December 9th (XII - 22)
Icon of the Conception by Righteous Anna
Conception by Righteous Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the MostHoly Mother of God". Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah), Mother of the Prophet Samuel (1100 B.C.). Sainted Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus (VI). Monk Stephen the New-Radiant (+ 912). Icon of the Mother of God, named "Unexpected Joy" (Nechayannaya Radost').
The Conception by Saint Anna, of "Whence is Conceived the Holy Mother of God": Saint Anna, the mother of the MostHoly Mother of God, was the youngest daughter of the priest Nathan from Bethlehem, descended from the tribe of Levi. She entered into marriage with Saint Joakim (their mutual memory is made 9 September), who was a native of Galilee. For a long time Saint Anna was childless, but after a span of some 20 years, through the fervent prayer of both spouses, an Angel of the Lord announced to them the Conception of a Daughter, Who would bring blessing to all the human race. The Conception by Saint Anna took place at Jerusalem, where also was born the MostHoly Virgin Mary by name. The majority of icons, dedicated to the Conception by Saint Anna, portray the MostHoly Virgin trampling underfoot the serpent. "Down the icon, along its sides, Saints Joakim and Anna are depicted usually with upraised hands prayerfully folded; their eyes also are directed upward and hey contemplate the Mother of God, Who as it were soars in the air with outstretched hands; under Her feet is portrayed an orb wound round with a serpent symbolising the devil, which in the face of fallen forefathers strives to conquer with its power all the universe".
There also exist icons, upon which Saint Anna holds on her left arm the MostHoly Virgin at an infant age. Upon the face of Saint Anna is portrayed a special reverence. An ancient icon of large size, written on canvas, is located in the village of Minkovetsa in the Dubensk district of Volynsk diocese. And from ancient times this feast was especially venerated in Russia by pregnant women.
The Holy Prophetess Anna (Hannah) dwelt in marriage with Elkanah, but she was childless. Elkanah took to himself another wife, Phennana, who bore him children. Anna grieved strongly over her misfortune, and every day she prayed for a solution to her childlessness, and she made a vow to dedicate the child to God. One time, when she prayed fervently in the Temple, the priest Elias decided that she was drunk, and he began to reproach her. But the saint poured out her grief, and having received a blessing, she returned home. After this Anna conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named Samuel (which means "Besoughten of God"). When the child reached the age of boyhood, the mother herself presented him to the priest Elias, and with him Samuel remained to serve before the Tabernacle (1 Kings (1 Samuel) 1; 2: 1-21).
The Monk Sophronios, Archbishop of Cyprus, was born into a Christian family on Cyprus, and he studied many a science, but most of all he devoted himself to the reading of Holy Scripture. He became so accomplished in piety and good works, that he was vouchsafed of the Lord the gift of wonderworking. Following the death of the bishop of the Cypriot Church, Saint Damian, the Monk Sophronios, at the wish of all the people, was ordained in place of the deceased. In occupying the bishop's cathedra-chair, he proved himself a true father to his flock.
The Monk Stephen the New-Radiant was born at Constantinople and received a fine education. Under Patriarch Methodios (82-846) Stephen accepted monastic tonsure and entered amongst the clergy at one of the Constantinople churches. Later he went into seclusion and over a span of 50 years he constantly increased his ascetic efforts. Towards the end of his life the monk acquired from the Lord a great grace, shining in the constellation of the Saints like to the ancient ascetics of the Orthodox Church of old, so that he came to be called the "New-Radiant". According to the prologue-accounts of the Saints, he died in the year 912.
The Icon of the Mother of God, named "Unexpected Joy" (Nechayannaya Radost'), is written thus: in a room, upwards is an icon of the Mother of God, and beneathe it a youth kneeling at prayer. The tradition about the healing of some youth from a bodily affliction through this holy icon is recorded in the book of Saint Dimitrii of Rostov, "The Fleece of Prayer" ("Runo Oroshennoe") [for the significance of the "Dew?Moistened Fleece" vide Judges 6: 36-40]. The youth out of habit was praying before the image of the All-Pure Virgin and suddenly he saw, that the image was alive, the wounds of the Lord Jesus exposed and bloody. In horror he exclaimed: "O Lady, who is it that hath done this?" To this he Mother of God replied: "Thou and other sinners by their sins do crucify My Son anew". Then only became apparent before him the abyss of his sinfulness, and for a long time in tears he prayed to the Mother of God and the Saviour for mercy. Finally, the unexpected joy of answer to his prayer and forgiveness of sins was given him.
© 2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos