About the icon.
The icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, called “Axion Esti,” was hagiographied at Constantinople.It was created following the model of the holy icon called the “Virgin of Mercy”, a work of St. Luke the Evangelist, found at the Holy Monastery of Kykkos.
The icon is an hagiography of the Iconoclast period. It is a Byzantine style icon, its visage is imposing with a sweet sobriety too, alike many other old byzantine icons. In 1836, its major part was covered with silver, gold and semiprecious stones of excellent Athonite art. On this cover one may also see the seals of the twenty athonite monasteries. Its dimensions are 70,5×44,0 cm, not including the silver frame which surrounds it. Due to the passage of time, its condition became very poor to the point that the figure of the Virgin could be hardly seen but through the restoration work it is kept in a good condition and one may read its sign, the “Mother of God Karyotissa.”
It’s main feature is that the Most-Pure Mother of God holds in Her right arm the child Jesus. This icon is the form of right-hand holder Virgin. The left hand of Jesus enters in the robe and the cocoon of the Mother of God, in Her bosom and heart. All these show the dependency of Christ’s human nature by His Mother and nurse. Jesus Christ holds a scroll in his right hand which says prophet Isaiah’s verse:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Is. 61:1)
Such icons were used against heretics concerning the orthodox formulation and declaration regarding the doctrinal issue of the orthodox icons of the Church which deal with the incarnation of God the Word in the 8th and 9th c.
The proccesion of the icon.
On Bright Monday at Karyes, the capital of Mt Athos, takes place the procession of the holy icon in the presence of fathers of each and every monastery of the Holy Mountain. This event, is a very significant feast not only for the local residents of Karyes, but for the whole Athonite community too.
Each year on Bright Monday, when the Divine Liturgy finishes in the church of Protaton, the procession of the icon begins. It lasts around five hours and its course is determined precisely by a 1508’s typicon. This procession has nothing secular and it is characterized by the contrition and solemnity of the participants. The ones who are present are the bishop, the fathers who represent the athonite monasteries, priests, monks and pilgrims. They, all, hold successively the icon. At each stop in front of a cell, the relevant with the feast Gospel is read and also the hymn of the Saint to whom the cell is dedicated is chanted. Fathers from all the cells offer eggs, cheese, bread and wine. The procession ends up at the building of the Holy Community; there, the last prayers for Protos’ health are heard. Finally, the act of dismissal takes place in the holy church of Protaton.
In the life of the holy Elder Paisios, written by Fr Isaac, we see a miracle which the Elder narrates: “On a Bright Monday while I was sitting at the guest-house sitting room, I felt a sweet fragrance. I went out at the corridor to see where it came from, I went to the church but found nothing. I went out to the yard. The smell was more intense. Then the bell rang. I gazed and saw a procession coming down and realized that the smell comes from the icon of Mother of God”.
On that day a procession of the miraculous icon of “Axion Esti” takes place. The icon is taken down from the monastery of Koutloumousiou until the cell of Holy Apostles. Further down, almost a kilometer beyond, one finds the cell of the “Young Virgin”. From that distance, the Virgin Mary sent Her greetings to the Elder.
The icon of “Axion Estin” is carried five times annually from the sanctuary to the centre of the church: on Christmas, Pasch, Sunday of the Athonite Fathers, the Dormition of the Mother of God, and on the 11th of June, feast of the miracle of Axion Estin.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Ye hosts of the Fathers of Mount Athos, gather today, and shout with a voice of jubilation, leaping for joy, and faithfully keeping feast: For, behold, the praise of the most pure Theotokos wondrously and awesome is sung by the Angel; and therefore, as the Mother of God, we glorify her name.
© Copyright belongs to the respective photographers.