Reflecting the Refulgent

Orans Icon

The fasting season is a period of spiritual illumination and of adorning the soul with the sanctifying presence of God. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Fasting supports the prayer of a believer who considers his connection with God as the centre, the Light, and the nourishment of his soul. ~ Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Today is also one of the feast days for the ancient, Miraculous Kursk Root Icon: Theotokos of the Sign (Orans). It’s a Holy Consolation which many of us have been blessed to venerate in person.

May we try to emulate our Most Holy Theotokos by always saying “yes” to God, for in doing so… we shall thrive and shine – reflecting the True and Illuminating Light of Christ!

May your Lenten Journey be Peaceful and Fruitful!


6th century Akathist (Hymn) to the Theotokos chanted in English

She Who is Quick to Hear

For the health of a dear friend, family prayers were recently said in front of this special Icon, She Who is Quick to Hear.

The original wonderworking icon resides on Holy Mount Athos at the Dokhiareia monastery. There are many copies of it throughout the world. Tradition states the icon was written in the tenth century when the head of this monastery was St. Neophytes – who is also commemorated on the Icon’s Feast Day November 22/9. At its first miracle in 1664 AD, our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary promised, “From this time on, my icon shalt be named Quick-Hearing, and for all hastening to it, shalt there quickly appear, mercy and fulfillment of entreaties.”

To this day, the Most Holy Mother of God continues to fulfill Her promise and quickly offers help and consolation for all, who with faith, hasten to her. She hears every prayer!

This icon, a copy of She Who is Quick to Hear, belonged to my grandmother and given upon her baptism at 89 years of age, by a venerable matushka (the same age as she), who became her godmother, by proxy.

I’ll always remember my grandmother’s first visit to the church after her baptism. It was an arduous journey, for at that time we had no Orthodox church in our city and had to travel by car and ferry, a trip (3-4 hours each way) to church.

Her godmother – an aged matushka, could only speak Russian, and my grandmother could only speak English. However, upon greeting each other joyfully for the first time (before the church service began – and what would be their last time to ever see one another upon this earth), they embraced and chatted non-stop with each other… Matushka Eudocia in Russian, and my grandmother in English! I stood perplexed at this exchange. Then one of them apparently said something amusing to the other, and they both glanced over at me, giggled simultaneously over the anecdote… and happily continued their conversation until the service began.

Journeying home after church, I was bursting to know what my grandma and matushka Eudocia were chatting about? She responded matter-of-factly, “Surely you heard, my dear? You were standing there right beside us… and now Eudocia and I know each other better – before one of us heads off to Glory!”

I asked my grandma how could she understand matushka Eudocia, because matushka was speaking Russian?!

My grandmother smiled serenely, looked out the car window at the passing scenery and said, “We understood each other perfectly, my dear”.

And that was that!

Little Miracles occur everyday!

Memory Eternal dear Faith, and matushka Eudocia, who through the Power and Mystery of the Holy Spirit… transcended the barrier of language! Amen!

Magnifying the Virgin Mary Theotokos

Detail from small paper icon our spiritual Fr. Vladimir gave to our son at his baptism, and which, for a time, shared our son’s crib.

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Happy Third Day of the Nativity!

Greetings on St. Stephen’s Day!

Beautiful a cappella Nativity Hymn – Magnifying the Virgin Mary Theotokos, followed by Ode 9 of the Nativity Canon… as recorded by our parish in 2014.


Below is one of my favourite Christmastide readings which I also take special delight in remembering each year, on Great and Holy Friday.

A Story of the Divine Christ-Child and the Flight Into Egypt

When the holy family fled before Herod’s sword to Egypt, robbers leapt out on the road with the intention of stealing something. The righteous Joseph was leading the donkey, on which were some belongings and on which the Most-holy Theotokos was riding with her Son at her breast. The robbers seized the donkey to lead it away. At that moment, one of the robbers approached the Mother of God to see what she was holding next to her breast.

The robber, seeing the Christ-child, was astonished at His unusual beauty and said in his astonishment: If God were to take upon Himself the flesh of man, He would not be more beautiful than this Child!

This robber then ordered his companions to take nothing from these travellers. Filled with gratitude toward this generous robber, the Most-holy Virgin said to him: Know that this Child will repay you with a good reward because you protected Him today.

Thirty-three years later, this same thief hung on the Cross for his crimes, crucified on the right side of Christ’s Cross. His name was Dismas, and the name of the thief on the left side was Gestas.

Beholding Christ the Lord innocently crucified, Dismas repented for all the evil of his life. While Gestas reviled the Lord, Dismas defended Him, saying: This man hath done nothing amiss. (St. Luke 23:41).

Dismas, therefore, was the wise thief to whom our Lord said: Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (St. Luke 23:43). Thus the Lord granted Paradise to him who spared Him in childhood.

~ St. Nikolai Velimirovich from the Prologue of Ohrid

Holy Consolation

Recent Visit of the Ancient (1259 AD), Miraculous Kursk Root Icon

Detail of Icon Without Cover

The Icon depicts the Theotokos of the Sign with the Christ Child before her. Her arms are outstretched. Above her is the Lord of Hosts and on either side and below are 9 prophets who wrote about the birth of Christ (clockwise, starting in the top right): King Solomon, Prophets Daniel, Jeremiah, Elijah, Habakkuk, Judge Gideon, Prophets Isaiah, Moses, and King David. The wooden Icon is covered with an intricately worked [protective] cover of blue and gold. ~ OrthodoxWiki

Even if you just lean your head on an Icon, you will find consolation. ~ St. Paisios the Athonite

Shared by a dear friend: “I came to venerate this Holy Icon with certain petitions already in mind for both physical and spiritual healing. But when I approached the Icon, overwhelming thoughts of the heartbreaking Russian war in Ukraine (and resulting divisions in the Orthodox world) engulfed me instead. All I could pray was one single word ‘Help.’ I laid my head on the Icon, much as a grieving child would upon their own mother’s bosom… and although it seemed I was there for quite some time (in reality – only several seconds), a Warm Wave of Consolation washed over me… a Spiritual Embrace. The next one-word prayer I offered was ‘Thank you’And I know that She’s sad too.”

Epilogue: I was also told a few days later, that a long-standing family issue my friend was going to especially pray for in front of the Icon (she had also been praying separately for), has miraculously been resolved!

Help and Thank You are two very simple, powerful, prayer words.

Our Most Holy Theotokos knows what we need even when words won’t suffice. When we turn to her with hope and faith, she always hears the wordless groaning of hearts.

O Most Holy Theotokos, thank you for your blessings – both known and unknown!

Have Icon, Will Travel

“Travelling” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos and our Lord Jesus Christ, on cabin’s dining room table. It is diptych style, with two icons hinged together and a latch door to shut during transit. This beautiful Icon was a gift from our dear friend Elizabeth.

Icons in churches and houses are necessary because they remind us of the immortality of saints; that they live unto Him, (St. Luke 20:38) that in God they see, hear, and help us. ~ St. John of Kronstadt.

Whether camping, glamping, going on a road or business trip, besides having a pre-trip blessing, a portable icon is also important to bring on our travels. (Or to have during a hospital stay.) For years we carefully brought and used a small, blessed, paper Icon when going/staying anywhere.

Upon reaching the destination, place your travelling icon either facing east in your room, or where you will most easily see it for prayer, and to help bring one’s vacationing attention back to God.

If possible, do also bring a small container of Holy Water on your trip for daily use and to also bless your cabin or hotel room, etc. upon arrival. Sprinkle the walls, windows and doorways with it, using the sign of the Cross… each time saying, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

May the dear Lord bless you on your travels, and bring you back from your journey again in peace, health and safety.

In God’s Garden

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay

“...Our place in God’s garden may be a very humble and sheltered spot; but, like the saints, we may keep our faces ever turned upward, and learn to grow, as they grew, like their Master, pure and straight and strong – fit flowers to blossom in the Garden of God...

Saints are like roses when they flush rarest,
Saints are like lilies when they bloom fairest,
Saints are like violets, sweetest of their kind.”

~ In God’s Garden Original Copyright 1907 by Amy Steedman; distributed by Heritage History 2009

Today is the special feast commemorating the 10th Century Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (Axion Estin) and its Ancient Hymn, that’s so special.

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day Nathaniel… Remembering how you were baptised in a beautiful garden, beneath the warm summer sky! May God grant you many years!

In Old English, the word sky was heofan, from which we get the modern word heaven.

It is Truly Meet

A Monastery Wall – Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay 

Towards the end of evening vigil services, and after the Anaphora at Divine Liturgy, we sing a short, compelling, ancient hymn. Its history is amazing, for it was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel himself, posing as a monk while visiting a monastery on Mt. Athos during the 10th century!

When he began to sing before the Panagia Eleousa (Merciful) Icon of the Virgin Mary, it shone brilliantly. He then was asked by the brethren to write down this unknown beautiful hymn, but there was no paper available. Taking a piece of slate, and inscribing the words on it with his finger, as if the rock was as soft as wax, he vanished. The phrase it it truly meet (meet is old English), meaning it is truly fitting, proper and suitable.

This miracle is celebrated on June 24/11.

Ancient Hymn to the Theotokos
It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without corruption gavest birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify thee! ~ Axion Esti

There are many melodies to this hymn, and below are two English tunes from Youtube. The first part has women singing and the second part has men singing another melody of this hymn.

Listen time total – a short 2 minutes, 21 seconds.

Congratulations on your Saint’s Day,
Helena and Eleanor!
May God grant you many years!

To the Mother of God

This Icon is a variant of the Hodegetria (Directress) style icon. Here we see the Most Holy Theotokos and her Son, Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ Who stands beside her… His Hand poised, ready to bless us.

Four Beautiful Prayers to the Mother of God

O Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice, O Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast born the Saviour of our souls. Amen.

It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos. Ever-Blessed, and Most Pure and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify Thee. Amen.

Beneath thy tender mercy we take refuge, O Theotokos. Reject not our prayer in our distress but deliver us from harm, O Only Pure and Blessed Lady. Amen

Most Glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ our God, receive our prayer and present it to thy Son and our God, that, for thy sake, He may save our souls. Amen.

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