"The Garden of the Theotokos"

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My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

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HOLY MOUNTAIN (MOUNT ATHOS): "GARDEN OF THE THEOTOKOS."

The Holy Mountain or Mt. Athos is known as "The Garden of the Theotokos." According to our Orthodox tradition, the Theotokos was invited by Saint Lazarus to visit him on the island of Cyprus. Because of a severe storm, the ship was thrown off course and landed on the coast of Mount Athos, at the location of a pagan temple. As the Panagia went to shore, the pagan inhabitants came out to meet her not knowing who she was. The "highly favored one" and the "blessed...among women" converted them to Christianity. The Theotokos fell in love with the beauty of the land, so much so that she requested from her Son and God to grant her this place for herself. Her prayer and supplication was granted and before the Theotokos left she blessed the people and announced that Athos was hers.

The monks consider the Theotokos as the Gerondisa (Abbess) of the Holy Mountain. There approximately twenty-two monasteries on the Holy Mountain and approximately 2,000 monks. Since the Holy Mountain was granted to her by our Lord and out of respect for the Holy Gerondisa of the Mount, no other woman may visit or step foot on it. There are accounts that the Theotokos has appeared to a number of monks over the centuries and continues indeed to be the patron and its protector. Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, in his Life of Saint Peter the Athonite" records the Ever-Virgin's words and promise that those living on the "mountain that I have chosen out of all the earth."

The Holy Mountain, the holy Garden of Panagia, is blessed with numerous holy and miraculous icons of the Theotokos. Here are some of the most well known:

Axion Estin (It is truly meet...) is the name given to the holy icon of the Ever-Virgin Mary before which, according to holy tradition, the hymn of Axion Estin...was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel. Appearing in the guise of an ordinary monk, he sang the hymn and then wrote it with his finger on a roof tile. The entire hymn is chanted in every Divine Liturgy following the Exairetos Tis Panagias, Achrantou...and the invocation of the Holy Spirit to come upon him, the priest, and upon the Precious Gifts (the Consecration of the Holy Gifts).  The entire hymn is: It is meet indeed to bless Thee, the Ever-blessed and Most Pure and Mother of our God. Thee that art More Honorable than the Cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the Seraphim, who without spot of sin didst bear God the Logos/Word; Thee, verily the Mother of God, we magnify.

The holy icon of the Portaitissa, our Lady of the Gate. It is found at the monastery of Iviron. Tradition has it that the holy icon escaped iconoclasm (breaking-up of icons) during the reign of Theophilos (829-842 A.D.) and floated upon the sea of its own power to Mt. Athos where it appeared alight as a pillar of fire. It was retrieved by the monks and it was placed first in the Katholikon of Iviron monastery but moved of its own volition to a place over the entrance gate of the monastery. This occurred three times. Finally, the Theotokos manifested herself to Father Gabriel advising him that a chapel be built for the holy icon next to the gate. Panagia's reasoning was as she explained, "For I have not come here for you to guard me, but for me to guard you." Therefore, a chapel was built, and the holy icon became known as Our Lady of the Gate (Portaitissa).

The holy icon of Tricherousa, our Lady three-handed, found at the Monastery of Chilandar. The holy icon is said to also date from the period of iconoclasm. According to the Athonite tradition it belonged to Saint John of Damascus, a hymnographer of the Church, whose hand had been cut off by the Caliph but was subsequently restored by the Theotokos upon Saint John's supplication to her to restore his hand. In gratitude, Saint John had a silver hand attached to the holy icon. The holy icon reached Mt. Athos in 1371. In a dispute over the election of the Egoumenos (Abbot) the holy icon miraculously relocated itself from its original place in the chancel of the Kathollikon, and positioned itself above the Egoumenos (Abbot's) throne. This happened three times, and in a vision to a hermit, our Lady explained that in order to settle the dispute over the new Egoumenos, she henceforth would assume the role of the Egoumenos. To this day the Egoumeno's throne is occupied by the holy icon of the Tricherousa, and the monks elect only a deputy Egoumenos.

Holy Zonee, or Girdle of the Mother of God, is regarded as the only surviving holy relic of her earthly life. The belief is that the Theotokos herself made it. It is made of camel's hair and is now in three pieces. According to tradition, the Ever-Virgin Mary gave the zonee (girdle) to the holy Apostle Thomasa the moment of her Metastasis. The holy relic was brought from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the 4th century. The zonee was a source of miracles and brought healing to the faithful. Over time it changed hands several times. It was given to the monastery of Vatopedi by the Serbian prince Lazarus (1372-89). There, it has performed many miracles, specifically by healing barren women.

There are, of course, other holy icons of the Theotokos on the Mt. Athos monasteries, such as:

The Koukoyzelissa at the Great Lavra

The Phoveraprostasia at Koutloumousiou Monastery

The Gerontissa at Pantokrator Monastery

The Glykophilousa at Philotheou Monastery

The Gorgoypekousa at Dochiasiou Monastery

The Myrovlitousa at Dionysiou Monastery

Some of the monasteries are dedicated to the Theotokos and events of her holy life: Vatopedi and Philotheou Monasteries to the Evanggelismos (Annunciation); the monastery of Chilandar to the Ypapanti (Presentation); and Iviron to the Koimisis (Dormition) of the Theotokos

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Kontakion. Tone 2 (Paraklesis or Supplication service to the Theotokos)

A protection of Christians unshamable, Intercessor to our Holy Maker, unwavering, Please reject not the prayerful cries of those who are in sin. Instead, come to us, for you are good; Your loving help bring unto us, Who are crying in faith to you: Hasten to intercede And speed now to supplicate, As a protection for all time, Theotokos, for those who honor you.

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Paraklesis (Supplication) Service to the Theotokos on August 1st will be conducted at Saint Andrew at 7:00 p.m.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" - Saint John Chrysostomos

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George