Tradition holds that the Panagia Prousiotissa was written by St. Luke the Evangelist and came to rest in a church in the city of Prousa (modern-day Bursa, located near Istanbul, Turkey). As was the case with last week’s featured icon, the Gykophilousa, the Panagia Prousiotissa was also targeted for destruction during the Iconoclastic reign of Emperor Theophilos. When the Emperor’s order reached Prousa, the son of an officer of the royal court made the decision to take the icon to Greece, where the Iconoclastic persecution was less severe. On the way to the city of Callipolis (modern-day Galipoli) the youth lost the Icon, and fell into deep despair.
He settled in New Patre in the Peloponnesos, and one day heard of a miraculous occurrence in the rugged region of Aitola, Greece: watching his father’s flock, the son of a shepherd heard chanting from a nearby cave, and saw a pillar of light reaching up to heaven. A party was sent to investigate, and inside the cave they discovered that the source of the radiant light was none other the Panagia Prousiotissa icon. The icon’s safe reappearance was the first of its many miracles.
Hearing of the icon’s reappearance, the young man from Prousa traveled from New Patre to Aitola to venerate the icon. Giving generous gifts to the shepherds he sought to take the icon back with him. The shepherds were saddened, but before he left, he explained that not only did the icon belong to him, but that this region was too inhospitable for pilgrims.
The following morning when he and his party woke, some distance from Aitola, the icon was again missing. Believing the shepherds might have stolen it, they turned back, only to hear a voice telling them during their journey, “Oh young man, be saved, go in peace and do not toil any more. I am pleased to remain here in this rugged wilderness with the shepherds and peasants and not to be in the cities with people who preach heresies: and if you wish to stay with me come where you had found me. This will be good for you.”
The young man did as the icon offered, returning to Aitola, having freed himself of his possessions and all but one servant. He and his servant were tonsured by a local monk, and were given the names Demetrios and Timothy, respectively. Demetrios built the cave into a small chapel, with cells for him and his brother monk, away from the growing crowds of pilgrims. Having lived a holy life, Demetrios reposed in the Lord. Timothy buried Demetrios’ body in the chapel, before reposing later himself.
This was the beginning of the Holy Monastery of the All-Holy Mother of God of Prousa (or Prousiotissa), which has stood for over a thousand years in spite of all disasters, natural and manmade. The icon is housed in the inner-cave, surrounded by numerous offerings from pilgrims, many of whom flock the week after the feast of the Panagia (August 15th-22nd), to venerate the icon, and to ask our All-Holy Mother for healing.