September 17, 2010

The Stabbed Icon of Panagia Esfagmeni at Vatopaidi Monastery

Panagia Esfagmeni (Last Sunday of October)
It is told of this 14th century icon that it was damaged by the knife of a malcontent deacon-monk who was also the ecclesiarch, that is, he was in charge of preparing the church for services. Often this monk would arrive late to the common meals in the trapeza (refectory), and this would disturb the trapezaras (the person responsible for the refectory).

On one of these occasions, the trapezaras was angry and refused him food. The monk became furious and began to fight with the doorkeeper. The disturbed and enraged thoughts of the ecclesiarch then turned against the Theotokos. Going up to her icon, he said: "Every day I light your oil lamps, but you don't help me. I can't even get my food. I don't believe in you anymore!" After saying this he plunged a knife into the icon, into the right cheek of the Panagia.

From the wound which he inflicted, blood flowed and the face of the Virgin is said to have turned pale. The deacon was immediately blinded and fell to the ground, beating himself and driven out of his senses. According to the monks, he was possessed by demons. He remained in this state for three years. Then thanks to the prayers of the Abbot and the brotherhood, the Theotokos appeared to the Abbot and told him that the monk was cured.

The ecclesiarch spent the rest of his life in a stall opposite the icon bewailing his terrible sin, but before he died after seven years of this he received forgiveness from the Theotokos herself, who told him, however, as she had the Abbot previously, that his sacrilegious hand would suffer exemplary punishment after his death. It is kept today, uncorrupted and completely black, near the icon, which is in the narthex of the Chapel of St Demetrios.