By Photios Kontoglou
The Panagia is the spiritual ornament of Orthodoxy. For us Greeks she is our pained mother, the comforter, the protectress, who stands by us in every circumstance.
In every part of Greece there are built numerous churches and monasteries, palaces to this humble Queen, and a bunch of deserted shrines, in the mountains, the plains and the islands, fragrant with her virginal and spiritual scent.
Within each of these there is an old and revered icon of her with her dark and wax-golden face, which is ever being rained on with the tears of our suffering people, because we have no other help, except from the Panagia: "We who sin have no one else, who intercedes for us before God, praying endlessly, in ills and all dangers, for us who are laden with our many sins and mistakes."
The beauty of the Panagia is not a carnal beauty, but spiritual, because where there is pain and holiness, there is only spiritual beauty. Carnal beauty brings carnal excitement, while spiritual beauty bring solemnity, reverence and pure love. Such is the beauty of our Panagia.
And this beauty is imprinted on her Greek icons which were done by pious people that fasted and chanted and were in a state of heartache and had spiritual purity.
In the face of the Panagia there has been imprinted that secret beauty that pulls pious souls like magnets and calms and comforts them.
And this spiritual scent is the so-called Joyful Mourning which the Church of Christ gives us, an herb unknown to people that have not approached the Good Shepherd.
All Orthodox art has this joyful sadness, and makes them fragrant like myrrh and aloe, whether it be an icon, a hymn, a chant, a text, a vestment, a word, a movement, a blessing, a greeting, even a monastery, a cell, a carved wood, an embroidery, a lamp, a lectern, a candelabra, whatever is sanctified.
Source: From the book Παναγία και Υπεραγία (All-Holy and Most-Holy). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.