Icon of the Mother of God of Damascus


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Commemorated on December 4 (also on June 28 and July 12)

The Damascene Icon of the Mother of God was painted by St. John of Damascus in gratitude to the Theotokos for the miraculous healing of his right hand, cut off through the evilness of Emperor Leo the Isaurian. This icon is also known as “Of the Three Hands” Icon of the Mother of God (also celebrated on June 28 and July 12).

In the ninth century in the time of the Iconoclasts, St. John of Damascus was steadfast in his veneration of holy icons. Because of this, he was slandered by the emperor and iconoclast Leo III the Isaurian, who informed the Damascus caliph that St. John was committing treasonous acts. The caliph gave orders to cut off the hand of the monk and take it to the marketplace. Towards evening, St. John, having asked the caliph for the cut-off hand, put it to its joint and fell to the ground before the icon of the Mother of God. The monk begged Our Lady to heal the hand, which had written in defense of Orthodoxy. After long prayer, he fell asleep and saw in a dream that the All-Pure Mother of God had turned to him promising him quick healing.

The Mother of God told St. John to work without fail with his returned hand. Having awakened from sleep, St. John saw that his hand was returned to its proper place and was unharmed. In thankfulness, he placed on the icon a hand fashioned of silver, from which the icon received its name “Of the Three Hands.” St John also wrote a hymn of thanksgiving to the Mother of God, “All of creation rejoices in You, O Full of Grace,” which appears in place of the hymn “It is Truly Meet” in the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great.

St. John Damascene was tonsured at the monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified and gifted them with his wonderworking icon. Later, the monastery presented the icon “Of the Three Hands” in blessing to St Sava, Archbishop of Serbia. During an invasion of Serbia by the Turks, Christians entrusted the icon to the safekeeping of the Mother of God Herself. They placed it upon a donkey, which without a driver proceeded to Mt. Athos and stopped in front of the Hilandar Monastery. The monks placed the icon in the monastery’s cathedral church. During a time of discord over the choice of abbot, the Mother of God deigned to head the monastery Herself, and from that time Her holy icon has occupied the abbot’s place in the temple. At the Hilandar Monastery, only a vicar is chosen, and from the holy icon the monks take a blessing for every obedience.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)