The history of Byzantium VIII and the beginning of the IX centuries entered as a period of iconoclasm. The emperors, declaring the worship of holy images idolatrous, persecuted all who adhered to this ancient tradition. Icon "Three-handed", so widely known in the Christian world, according to legends, e is a witness to those difficult times.
Iconoclast from the shores of the Bosphorus
The beginning of the history of this miraculous image was the ascension to the Byzantine throne of Emperor Leo III, an ardent opponent of the veneration of icons. Those who tried to enter into polemics with him, he ruthlessly cracked down, believing that he was doing a godly cause. One of his implacable opponents was St. John. He wrote and sent the emperor three theological treatises in which he defended his convictions.
Such statements were at odds with the policies of Leo III, and he was ready to deal with the free-thinker, but did not have this opportunity, since St. John lived at that time in the Syrian capital Damascus and held a high post at the court of the Caliph. So he was legally out of reach. But it happened from time immemorial: where the law is silent, intrigue and slander are used there. This is the way the emperor went. By his order, a fictional letter was made, allegedly proving that John was offering him his help in capturing the Syrian capital.
“Three-handed” - the icon-witness miracle
This fake was forwarded to the caliph, and he, without doubting its authenticity, immediately expelled the future saint from his palace, and in fear of others ordered him to cut off his right hand, which was then hung in the town square. In the evening of the same day, John sent a letter to his tormentor, in which he asked him to be filled with mercy and interrupt his moral sufferings caused by the fact that his hand was put to shame.
Apparently, compassion was no stranger to the Caliph, and he ordered to return the brush that had been cut off from him to the saint. The life of St. John tells us that this evening he prayed long and earnestly before the image of the Virgin, and when he awoke the next morning, he discovered that the severed hand was unharmed in its place. Only a small scar remains. Such an unheard-of miracle plunged him into confusion. He offered up prayers to the Blessed Virgin and, as a token of gratitude, he strengthened a hand made of silver in the lower part of Her image, in honor of which the name “Three-handed” was born. The icon was soon transferred to the monastery of Sava the Sanctified, where St. John retired from the world.
Miraculous image in Athos monastery
After the events described, almost five hundred years have passed. In the XIII century, the icon of the Mother of God “Three-handed” was presented as a gift to Saint Savva of Serbia and together with him sent to his homeland. But she was destined not for long to remain in Serbia. Soon the country suffered a terrible disaster - the invasion of the Janissaries. Residents used all available means to save Christian shrines from desecration. Among others was the "Three-handed". The icon was laid on the back of an ass, and he was released to the will of God.
Guided by the Highest Providence, the animal, having come a long way, stopped at the gates of Athos Monastery Hilandar, where the shrine with great honors was accepted by the brethren. Soon all the inhabitants of the monastery witnessed a miracle manifested in a holy way. It so happened that their igumen had departed to the Lord, and, according to the statute, it was necessary to choose a new one. However, as the monks did not try, they could not dwell on a worthy candidate.
The miraculous expression of the will of the Virgin
Then one day, having come to the service, they saw a holy image on the Igumen site. It was the "Three-handed" - an icon of the Mother of God, recently acquired by their monastery. Assuming that there was some kind of misunderstanding, she was carried to the altar, where she was always kept. But for tomorrow and in all subsequent days the same thing was repeated. Still unable to believe what was happening, the monks sealed the temple doors for the night, but in the morning the icon again appeared where the igumen was located during the services.
Soon the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to one of the brethren in a dream and reported about her benevolence to personally manage the life of the monastery. Since then, the abbey has never been again in the Khilendar monastery. His duties were symbolically performed by the "Three-handed" icon. When the monks were required to receive a blessing for any work, they were attached to the silver hand of the Mother of God.
Another legend about the birth of the image
To complete the story, you need to remember another version of how the Three-handed woman appeared. The icon, according to legend, was painted by one little-known icon painter from Athos monastery Hilandar. While working on the board itself, the image of the third hand of the Virgin appeared repeatedly. The master deleted it, but each time it appeared again. Once in a dream, he saw the Virgin Mary, who commanded to preserve the image in the form that he acquired in such a miraculous way. The artist obeyed the Almighty, and as a result, one of the most revered holy sites was bestowed on the Orthodox world.
Lists of icons, known in our country
This miraculous image came to Russia in 1661. A copy for the Russian Patriarch Nikon was specially made in the Khilandar monastery on Mount Athos. Upon the arrival of the shrine in Moscow, she was placed in the newly built New Jerusalem Monastery. The original has not been preserved to this day, but there is a copy made in 1854.
Besides it, in the capital's temples you can see several ancient lists, for example, in the Trinity Cathedral of St. Daniel monastery and the Dormition Church of the Bulgarian metochion. In Russia it hardly probable not the most beloved and revered icon. “Mother-the three-handed” has always been considered a helper and intercessor of all who with faith and hope turned to her their prayers.
Compositional features of the icon
According to its iconographic type, the icon of the Mother of God "Three-armed" refers to the category of Odigitria. This word is translated from the Greek as "pointing the way." In this case, this name is due to the fact that the icons of this type focus in the composition on the figure of the Infant Christ, and the Mother of God points at Him with Her hand, as if focusing the viewer's attention in the right direction. A characteristic feature of the Russian lists has become the tradition of depicting the third hand in such a way as if it belongs to the Mother of God herself, and is not a separate independent element.