple, O Theotokos; for the Lord Who holdeth all things in His hand dwelt in Thy womb, and He sanctified and glorified Thee, and taught all to cry to Thee:

Rejoice, tabernacle of God the Word:
Rejoice, saint greater than the saints!
Rejoice, ark gilded by the Spirit:
Rejoice, inexhaustible treasury of life!
Rejoice, precious diadem of pious kings:
Rejoice, venerable boast of reverent priests!
Rejoice, unshakable fortress of the Church:
Rejoice, inviolable wall of the kingdom!
Rejoice, Thou through whom victories are obtained:
Rejoice, Thou through whom foes fall prostrate!
Rejoice, healing of my flesh:
Rejoice, salvation of my soul!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Kontakion 13

(Priest:) O all-praised Mother Who didst bear the Word, holiest of all the saints, accept now our offering, and deliver us from all misfortune, and rescue from the torment to come those that cry to Thee: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (This Kontakion is sung three times)

And again we sing Ikos 1 and Kontakion 1

Triple Litany

**Priest: Have mercy on us O God, according to Thy great mercy, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy.

**People: (after every petition)

**Priest: Again we pray for the holy Orthodox Patriarchs of the East; for the Orthodox episcopate of the Russian Church; for our lord the Very Most Reverend Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad; for our lord the Most Reverend Anthony, Archbishop of Western America and San Francisco; and for our lord, the Most Reverend Bishop Kyrill; and all our brethren in Christ:

**Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, and visitation for the servants of God NN: (while the names are read, the people sing the litany response softly), and for the pardon and remission of their sins.

**Again we beg Thee, O Lord, to hearken to our petition, and have mercy on Thy servants NN: (the response is sung softly as above). In Thy grace and bounty, fulfill their petitions, and forgive all their sins, whether voluntary or involuntary. Accept their sacrifice of praise upon Thy heavenly altar; protect them from every visible and invisible enemy; deliver them from all misery, sickness, and affliction; grant them health and length of days, we pray Thee, O Lord, hearken and have mercy.

**Priest: Again we pray for travelers by land, by sea, and by air; for the sick and the suffering; for the servants of God NN: (as above), and for all those that are under trial, in harsh labor, in exile, imprisonment, and in every tribulation, necessity, and danger, and for their salvation, we pray Thee O Lord, hearken and have mercy.

**Again we pray that the Lord our God will preserve this city and this holy temple and every city and country from pestilence, famine, earthquake, flood, fire, the sword, the invasion of enemies, civil war, and sudden death, and that our good God, Who loveth mankind, will be graciously favorable and easily entreated, and will turn away from us all the wrath stirred up against us, and deliver us from all His righteous chastisement which impendeth against us, and have mercy on us.

**Again we pray for the blessed and ever-memorable, holy Orthodox Patriarchs, and pious kings and right-believing queens, and the founders of this holy temple, and for all our fathers and brethren gone to their rest before us, and the Orthodox here and everywhere laid to rest.

**Again we pray for all the people here present, who await Thy great and rich mercy.

**Again we pray that the Lord will listen to the prayers of us sinners, and have mercy on us.

**Hear us O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of those who are far off upon the sea, and show mercy, show mercy O Master, upon us sinners. For Thou art a merciful God and Thou lovest mankind, and unto Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

**Priest: Let us pray to the most holy Theotokos.

**People: (all kneel as we sing:)

(Priest:) Our most gracious Queen, our hope, O Theotokos, Who receivest the orphaned and art the intercessor for the stranger; the joy of those in sorrow, protectress of the wronged, see our distress, see our affliction! Help us, for we are helpless. Feed us, for we are strangers and pilgrims. Thou knowest our offences; forgive them, and resolve them as Thou dost will. For we know no other help but Thee, no other intercessor, no gracious comforter, only Thee, O Theotokos to guard and protect us for ages of ages. Amen.

**Priest: Wisdom, Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

People: More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without corruption Thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify Thee.

**Priest: Glory to Thee, O Christ our God and our hope, glory to Thee.

People: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, Amen. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Father, bless.

**Priest: (gives the blessing of the day, and all come to venerate the Icon)

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We Orthodox Christians live slightly different lives from the rest of the “herd” in the US. Yes, we go to work, our children go to school, we go to Church, like many others. Unlike the others, however, Orthodox Christians consult a special Church Calendar daily to see which Saints are commemorated and whether it is a fasting day. If it is a fasting day, we check to see which kind – strict fast, wine and oil, or fish, wine and oil. Strict fast mean no meat, no dairy, no fish, no wine and no oil. Vegetables, grains, and legumes are permitted. This is a vegan kind of diet. Shellfish are permitted, also, but many people don’t bother, as shellfish are expensive. There are approximately 150 strict fast days each year. Hey! That’s almost 1/2 of the year!! The wine and oil days add wine and olive oil to the mix. There are approximately 25 wine and oil days each year. Finally, there are the fish, wine and oil days – often just called “fish days.” Fish is added to the mix on those days.

The 6 weeks prior to the Nativity of our Lord is a fasting season in preparation for the feast. If there is a big feast, there is a fast preceding it. There are 4 major fasts a year. The St. Philip’s Fast for the 6 weeks preceding Nativity, Great Lent for the 6 weeks plus 1 week prior to Pascha (Easter), the Apostles Fast for a variable number of days / weeks prior to the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Dormition Fast is the 2 weeks prior to the feast of the Dormition (falling asleep in the Lord) of the Theotokos (Birth-giver of God; Mother of god).

When all the fasting days are added up, the total is approximately 186 days of the year. A few days more than 1/2 of the year!

Our lives follow a rhythm of fasting and feasting. And, believe me, it is easier to fast than to feast!

To further complicate matters, Orthodox follow a variety of calendars. There are the traditional, Old Calendar followers. I am among them. We follow the old Julian Calendar which is 13 days “off” from the civil calendar. Visualize a standard calendar, and then superimpose another calendar over it that begins 13 days after the standard calendar. That’s the calendar we live by. So, the Nativity Fast begins on November 15th, but November 15th on the Julian Calendar falls on November 28th of the civil calendar. December 25th on the Julian Calendar falls on January 7th of the civil calendar.

Those who follow the “new calendar,” which is an adaptation of the civil calendar, follow the same feasts and fasts and rhythms as those who follow the “old calendar” but the fixed feasts are on different dates on the civil and Julian calendars.

Pascha is the exception. It is a movable feast, and the Sunday it falls on depends on when the first full moon following the Spring Equinox (defined as March 21, Julian) and following Passover occurs. This can be anywhere between March 22, Julian (March 11, civil) and April 25 (April 12, civil). Both the old and new calendars celebrate Pascha on the same Sunday – which is usually between 1 and 5 weeks later than non-Orthodox (Heterodox) Christians. Every 4 – 8 years, the Sundays will coincide. For more information than you ever wanted to know about the “dating” of Pascha, see the Calculation of the Ecclesiastical Calendar website.

As the date of the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul is fixed (on a specific date on the calendar), and no fasting season may begin during the Paschalion (the weeks between Pascha and Pentecost), the fast will begin on the day after Pentecost Sunday and end on June 30 (Sts Peter and Paul). So, if Pascha is early, there is a longer fast, and if Pascha is late, there is a shorter fast. It can be as long as 6 weeks, or as short as 7 days. For those on the civil calendar, the may not be a Sts Peter and Paul fast at all when Pascha is late!

Yes, there is some conflict between the “old calendarists” and the “new calendarists.” But most of the conflict is confined to snide remarks and bursts of activity on one of the many Orthodox listservs. Each side believes it is “right,” and “never the twain shall meet!”

Today is the feast of one of the Wonderworking Icons of the Mother of God: The Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God.

The Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God was written in the years 1654-1655 in the Resurrection parish of the city of Shui, where at the time raged an unrelenting pestilence. Hoping on the mercy of God and the intercession of the Mother of God, the parishioners of the Resurrection [Voskresensk] church commissioned a certain pious monk to write the image of the Smolensk Mother of God, – from of old being a rescuer of the Russian people from enemies and misfortune. The whole week while the image was being written was spent by the parishioners in prayer and fasting. When the icon was finished, the priest and the people took it to the church and set it in a specially built place. From that time the pestilence began to ease, at first in the locale of the Voskresensk parish, and then also in all the city.

From the Icon of the mother of God set up in the church were done many miracles of healing, especially of eye diseases. Celebration of the icon is done also on 28 July.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos

Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God

Shuisk-Smolensk Wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God

Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us!

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Mother of God, Prosperess of Loaves (Sporitelnitsa Khlebov) (Grower of Crops)

Mother of God, "Prosperess of Loaves" ("Sporitel'nitsa Khlebov") (Grower of Crops)

The Icon of the Mother of God, named “Prosperess of Loaves” (“Sporitel’nitsa Khlebov”), was written at the blessing of the starets-elder of the Visitation Optina wilderness monastery, the priest-schemamonk Amvrosii (Ambrosii) (23/XI/1812 – 10/X/1891). Father Amvrosii, a great Russian ascetic of the XIX Century, was ardent with a childlike faith towards the Mother of God. He in particular revered all the feastdays of the Mother of God and on these days he redoubled his prayer. With the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, Father Amvrosii blessed the Shamordinsk women’s monastery established in honour of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, and founded by him not far from the Optina monastery.

On this icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon the clouds, and Her hands are extended in blessing. Beneathe — is a compressed field, and on it amidst the grass and flowers stand and lay sheaves of rye. Starets Amvrosii himself decreed the day of celebration — 15 October, and called the image “Prosperess of Loaves”, indicating by this, that the Most Holy Mother of God — “is an Helper for people in their labours for the acquiring of their daily bread”. Before his blessed death, Father Amvrosii ordered a large quantity of photo-replicas of this icon and distributed and sent them off to his spiritual children. For the singing of an akathist before the holy image, the starets composed a particular response: “Hail, Thou Full-of-Grace, the Lord is with Thee! Grant unto us unworthy ones the dew of Thy grace and the showing forth of Thine mercy!”

The day of burial of Father Amvrosii happened on 15 October — the feastday of the icon. The first miracle from the holy icon was witnessed in 1891, when throughout Russia was a famine because of crop-failure, but in the Kaluzh district and on the fields of the Shamordinsk monastery grain was produced. In 1892, already after the death of Father Amvrosii, his attendant Ivan Feodorovich Cherepanov sent a copy from the icon to the Pyatnitsk women’s monastery in Voronezh district. In this locale there was a drought and famine threatened, but soon after a molieben served before the icon, “Prosperess of Loaves”, it rained and ended the drought.

On a more modern note, in 2008, there was drought in Texas. One devout Orthodox Christian, near Lubbock, TX, printed out and laminated a copy of this Icon from the internet. He placed it in a small shrine in his field, and prayed to the Theotokos for his crops to prosper. He was the only person in his district who had crops that were not stunted or destroyed by the drought. He was able to provide products for several of the markets in his area so that people had access to fresh vegetables of good size at a righteous price.

In these modern days, we often forget that prayers are answered; that God cares for us; that He listens to the prayers of people and especially of the Theotokos – the one who said “yes” to God and bore His only Son. “In one of the prayers at the Sixth Hour we ask the Mother of God to intercede with Jesus for us, “for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the goodwill of the Lord.’ Indeed, yes,”(1) it does.

The Widow of Nain by Peter Sizer; Orthodox Research Institute

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Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

Protection of the Theotokos at Blanchernae

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos

“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them go away from my icon unheard.”

Saints Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Russia

Church of the Protection of the Theotokkos on the Nerl - Bogolyubovo, Russia

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin Monastery of the Intercession of Our Lady). In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basils Cathedral, Moscow Russia

Cathedral of the Protection of the Theotokos AKA St. Basil's Cathedral, Moscow Russia

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”
Adapted from the website of the Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church; Billings MT

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord our God, Save and Protect us!

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Appearance of the Most Holy Theotokos to the monk Sergei of Radonezh

Appearance of the Most Holy Theotokos to the monk Sergei of Radonezh

Commemorated on August 24

One time, in the deep of night, the Monk Sergei (1314-1392) was reading an Akathist to the Mother of God. Having finished his habitual rule, he sat down to rest a bit, but suddenly he said to his cell-mate, the Monk Mikhei (+ 6 May 1385): “Take courage, child, we shall have a wondrous visit”. Scarcely had he uttered these words when a voice was heard: “the All-Pure Virgin doth approach!” The Monk Sergei rushed from the cell to the entrance, and suddenly it was illumined by a bright light, brighter than that of the sun. He beheld nearby in imperishable glory the Mother of God, accompanied by the Apostles Peter and John. Unable to bear the miraculous radiance, the Monk Sergei reverently prostrated himself before the Mother of God, and She said to him: “Fear not, My chosen one! I am come to visit thee. Sorrow thee no more about thy students and thy place. Thy prayer is heard. Henceforth all thine habitation shalt prosper, not only in thy lifetime, but also after thy departure to God shall it persist for thy monastery, granting abundantly its petitions and preserving it in all needs”. Having said this, the Mother of God became invisible. For a long time the Monk Sergei was in an inexpressible rapture, and having come to himself, he raised up the Monk Mikhei. “Tell me, father, – asked the cell‑mate, -what is the meaning for this miraculous vision? From terror my soul nearly departed the body!” But the Monk Sergei was silent; only his luminous face spoke of the spiritual joy which he experienced. “Wait a bit, – he said finally to his disciple, – until my soul doth calm down from this wondrous vision”. After a certain while the Monk Sergei summoned two of his disciples, the Monks Isaac and Simon, and communicated to them the common joy and hope. All of them together celebrated a molieben prayer to the Mother of God. The Monk Sergei spent the remaining part of the night without sleep, calling to mind the Divine vision. The appearance of the Mother of God at the cell of the Monk Sergei, at the present place of the Serapionov chamber, was on one of the Fridays of the Nativity fast in the year 1385. The commemoration of the visit of the Mother of God to the Troitsky (Trinity) monastery and of Her promise was reverently kept by the disciples of the Monk Sergei. On 5 July 1422 was the uncovering of his holy relics, and soon after on the grave of the Monk Sergei was placed an icon of the Appearance of the Mother of God. The icon was honoured with great reverence. In the year 1446 GreatPrince Vasilii Vasil’evich (1425-1462) was besieged at the Troitsky monastery by the armies of princes Dimitrii Shemyaka and Ioann of Mozhaisk. He barricaded himself into the Trinity cathedral, and when he heard that he was sought, he took the icon of the Appearance of the Mother of God and with it met prince Ioann at the southern church doors, saying: “Brother, we kissed the LifeCreating Cross and this icon in this church of the LifeBeginning Trinity at this grave of the Wonderworker Sergei, that we would neither intend nor wish any evil to any of our brethren amongst ourselves; and here now I know not, what will happen with me”.

The Trinity monk Amvrosii (mid-XV Century) reproduced the icon of the Appearance of the Mother of God to the Monk Sergei, carved in wood.

Tsar Ivan the Terrible took along the icon of the Appearance of the Mother of God on his Kazan campaign (1552). The most famous icon, inscribed in the year 1588, was by the steward of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra, Evstaphii Golovkin (1571-1581; 1583‑1593) on a board from the wooden reliquary of the Monk Sergei, which was taken apart in the year 1585 in connection with the placing of the relics of the Monk Sergei in a silver reliquary (14 August). Through this icon the Mother of God repeatedly protected the Russian army. Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (1645-1676) took it on the Polish campaign in 1657. In the year 1703 the icon took part in all the military campaigns against the Swedish king Charles XII, and in 1812 Metropolitan Platon sent it to the Moscow military levy. The icon took part in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and during the time of World War I it was at the quarters of the supreme commander-in-chief in 1914.

Over the grave of the monk Mikhei was built a church and named through its consecration on 10 December 1734 in honour of the Appearance of the MostHoly Mother of God together with the holy Apostles to the Monastic Father Sergei of Radonezh. On 27 September 1841 the church was restored and consecrated by the Metropolitan of Moscow Philaret, who said: “By the grace of the All-Holy and All-Sacred Spirit is now accomplished the restoration of this temple, fashioned before us in honour and memory of the Appearance of our Lady the Most Holy Mother of God to the Monk our God-bearing father Sergei, to which also by his account the Monk Mikhei was an eye-witness, in sweet reverence here honoured”. Rightly was the commemoration of this grace-bearing event honoured by the consecration of a church, although however, all this monastery is a memorial of that miraculous visit. Wherefore its purpose in the continuing centuries was the fulfilling of the promise of the heavenly Visitor: “This place shalt persist”. In memory of the visit of the Mother of God at Trinity cathedral of the Trinity-Sergiev monastery is read on Fridays an Akathist to the Most Holy Mother of God, and a special service in honour of the appearance of the mother of God is done at the monastery on 24 august, on the second day of the leave-taking of the feast of Uspenie (Dormition) of the Most Holy Mother of God.

Taken from the website of:  Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church

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Georgian (Gruzinian) Icon of the Mother of God

Georgian Icon of the Mother of God

In 1622 the Persian shah Abbas conquered Gruzia. Many Christian holy things were plundered and many such were sold to the Russian merchants that were in Persia. Thus, the Gruzinian Icon of the Mother of God came the way of a certain merchant named Stefan, who piously kept it. During this time in Yaroslavl’ the merchant Georgii Lytkin — on whose trade-business Stefan was in Persia — received in a dream a revelation about the holy article found by Stefan, and he was commanded to send it off to the Chernogorsk monastery in the Arkhangelsk diocese, founded in 1603. When Stefan returned home in 1629 and showed the icon to Georgii Lytkin, who remembered about his vision and he set off to the Dvina outskirts to the Chernogorsk monastery (called such since it was built on an hilly and somber place, and from of old had been named “Black Mount” (“Chernaya Gora”), but afterwards the monastery was changed in name to “Pretty Hill” (“Krasnaya Gora”). The icon was glorified there by miracles. In 1654 during the time of a pestilential plague the icon was transferred to Moscow, and those praying before it escaped the deadly plague. The many copies of the icon testifies to its deep veneration. In 1658, with the blessing of Patriarch Nikon, there was established an annual feastday of the Gruzinian Icon of the Mother of God. The service was compiled in 1698 under the supervision of Feodor Polikarpov of the Moscow printing-office.

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Blogging about this Feast slipped right by me, so I’m a bit late posting about it. Forgive me!

The following is from the Theologic.com website:

The Dormition of the Theotokos

Celebrated on August 15 (August 28)

The Feast of the Dormition or Falling Asleep of the Theotokos commemorates the death, resurrection, and glorification of Christ’s mother. To help us in our preparation of the feast, it is preceded by a two week fast. As with the Nativity of the Virgin (September 8/21) and the feast of her Entrance to the Temple (November 21/December 4), the Feast of the Dormition also comes from the Tradition of the Church.

There we learn that Mary died as all people die because she had a mortal human nature affected by the corruption of this world. The Church proclaims that Mary needed to be saved by Christ just as all of us are saved from trials, sufferings, and death of this world. Having truly died, she was raised by her Son as the “Mother of Life” and already participates in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who “hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:27-28) Finally, we celebrate the fact that what happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience and love.

It is important to remember that there are no relics of the Theotokos. Their existence has never been mentioned throughout history. At one time in Constantinople there was a center of pilgrimage where the belt and veil of the Virgin were venerated.
Adapted from The Orthodox Church, Volume II: Worship, by Fr. Thomas Hopko.

From the Tradition of the Church

Following the day of Pentecost, the Theotokos remained in the city of Jerusalem, comforting the infant Christian community. She was living in the house of the beloved Apostle John, later the Evangelist. At the time of her death (tradition states she was in her early fifties) many of the Apostles were scattered throughout the world preaching the Gospel. All but Thomas were miraculously brought to the Virgin aloft on clouds.

As they stood around her bedside, she commended her spirit to the Lord and Jesus descended from Heaven, taking up her soul in His arms. The Apostles sang the funeral hymns in her honor and carried her body to a tomb in Cedron near Gethsemane. When a Jewish man tried to interrupt their solemn procession, an angel of the Lord came and punished him by cutting off his hands, which were later healed.

The Apostle Thomas arrived on the third day and wished to see the Virgin for the last time. They discovered an empty tomb. Church tradition relates that the Theotokos was resurrected bodily and taken to heaven, the same reward that awaits all the righteous on the Last Day.

About the Icon

The Theotokos is depicted upon the funeral bier.

Christ, standing behind the Theotokos, is her Son, Who has come to receive His Mother’s soul into heaven; He holds in His left arm an infant in white, symbolizing the soul of the Theotokos reborn in her glory in heaven; Christ also is robed in white and appears in an aureole (elongated halo) depicting the Light of His Divinity.

The Apostles are depicted on either side of the bier stand the Apostles; the group on the left is led by St. Peter who stands at the head of the bier; the group on the right is led by St. Paul who stands at the foot of the bier.

Below the bier is a figure of Antonius the Jew, who tried to disrupt the procession, was punished, but later repented of his sins and embraced Christianity through Baptism.
Taken from The Icon Book, by Boojamra, Essey, McLuckie & Matusiak.

Troparion
(Tone 1)

In giving birth, you preserved your virginity!
In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos!
You were translated to life, O Mother of Life,
And by your prayers you deliver our souls from death!

Kontakion
(Tone 2)

Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos,
Who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions.
For being the Mother of Life,
She was translated to life by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb!

In this Icon, from the website of the Moscow Patriachate, Christ is robed in red, the color of celebration, and is surrounded by a red aureole. On this page:  http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/287033.html you will find several Icons of the Dormition painted in various styles over the ages.

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