July 3, 2010

Panagia Galaktotrophousa (Milk-Feeder) of Hilandari Monastery

Panagia Galaktotrophousa (Feast Day - July 3)


Noetic milk flows O you who were pregnant with God,
From your divine icon Galaktotrophousa.
On the third behold the honorable radiance of Mary the Theotokos.

Galaktotrophousa is translated as "Milk-Feeder". This icon of the Mother of God was originally located at the Lavra of Saint Savvas the Sanctified near Jerusalem. Before his death, the holy founder of the Lavra foretold that a royal pilgrim having the same name as himself would visit the Lavra. Saint Savvas told the brethren to give the wonderworking icon to that pilgrim as a blessing.

In the thirteenth century, Saint Sava of Serbia, who was a royal prince and archbishop, visited the Lavra. As he approached the reliquary of Saint Savvas the Sanctified, the Saint's staff fell at his feet. The brethren asked the visitor his name, and he told them he was Archbishop Sava of Serbia. Obeying the instructions of their founder, the monks gave Saint Sava his staff, the Milk-Feeder Icon, and the Icon of the Three Hands.

Archbishop Sava took the icon to Hilandari Monastery at Mount Athos and put it on the right side of the iconostasis in the Church of Saint Sava at the Cell of Karyes known as the Typikario, which is attached to Hilandari. Saint Sava often stayed here and the icon remains there today on the sanctuary icon screen to the right of the Beautiful Gate, that is, in the place of the icon of Christ, which is on the left, contrary to the usual practice. The icon was later named Typikonissa, since the Monastic Rule (Typikon) of Saint Sava was preserved there.

This ancient and rare icon, rare because it exposes the breast of the Theotokos, stresses the human dimension of the Holy Incarnation. God took on human nature, and as an infant hungered and breastfed like all babies. It shows Christ in one of His most vulnerable moments, sustained and nourished by His mother in a special bond. This truth was expressed in Luke 11:27, when the woman in the Gospel confessed in the words she directed to Christ: "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which You suckled."

Of this truth, the Holy Fathers of the Church both spoke and wrote. Thus, Saint Ephraim the Syrian says (in the Hymns on the Nativity of Christ): "From the Virgin womb came forth a Newborn, and He was fed by milk, and grew among children — the Son of the Lord of all. The holy Virgin Mother gave milk to Christ, and as a man He was nourished by her milk. As the Lord was nourished by the milk of Mary, life was poured out to the whole world."

Apolytikion in the First Tone
Your divine Icon as the glory of your body, Virgin Galaktotrophousa, we venerate as we glorify, for from it secretly flows, the milk of your immaterial gifts, nourishing the hearts and souls, of the faithful who cry to you: Glory to your magnificence Pure one, glory to your wonders, glory to your unutterable goodness shown to us.

Kontakion in the Second Tone
Maternally suckling as an infant, He who was unexplainably born from her, even Christ our God, to the only Theotokos Galaktotrophousa let us sing hymns, and do shield us from the many dangers.

The sacred and revered icon Galaktotrophousa, let us venerate O brethren, flowing with the grace, of your unspeakable sympathy, warming our hearts and souls.