many of you have probably heard of the miraculous icon of the Theotokos Iveron from Hawaii. it is a copy of the panagia portaitissa (gatekeeper) and was written by st. luke the evangelist. you can read the whole story of panagia portaitissa here. once, during the iconoclasm period, this icon was being kept in the private chapel of a certain widow. when the soldiers came in, one of them drew his sword and sliced the face of the icon. immediately, blood began to gush forth. the soldier repented and entered a monastery. this is why, if you look closely, there is a cut with blood dripping from her cheek. the original icon has been copied and even the copies have begun to perform miracles. the icon i am about to tell you about is a copy of a copy and has become one of the most miraculous.
the icon has been streaming myrrh since 2007 (link to the whole story of how it began is posted below). this icon has visited the monastery in saxonburg, pa (and hour from my hometown in ohio) many times and each time i’ve wanted to go so badly but i never ended up being there at the right time. my koumbara, Eleni, in ohio is always talking about how incredible the myrrh smells and about different miracles that she’s heard have happened to people after venerating this panagia and i’ve had this longing to see it for so long.
through the grace and mercy of God it came to st. nicholas in tarpon springs this past sunday. i truly cannot tell you what an experience this was. God, knowing of my sinfulness, has given me the opportunity to visit so many miraculous icons and relics both here in the states and in greece and each time has been so very special. but i have to tell you, this was so different than anything i’ve ever experienced. from the moment they opened the doors to bring her in, i knelt down and tears just poured down my face. my soul literally felt like it was swelling up inside of me. i couldn’t take my eyes off of her. of course, everyone experiences different things from different things. this is simply mine.
a paraklesis service was performed and a beautiful hymn that was written specifically for this Panagia Iveron was chanted. then, there was a procession around the inside of the church and the icon was placed in front of the altar (it had been right in front of the pews until this point) for everyone to venerate.
the church was packed which always makes me teary eyed. i love seeing people gather together for God. the reader nectarios, who the icon belongs to, came up front and told a brief history of the icon and a few stories of some of the miracles God has performed through His mother and this holy myrrh. i will not say much about him, as he stated very humbly that he wants all of the attention to be placed on her not him, but i will say that he is one of the most kind-hearted and humble people i’ve ever met. his love for God and Panagia shines through him and i can understand why God chose to bless him with this miraculous icon.
everyone lined up to be blessed with the holy myrrh and to venerate her. each person was given an icon and the cotton with the myrrh they were annointed with to take home. it is so fragrant! like a thousand roses! i crossed several things over the icon and they still smell like it. <3
there was just so much grace that everyone i spoke to said the same thing…they didn’t want to leave her! i know i keep referring to the icon as ‘her’ and it’s not intentional, i catch myself off guard with it sometimes, but the presence of the mother of God was so strong with this icon that it truly feels like i’m talking about a person instead of an icon. forgive me, if i’m confusing you by referring to her that way.
we got there really early and so we were able to sit up close. i always have a hard time concentrating when i’m way in the back, especially when it’s a large church, which st. nicholas is. since we were in the first few rows, we venerated pretty quickly. afterward, dh took the boys home and i stayed with a few other people from our family. i went and stood right behind this wall in the photo and just watched everyone proskinisi (venerate) and listened to the chanting. i kept doing my komboskini, praying that God would hearken to the prayers of His mother, as He always does, and answer the prayers of everyone present that night, that were unto their salvation. to comfort those who need comforting, to heal those that need healed and to just strengthen and encourage all of us on our journeys.
“For those in great sorrow you are a joy,
And for the oppressed, a protection,
And for the hungry, their food,
Comfort unto those estranged;
You are a staff to the blind,
Visitation of all those sick,
And to those held by pain
Shelter and a comforting,
And to the orphaned, and aid;”
i had spoken to one of the sisters in saxonburg about the icon coming, and she knows i’ve been having some health issues over the past few months and have some more tests coming up soon and so she told me to ask the priest if he could bless me with it at the end of the service. so, i did and fr. andre,the priest who accompanied nectarios and the icon, said a prayer and held the icon over my head. several other people had the same thing done. it was so beautiful and humbling.
i believe this is the case the icon travels in. behind it are lots of cotton balls that the myrrh soaks into.
the front of the case slides open and the cotton balls are taken out and the myrrh is squeezed out into tiny vials.
i cannot tell you what a blessing this was. our icon corner still smells of the myrrh! every time we walk past, we breathe in as much of it as we can. the boys started keeping their prayer ropes next to our cotton balls and ask to smell them all the time. just thinking about that night makes me smile and i hope to get the blessing of venerating her again sometime.
if the icon is ever in your area, i am telling you, you MUST go to see it. the experience is life changing, it really is. i left that night wanting so bad to be better. she brings God’s strength with her and shares it with all of us.
i know i always love hearing of different miracles, so i’m going to post a few of the stories i heard about this particular Panagia Iveron from hawaii. i’m repeating them all from memory, so forgive me if i don’t remember all the details…
*there was a boy from tuscon who played football and one night during a game, his helmet flew off and was kicked in the back of his head. the trauma caused him to lose total sight in his one eye and 85% in his other, leaving him almost completely blind. he came to venerate this icon and all of a sudden nectarios heard a loud commotion. he came out of the altar and the boy was crying that he could see. he said after he venerated the icon, he saw the face of Christ. after that, everything around Him started to come into focus and when he looked up he could see! his vision before the accident wasn’t 20/20 but after the miracle it was 20/35 and 20/40!
*like i mentioned before, this icon feels like a person, and nectarios has said that she goes where she wants to go. once, she was invited to a certain church but when they arrived the doors to the church wouldn’t open! the priests tried everything but to no avail, so they took her to a nearby monastery and all the people went there for the service and to venerate.
*at a church in northern pennsylvania, the icon was actually streaming during a visit. from what i understand it does not stream non-stop, but at certain times. since it was streaming during this visit though, they took it around and let it drip into the hands of all the people. there was one women who was sitting toward the back that got anxious, worrying that there wouldn’t be enough myrrh by the time it reached her, so she pushed through the crowd until she made her way up front and then stuck her hand under it instead of waiting her turn. the myrrh crystallized mid-drip and would not fall into her hand. the priest then continued to go to the next person, where it dripped as it had been before.
*another time, a man who wasn’t even Orthodox, heard of the miracles of this icon and that it was going to be visiting a church in the town where he lived. so, he came to see what the big deal was. when everyone started to venerate, he followed. when he approached the icon he began to weep. like sobbing, weeping, not just tearing. afterward, the he stayed to talk to the priest and he told him that when he saw the face of the Mother of God, he felt love. And that it was the first time in his life he ever felt like someone loved him….So, you see, she not only heals our bodies, but our souls as well.
there are so many miracles! i wish i knew more to tell you! i would love to hear any stories about this icon that you know, so please share in the comments.
if anyone wishes to buy a copy of the icon, they can purchase them from the Nativity of the Theotokos monastery in Saxonburg, PA. their telephone number is 724.352.3999.
to read the full story of how this icon began to myrrh click here. there is also a beautiful slideshow with photos of the icon and the akathist to panagia iveron that you can download and print out at the bottom of the page linked above. you can also click over to their homepage for information on donating to their church in hawaii.
may the Theotokos Iveron intercede for us always! ‘Υπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σωσον ημάς.