Virgin of Akathistos, Zografou Monastery, Mt. Athos, Macedonia, Greece
Hail, the Undaunted Might of Martyrs! Hail, O Steadfast Foundation of Faith!
The Akathistos is a long sequence of praises to the Mother of God, each beginning with Χαιρε (Hail, Rejoice), which originated in Constantinople in the 500s and is said while standing (a-kathistos = not seated). In 1276, near the Bulgarian monastery of Zografou on holy Mt. Athos, lived a hermit who spent his days repeating the Akathistos before an icon of the Virgin and child. One day, she answered his salutation: "Hail to you too. Don't be afraid, but go quickly to tell the abbot and monks that the enemy is near. The faint-hearted should escape, but those who wish a martyr's crown should stay." When the hermit arrived at the monastery, he found the icon waiting at the gate. Taking it with him, he delivered the Virgin's warning to the abbot. Soon, Catalan crusaders arrived. After an unsuccessful attempt to get the monks to accept Papal authority, the crusaders set fire to the tower, making Orthodox martyrs of the 26 people inside: abbot, monks, hermit, and four lay employees, on October 10 (October 23 in the modern calendar). Only the icon survived, unhurt in the ashes. The Bulgarians call it Cherovo, Hail; the Greeks, Προαναγγελλόμενη (Proangelomeni), Warning. (Information from www.mountathos.gr. Picture from "Ιερές Εικόνες Παναγίας Αγίου Όρους (Images of the Virgin in Holy Mount Athos)," Aνδρωνιάνοι Eυβοίας, katsosk.googlepages.com.
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