One of the glories of our Orthodox church is its use of iconography. And one of the most familiar figures in Orthodox Iconography is the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. In this series, we hope to delve into many of the countless icons of Our Lady: the stories of their origination, the miracles they wrought, all in the hopes of bringing you, the reader, closer to her, and to Her Son.
On a January 21, 807, in the monastery of Vatopedi, the fathers were returning to their cells to rest. Othros had ended, and the gates of the monastery were to be left open.
The Abbot, who had stayed behind to continue praying, was suddenly startled to hear a voice. Afraid, he looked around, but no one was there. Listening closely, he followed the voice to the Icon of the Panagia in the Narthex. Approaching in fear, he listened and heard the Theotokos say, “Do not open the Monastery’s gate today, but go to the walls and get rid of the pirates who wait outside.”
And then, to his astonishment, he saw that the both images of the Virgin Mary and the Christ were alive! Even more surprising, Christ wore a stern facial expression, and was raising his hand to cover His mother’s mouth. The Abbot heard Christ speak in a sweet child-like voice, “Don’t Mother, don’t tell them. Let them be punished as they deserve because they do not keep their monastic duties.”
In response, Our Lady carefully lifted Christ’s hand, and moved Her face away, to the right, repeating her advice, “Do not open the doors of the Monastery today, go to the walls and rid the Monastery of the pirates. And be sure to repent because my Son is angry with you.” She repeated this warning yet again, before both images froze back into an icon.
Astounded, the Abbot gathered all the fathers together, and told them what he had witnessed. When monks returned to the Icon, they were amazed, for it had changed. The Icon remained, as it can be seen today, with Our Lady’s hand restraining Christ’s hand from Her mouth. Her face still points slightly to the right, trying to release Her mouth to talk. Through it all, she has a calm and motherly expression, even as Christ’s hand attempts to cover His Mother’s mouth. Clearly, this Icon depicts an image that was not painted by human hands, but by the Grace of God.
Out of gratitude for the Panagia’s protection, the monks to this day, burn a perpetual flame before the Icon and a supplication service is conducted before the Icon daily. And from the stories of countless pilgrims, the Panagia Paramythia works miracles, comforts the afflicted, consoles the faint-hearted, and she moves to repentance, the one who prays.