The All-Holy Virgin: the spiritual adornment of Orthodoxy
By Photis Kontoglou
The Virgin Mary is the spiritual adornment of Orthodoxy. For us Greeks she is the pained mother, the comforter and the protector, who stands by us in every circumstance. In every part of Greece countless churches and monasteries are built, palaces of this humble queen, and a large number of small country-churches are scattered on the mountains, the plains and the islands, sweet-scented by the fragrance of her virginity and spirituality. Within each of these shrines, one finds the old and venerable icon with the dark and golden-waxed face, which is constantly wet from the tears of our tortured people, because we have no other to help us, except the All-Holy Virgin Mary, “for as sinners we have no other constant mediator before God in times of trouble and affliction as we bend beneath our multiple faults.” The beauty of Mary is not carnal, but spiritual, because where there is pain and holiness, there is only spiritual beauty. Carnal beauty brings carnal excitement, whereas spiritual beauty brings devotion, respect and pure love. This is the beauty that the All-Holy Virgin has. And this beauty is imprinted on her Greek icons which were made by pious people who were fasting, chanting and clad in broken-heartednesss and spiritual purity. It is this mystical beauty, depicted on the face of the Virgin, that draws like a magnet pious souls, quietening and comforting them. And this spiritual fragrance is the so-called Joyful Mourning (1), which is granted to us by the religion of Christ, an herb unknown to people who do not go near Him who is the good shepherd. This joyful sorrow is depicted in every creation of Orthodox art, and sheds a fragrance like myrrh and aloe, whether this creation is an icon, or hymnody, or chanting, or manuscript, or vestments, or words, or actions, or blessings, or greetings, or monastery, or monastic cell, or carved wood, or embroidery, or candel, or lectern, or candelabra, or whatever is a vehicle for sanctification.
The Miraculous Icon of the Theotokos Tricherousa “Of the Three Hands”
Commemorated on July 12
Apolytikion of the Icon of the Theotokos “Of the Three Hands” in the Fourth Tone
From the Palestine, godly-minded Sabbas brought unto us thy ven’rable icon, which is known as Of the Three Hands, O all-holy Bride of God. Wherefore, since the monks of Hilandar now possess it as their boast, they send up hymns of praise and thanksgiving, while crying out with fervour: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace.