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    The couple Saints Joachim and Anna were childless in Israel at a time when this was considered a curse, and an abandonment of a blessing from God towards their family and Israel.  They had lived generous and righteous lives before God and men, and yet even with prayers, had not had their hearts desire for children be fulfilled even after fifty years of marriage.  Then God sent the great Archangel Gabriel to both St. Anna and St. Joachim separately to announce to them that St. Anna indeed would conceive and bear a most special child, who would be a blessing to all mankind.

    In due time this announcement was fulfilled and the Most Holy Virgin Mary Theotokos was born to St. Anna, who is pictured just after having given birth to her child.  The Virgin is shown in a small crib while St. Anna rests from her labors, and the midwife and attendants present look on.  In response to their great joy and blessing from God, the grateful St. Anna promises that her child will be dedicated to God, and in fulfillment of that promise will bring her only child at the tender age of three to the Temple to live her life there from then on.  This is a great mother’s love.

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    This 16th century icon is a part of a celebrated set of festal icons showing important events in the life of Jesus plus a few other renowned feasts of the year.  It was painted by George the Cretan for the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos, and together they are known to be great examples of Post-Byzantine Greek iconographic art.  This icon is the first of that set of icons.

    The Nativity of the Virgin Mary came about in a wonderful manner.  After SS Joachim and Anna had been married for fifty years without having a child, which was a source of great shame in Israel at that time, they often prayed to God to give them this great blessing in their life and take away this shame.  The great Archangel Gabriel appeared to both St. Anna and to St. Joachim separately advising them that they would have a most special child  “a daughter most blessed....through whom will come the salvation of the world.”    Shortly afterwards, St. Anna did conceive the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Because of their vows to God regarding this child, they brought her to the Temple as  a gift to God when she was only three, where she remained until she was 14, fed by an angel.

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    This icon portrays the Theotokos holding the Christ Child in the first Burning Bush, that which the Prophet Moses saw.  Around the Theotokos and her Son are many scenes from the life of the Prophet Moses.  To the left is Moses taking off his shoes for he is entering into holy ground.  On the top of the icon is Christ, as the Ancient of Days, pictured surrounded by angels, handing down the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone to Moses.

    Behind the Theotokos to the right are the idolatrous Hebrews who began to worship a golden calf while Moses dwelt on the Holy Mountain receiving the Law from God.  Behind and to the left are many drinking from the spring of water that sprouted up when Moses struck the ground with his staff.  And to the right of the Theotokos is St. John Damascene who composed the hymn that inspired this icon which compared this second unburnt bush, the Mother of God and her eternal virginity, to the first Burning Bush which remained unburnt.  Written by the Cretan painter Michael Damaskinos in the late sixteenth century, the icon is now found at St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, the site of the Burning Bush.

  • From the website of St. Isaac of Syria Skete: This is a very expressive modern icon of the Birth-Giver of God, or Theotokos, who in her tender embrace with her Divine Child cheek to cheek, shows us their unity of mind and profound love for one another. This deep, personal, and loving relationship is often seen in icons of the Sweet Kissing style, which in Greek are called Glykophilousa. Often the Virgin’s eyes are looking both inwardly to her interior state, and then also outwardly in love and concern to her Son, as seen here. The Divine Infant holds a prophet’s scroll in one of His hands to remind us that He is the fulfillment of the prophet’s words. With His other hand, He blesses His mother with His Holy Name, His fingers are forming the letters “IC XC,” the abbreviation for Jesus Christ in Greek. The stars on the Virgin Mary’s veil and shoulder represent her virginity before, during, and after childbearing, for she was ever-pure. Not by just chance of God’s choice was the Virgin so extraordinary, but by the strength of her will to be obedient to an impossible choice: virginity and motherhood. May we learn also to always choose God’s sweet Will in all things!
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    Theotokos Enthroned


    The most humble Handmaiden of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, is shown the greatest honor in this icon by placing her on a throne with her Son and God.  The Orthodox Church honors her by crying out in her church service, “Thou art a gold-entwined tower, and twelve-wall encircled city, a throne besprinkled with sunbeams, a royal chair of the King.  O, unexplained wonder!  That thou dost feed the Master with thy milk.”  Those of the household of God repeat what she said to the great Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, “behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.”  (Luke 1:48)

    In this contemporary Greek icon painted by the Monk Michael of Mount Athos in Greece in 1987, the Divine Child sits in glory on her All-Pure lap and blesses us.  He was aware of His Divine Nature and Rulership at every moment of His Life, as is seen in His icons which show the intelligent and aware face of an adult even when He was a child.  In the halo around Christ’s head is a cross with the Greek letters for “I AM” as the infant silently proclaims to be the King of Glory and ground of Existence Itself.

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    Approximately 10" x 10"
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    The Virgin Mary is truly the “Birth-Giver of God”, for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity was born in time and temporality as the child Jesus Christ; thus we have the term “Theotokos” which is the exact translation of this concept from the Greek.  In this modern Greek icon the Holy Virgin is shown holding her Divine Son on her lap, securely enfolding Him in her arms.  In a like manner, those who lovingly worship her Son as Lord, as God, and as Saviour are protected by the embrace of her intercessions.  The Orthodox Church teaches that although she was born in this world with our same nature, and having received the same wound of fallenness and illness as all men, she preserved herself from all sin from her very infancy by her active cooperation with God’s saving Grace, and this made her All-Pure, All-Holy, and Most Blessed.

    We are meant to follow on this same path of holiness, as have our older brothers and sisters, the Holy Saints, until we too are sanctified and fully remade into His Image and Likeness.  If we follow Him, we will follow all of them, for they are now with Him in glory in the Heavenly Realm of the Eternal Kingdom.

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    This icon of the Virgin Mary was painted in 1989 by the Monk Michael of the Holy Mountain of Athos, a monastic republic on a peninsula in northeastern Greece.  The Holy Mountain is dedicated to the Orthodox monastic life and has flourished for over a thousand years with all forms of Orthodox monasticism present (hermetic, semi-hermetic, and communal) and made up of people of many Orthodox nationalities.  Athos is also dedicated to the protection and rulership of the Virgin Mary as its icon and abbess.

    Here in this icon the Virgin Theotokos (from the Greek “Birth-Giver of God”, a term of honor confirmed for her at the Third Ecumenical Council in a.d. 431 to refute the Nestorian Heresy) cradles her Son as He reaches up to touch her face with His blessed hand.  In Christ’s halo are the Greek letters for “I AM” for although the Divine Infant is revealed as a Child, He is always the All-Knowing God depicted by the adult features of His face.  The Child  is here revealed as the Grace of all the world, and the Virgin is the bearer of this “Great Grace” which will transfigure us and make us holy if we will learn to cooperate and do all that He says.

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    This mid-14th c. icon was done in a.d. 1365 in the time of Archbishop Gregory Devolski at Ochrid, Macedonia.  The small figure of the Virgin Mary can be seen in the midst of other virgins who accompanied her to the Temple to fulfill the vow of her parents SS Joachim and Anna to dedicate this most precious gift back to the service of the Lord when she was just three years old.  The priest Zacharias, later the father of the John the Baptist, receives this pure flower of humanity and brings her in Divine inspiration into the Holy of Holies of the Temple where only the High Priest himself is supposed to go once a year, and not without blood.

    Harmoniously, human wills are united with the Divine Will and with the wondrous plan for Mankind for the preparation of the most pure Virgin Mary to receive nearly a dozen years later the Incarnate God in her womb, the new tabernacle and throne of God on earth.   Each face here is peaceful and loving as all unite in love to do God’s sweet Will on earth for the impending Mystery.  Above we see here an angel later feeding the Virgin in the Temple, as icons often show simultaneous spiritual time.

    Sizes are approximate

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    3" x 2 1/2" Please note: The background is all gold and does not have the dark color on top as pictured.
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    3" x 2 1/2" Please note: Background of icon is a bright blue color, not white like pictured.
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    8 3/4" x 7 1/4"
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    7 1/2" x 3 3/4"

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    The original of the icon of the Mother of God called "Portaitissa", or "Of the Portal," is kept at Holy Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos.  In the 9th century when the iconoclasts were destroying all the icons throughout Asia, devout Christians from Nicea put this icon into the sea to save it.  To their amazement, the icon stood upright in the water and “sailed” away from sight.  It appeared off the coast of the Athos peninsula in the rough waters by Iviron Monastery.  A holy monk was called to bring the icon to land, which he did by walking over the waters and carrying it back.

    The monks put the icon in a porch temporarily until a place could be found in the main church for it, but when it was moved to the church, the icon moved back itself many days in a row.  The Virgin Mary then appeared to the abbot of the monastery in a dream and told him to leave her where she was so that she could look after him and all of the monks.  This is the meaning of “Of the Portal.”  Years later Turkish pirates overran the monastery and one of them struck the icon on the cheek with a dagger, which began to bleed.  The amazed pirate repented and became a monk.

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    10" x 8 3/4" Gold framed icon with protective glass to keep this wonderful piece intact for years. It has a hook on the backside, thickness of the icon with the frame 1"
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