Friday, July 25, 2014

The Troeruchitsa Icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God

Today, the Holy Church celebrates the Icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God called the Troeruchitsa, or “the one with Three Hands”. This Icon has an interesting history.

Akathist to the Troeruchitsa Icon (in Serbian) - parish of St John of Kronstadt in Sydney.
Akathist text in Slavonic (Russian letters)
Akathist text in English

When saint John Damascene functioned as advisor to the Caliph of Damascus in Syria, he once fell into disfavour. This happened because Emperor Leo the Isaurian of Byzantium, the iconoclast, slandered him before the Arab ruler. The Caliph did not understand the internal affairs of Christians, and did not know that Leo actually had left the Orthodox faith. Emperor Leo was now battling against the veneration of icons, and against anyone who defended the Icons. The empire was troubled to an incredible degree - icons were burned and painted over, and brothers fought their own brothers because of the icons. The Orthodox people were forced to pray in make-shift churches and homes, as the iconoclasts took over more and more of the ancient churches. St John was among these pious and persecuted Orthodox Christians.
As a result of this slander, the ruler had St John’s hand cut off. He even displayed the hand publicly in the city as an example for all.
However, with God’s help, friends of St John at the court were able to obtain the cut-off hand. He took the hand to his private prayer chamber, and poured out his grief to the Mother of God. He asked for healing - a healing which would strengthen the Orthodox against the heretic iconoclasts (icon-fighters).
troeruchitsa.jpgAnd the Mother of God heard him!
She appeared in a dream to St John. She demanded that he fulfill his promise, now that he had been healed. Seeing the now healthy hand (only a fine line remained where it had been cut off, as a memory), and touched to his innermost parts, St John had a silver hand made, which he fastened to his icon of the Mother of God. This is how it came to be known as the “three-handed” icon.
All of Damascus was similarly amazed, as was the ruler. He loved St John even more than before. Only after a long time he reluctantly allowed St John to leave his service, to become a monk at the monastery of St Savva the Sanctified in Palestine, as he had promised to the Mother of God.
Many years later, St Savva of Serbia arrived at the monastery, and was given this holy Icon as a blessing, as the Mother of God Herself blessed. The Icon remained in Serbia for a long time. However, when unrest arose in the country, it was decided to allow the Mother of God to go wherever She wished. Her Icon was put on a donkey’s back, which was carefully observed to see where She would direct it. Without any kind of intervention from people, the donkey went directly to Mount Athos, where it stopped at the Hilandar monastery. The brothers met the Icon of the Mother of God with reverence.
After the death of the Abbott, the brothers at Hilandar were in discord. However, the Mother of God saved them from internal enmity by taking upon Herself the place of Abbess of this monastery. She did this by repeatedly moving the Icon to the Abbott’s throne in the monastery church - despite the brothers repeatedly moving it back to its usual place. Finally, the brothers understood the Mother of God’s will, and since then to this very day, they do not elect an Abbott, but only a prior (namestnik).
In the 19th centrury, Russian master goldsmiths from St Petersburg made a beautiful riza for the Icon, which also depicts the venerable saint Simeon the Mhyrr-gusher, father of St Savva of Serbia. On the back side of the Icon, there is an icon of St Nicholas.
The Mother of God has saved not only the Hilandar monastery, but also, an innumerable number of Orthodox Christians from every kind of trouble over the centuries. Very recently, the monastery was saved from fire by Her intercession.
Let us pray to the Mother of God, brothers and sisters, to save us from danger, sickness, persecution from outsiders, heresy, and from internal discord! Only by Her help and protection are we able to reach our true home - the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Church triumphant!


Metropolitan Agafangel
First Hierarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church Abroad

Bishop John of Melbourne
Vicar bishop of Australia

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