Axion Estin: The Icon Before Which Archangel Gabriel Prayed

In the Cathedral of the capital of Athos, in honor of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, June 24 (new style) is marked by a feast. It is here that the wonder-working icon of the Blessed Virgin “Axion Estin”, honored throughout the Orthodox world, stays in the sanctuary.

The name of the relic speaks of its connection with prayer, which is known to all Orthodox Christians. The history of the icon dates back to the 10th century. At that time an elder and a novice lived in a cave near Karyes, the capital of the Holy Mountain. On the eve of Sunday, June 24 (New Style) 982, the elder went to the All-Night Vigil in the monastery, and the novice remained in the cave.

At night, someone knocked on the door of their cell. The novice opened, as there are many hermits living in the Holy Mountain, who sometimes come to other monks. The stranger drank some water. Then they started praying together.

When the turn came to the prayer “More Honorable than the Cherubim”, the mysterious guest said that in their area it sounded different – he added in the beginning of the prayer the words: “It is truly meet to bless Thee, O Theotokos, the Ever-Blessed and the Most Immaculate, and the Mother of our God.”

At the moment when this hymn was sung, the icon of the Mother of God the Merciful, which was in the cave, was illuminated with light. The novice did not hold back the tears of joy.

Then he asked the stranger to write down the words of prayer. The guest agreed and wrote them down… with his finger on a stone slab as if it were wax!

The mysterious stranger introduced himself as Gabriel, and then became invisible. For a while there was a wonderful light coming from the image of the Mother of God.

The extremely surprised novice told the elder everything when he returned from the service. He also showed the stone slab on which the words of prayer could be clearly seen.

The elder was a spiritually experienced man, and immediately determined that the Archangel Gabriel, whom God had sent to the earth, had come to them so that Christians might know this prayer to the Most Holy Virgin.

The men told the Protos – the rector of the Holy Mount – about what had happened. He ordered to convene the Council of Elders, where once again they showed the slab to all who gathered and told the amazing story.

Then the slab was sent to the Patriarch of Constantinople. The image of the Most Holy Mother of God since then began to be called Axion Estin, or Merciful. Later it was placed in the cathedral, in the capital of Athos where it is stored even today.

Since then, angelic prayer has been heard from Orthodox Christians around the world, during church services and at the end of home prayers.

The wonderworking image of the Mother of God Axion Estin is revered throughout the Orthodox world. Its replicas are kept in many Orthodox churches and houses of believers.

Believers note that their prayers for healing, for the completion of all work, for help in epidemics and accidents, for happiness in family life was heard by the Mother of God, when they prayed before her image Axion Estin.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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