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Icon of the Mother of God "Stabbed"

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Commemorated on January 21

The “Stabbed” Icon of the Mother of God (Greek: “Esphagmeni” or Slavonic: “Zaklannaya”) dates from the fourteenth century, and is in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos, in a chapel dedicated to St. Demetrius of Thessalonica. The icon was painted on canvas, and received its name of “The Stabbed” from the following event:

A certain ecclesiarch, a deacon of the Vatopedi Monastery, was occupied with overseeing the order of a long service. Delayed by his duties, he was late for dinner. The annoyed cook refused to give him any food, and reminded him that he should come on time if he wished to eat. Offended, the deacon flew into a rage, and he went to the church again. Standing before the icon of the Mother of God, he said, “How long must I go on serving You? I have toiled, but I have nothing to show for it. You don’t even care whether or not I have anything to eat!”

Then he struck Her on the cheek with a knife which pierced right through the canvas. Blood flowed from the wound, and the deacon was struck blind. The terrified deacon fell down in front of the icon, trembling all over.

The abbot served the all-night Vigil, praying for mercy and the salvation of the deacon. After three years, the All-Holy Virgin appeared to the abbot and said that she had forgiven the deacon, and would restore his health, but his hand which committed the sacrilege would be condemned at the Lord’s Second Coming.

The deacon recovered his sight, and deeply repented of his transgression. Settling himself in a stall opposite the icon he stabbed, he spent the rest of his life in repentance before it.

Three years after the deacon’s death, his bones were uncovered, according to the Athonite custom. His body had decomposed, but his right hand remained intact and was all black. This hand is preserved at the monastery in memory of the unfathomable love of the Mother of God. It is in rather poor condition, however, because Russian pilgrims took pieces of it, believing it to be a relic.

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (