Akathist to the Theotokos
Commemorated on April 12 (also the Fifth Saturday of Great Lent)
On the Fifth Saturday of Great Lent, the Saturday of the Akathist, we commemorate the “Laudation of the Virgin” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
In 625, when Emperor Heraclius was fighting the Persians, the Khan sent forces to attack Constantinople by land and by sea. Patriarch Sergius urged the people not to lose heart, but to trust in God.
A procession was made around the city with the Cross of the Lord, the robe of the Virgin, the Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands, and the Hodigitria Icon of the Mother of God. The Patriarch dipped the Virgin’s robe in the sea, and the city’s defenders beat back the Khan’s forces. The sea became very rough, and many of the ships sank. The invaders retreated, and the people of Constantinople gave thanks to God and to His Most Pure Mother.
On two other occasions, in 655 and 705, the Theotokos protected the city from Saracen invaders. A feast day dedicated to the Laudation of the Virgin was established to commemorate these victories. The Akathist to the Mother of God is believed to originate from this period, and its use has spread from Constantinople to other Orthodox lands.
The icon before which the Akathist was sung was given to the Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos by Emperor Alexius Comnenos. There, it began to flow with myrrh. At least three wonderworking copies of this icon were located in Russia before the 1917 Revolution.
This icon shows the Mother of God seated on a throne, surrounded by Prophets with scrolls.
Troparion – Tone 8
When the archangel understood the mysterious command,
He came to the house of Joseph with haste and proclaimed to the unwedded Lady:
The One Who bowed the heavens by His condescension
is contained wholly and without change in you!
As I behold Him in your womb, taking the form of a servant, I am frightened, but cry:
Rejoice, unwedded Bride!
Kontakion – Tone 8
Victorious leader of triumphant hosts,
we your servants, delivered from evil, sing our grateful thanks to you, Theotokos!
As you possess invincible might set us free from every calamity,
so that we may sing: Rejoice, unwedded Bride!
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)