September 1, 2015

Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos in Miasena

Miracle of the Theotokos in Miasena (Feast Day - September 1)


Strange was the catch that by itself came up
From the harbor’s depth: the Virgin’s all-honored icon.

The following is an account of how the Monastery of Miasena came to be and how its Icon of the Mother of God came to be glorified.

Not far from the Armenian town of Melitine, founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117), there stood the beautiful Miasena plain, surrounded by high hills that protected it from strong winds. The beauty of that valley was crowned by the small but clean and quick-running Azoros, or Azur, River. With its waters moving East across the area, the river formed a number beautiful lakes whose banks were covered with lush vegetation.

During the early centuries of Christian history, pagans densely populated the Miasena plain. In the shade of a thick grove of trees on the bank of one of the lakes, there stood a pagan temple. In the fourth Century, Christianity was declared the state religion, and paganism began to weaken, giving way to the new religion; by the beginning of the fifthth Century, pagan settlements were reduced to pathetic remnants that would soon completely disappear from the face of the earth. By order of the Christian government authorities, pagan temples were to be destroyed and Christian churches erected in their place. To keep some measure of freedom to offer services to their gods, pagans had to hide in isolated, remote places in the wilderness. However, gradually Christianity became victorious over pagan darkness everywhere. This was so in the case of the Miasena pagan temple as well.

St. Akakios, Bishop of Melitine, (commemorated April 17 and September 15) wanted to build a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos on the site of the Miasena temple. The pagans could not openly oppose the bishop’s efforts, but they secretly resorted to all manner of trickery to impede the work – e.g. at night, undoing all of the work done by Christian laborers during the day. Nonetheless, the energetic bishop completed the construction, and with great solemnity consecrated the newly-erected church. Thus, in the words of the author of St. Akakios’ life, “In the same place where evil bloody sacrifices had been made to the devil, there began to be offered to God the bloodless, pure sacrifice, and there were worked miracles through the grace of the Most Holy Mother of God.”

Later, a Monastery, also known as Miasena, appeared near that church. The Monastery’s most important holy treasure was its Miraculous Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. No account of who wrote that icon, or when it was written, has survived. As to its later history and glorification, tradition tells us that when the iconoclast heresy appeared in the East during the reign of Emperor Leo Isaurius (716—741), local iconoclast authorities ordered the Miasena Icon of the Mother of God to be thrown in the lake called Zagura. Other accounts say Christians threw it into the lake to prevent its destruction by the iconoclasts. During the reign of Michael III (842—867) the iconoclast heresy came to an end, and the veneration of icons was re-instituted. Then, from the depths of the lake in which it had rested for over a century, the Miasena Icon rose to the surface and was retrieved, completely unharmed, by the faithful. September 1 was established as the feastday to commemorate the finding of the Icon which took place on September 1, 864; it is known as the “Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos in Miasena Monastery,” i.e. the gathering of the faithful to venerate the Miraculous Icon of the Mother of God.

Apolytikion in the Grave Tone
Rejoice, you who are full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, haven and protection of the human race, for the Redeemer of the world became incarnate of you. Wherefore grace made splendid your brilliant icon of Miasena, which in a wondrous manner you returned again from the depths of the waters.