Theotokos Znamenie iconIn the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. We commemorate the Znamenie icon, the Sign, of our Most Holy Theotokos. May our most beloved Theotokos intercede and pray for us. Let us also labor and encourage one another towards the glorious Nativity. Amen.

Our Most Holy Theotokos, Mother of God, is precious to us Orthodox Christians. She represents a cornerstone of our faith, and we place ourselves in her constant and sustaining intercessions for us before our Lord and Christ.

As we reflect irrefutably on Isaiah 7:14-16, we know that God promised us a sign, that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son to be known as Immanuel. And in Psalm 45:10-11, we know that God chose our Theotokos, to forget her people and to leave her father’s house. And of all people, she was born lower than angels, but she rose higher, to be near God. She was blessed, for she obeyed God out of love, not out of fear, even though what she went through was against all human perspectives (St Luke 1:28).

In the 12th century, the people of the city of Novgorod was attacked by a prince, and the people, seeking the protection of God, placed an icon of our Theotokos on the city wall. The attack on the city was relentless, and a multitude of arrows were shot. One of the enemies’ arrows hit the icon of our Theotokos, and our Mother turned her face towards the city and shed tears. The tears fell on the vestments of Bishop John of the city, and the bishop exclaimed, “O wonder of wonders! How can tears be streaming from dry wood! O Queen! You are giving us a sign that you are entreating your Son that our city be spared.”

The people, strengthened by this wonder, repelled the attacks of the Suzdal armies. And that was how we came to venerate the icon of the “Znamenie” (the Sign).

When we see an icon of our Mother of God with Christ our Lord in the Church, we are reminded of the promise of our God and Father to us, in Isaiah 7:14-16,

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them a light has shined.
For unto us a Child is born; to us a Son is given.
And the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and of His peace there will be no end.
And His name shall be called the Messenger of Great Counsel,
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,
the Father of the World to Come.
God is with us! Understand this, O nations, and submit yourselves! For God is with us!”

In all things, we are in a privileged and blessed position, for we can, and we will joyously, call on our Mother, for help before our Lord and Christ. When we are in trouble, and when we are down, remember our Mother of God.

Let us pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, 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 borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Isaiah 7:14-16
Psalm 45:10-11
St Luke 18:31-34
Titus 1:5-2:1