I first began this blog as a journal of my trip to the Holy Land in 2012. Whilst traveling in Madaba, Egypt in the Sinai penninsula, we had the opportunity to learn about an icon of the Theotokos called Panayia Tricherousa. According to the priest in residence at a certain St George Orthodox Church, an icon of Mary holding Jesus appeared to acquire a third hand during an evening service at the tiny church. Many subsequent miracles have been attributed to the three-handed icon and it now remains housed behind a glass enclosure with many visiting pilgrims. After reading the following article today on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Daily reading website, I am certain that the icon in Madaba is not the original Tricherousa, but this does not lessen its mystique. **See my posts from January 16-17, 2012 to read more about the wonderful city of Madaba.
The great defender of the Orthodox Faith against the Iconoclasts, our righteous Father John of Damascus (See Dec. 4), was slandered to the Caliph of Damascus by the Iconoclast Emperor Leo the Isaurian (reigned 717-741). Saint John was accused of sedition and his right hand was cut off. Having asked for the severed hand, Saint John passed the night in great pain, praying for the aid of the most holy Theotokos. Awaking from sleep, he found that his hand had been miraculously restored, with only a red scar about the wrist where it had been severed, as a testimony to the wonderous healing. In thanksgiving, he had a silver hand attached to the icon to commemorate this great miracle. On becoming a monk in the lavra of Saint Sabbas the Sanctified in the Holy Land, John brought the icon with him. There it remained until the thirteenth century, when it was given to Saint Sabbas of Serbia (see Jan. 14), who brought it to Serbia, where it remained for a time. Later, it was miraculouslytransported by an unguided donkey that carried it to the Serbian Monastery of Hilandar on the Holy Mountain, Athos, where it remains to this day.
Apolytikion of Synaxis of the Icon of Most Holy Lady Theotokos in the Fourth Tone
From the Palestine, godly-minded Sabbas brought unto us thy ven’rable icon, which is known as Of the Three Hands, O all-holy Bride of God. Wherefore, since the monks of Hilandar now possess it as their boast, they send up hymns of praise and thanksgiving, while crying out with fervour: Rejoice, thou who art full of grace. Amen, Amen, Amen!