Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Holy Icon

From Mystagogy:
According to St. Sophronios of Jerusalem, who wrote the biography of St. Mary of Egypt, when she was about to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the feast of the Exaltation of the Honorable Cross, she was prevented from doing so by an invisible power due to her sinful intentions. After trying again and again to gain entry but failing, and seeing with what ease those around her entered, she looked up and saw an icon of the Theotokos and realized that it was her sins that prevented her from entering. Immediately she prayed to the Mother of God to allow her in and lead her by the hand on the path of repentance, promising that she would renounce the world and dedicate herself completely to Christ. Having fulfilled her promise, she became a model of repentance for centuries to pious Orthodox Christians.

At the southern tip of Mount Athos is the Cave of Saint Athanasios the Athonite, inside of which is believed to be, according to living Athonite tradition, the very icon of the Theotokos before which St. Mary of Egypt made her repentance. This icon is known as Panagia Eggyitria (Guarantor or Surety), and it was found in this cave by the founder of Athonite communal monasticism St. Athanasios himself around 965 A.D. Later he took the icon to Great Lavra Monastery so the fathers there could venerate it, but in the morning the icon disappeared and in a mysterious manner it was brought back to the Cave. St. Athanasios rediscovered the icon in the Cave and brought it back to his Monastery and placed it in the church, but again the next morning it was mysteriously found in the Cave. The miraculous icon was never again disturbed and has remained in the Cave ever since. (Read more.)

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