JERUSALEM: July 15, 2019
The Ascension of the Lord Convent on the Mt of Olives celebrates the feast day of the Icon of the Mother of God “of Three Hands”
At the Convent of the Ascension of the Lord on the Mt of Olives in Jerusalem, the feast day of the Icon of the Mother of God “of Three Hands” was celebrated. This holiday is among the unique feast days celebrated by the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The convent established the practice following the great earthquake of 1927, when it was spared from the destruction that befell Jerusalem and killed hundreds of people.
According to the elder sisters of the monastery who recalled the stories told to them by eyewitnesses, the bell tower known as the “Russian Candle” teetered like a pendulum from the strong quake. The nuns lost hope that they would survive, expecting the complete destruction of the church and bell tower and other structures, all of which suffered damage. The sisters fervently prayed before the Icon of the Mother of God “of Three Hands.” When their prayers ended, the earthquake ceased.
The custom of celebrating Liturgy on the feast day of this holy image was then established, on the day of St Dimitry of Solun, followed by a procession of the cross around the entire convent. Stops are made along the way with brief prayers being sung and holy water sprinkled on the worshipers. The first stop is at the convent’s gates, the second at the “infirmary building on the lower terrace near the church. The procession then continues to the cemetery, where a litiya is performed at the grave of the former long-time spiritual father of the convent, Archimandrite Mefody. He departed in the Lord in 1997, on the very day of this procession of the cross. He was no longer able to walk by that time, so the procession would halt at his residence, and the icon brought inside to him, which he would venerate. This was at approximately 11 am, and by 3 pm that day he died in peace.
The procession then continues to the old opushka, or forest edge, at the top of a hill that once had many trees that all burned during a wildfire. A Gospel reading from Luke traditionally made on feast days of the Mother of God takes place, and holy water is sprinkled in all four directions. The procession then continues through the olive garden to the refectory Church of St Philaret the Merciful, after which it goes to the eastern wall of the Chapel of the Discovery of the Head of John the Baptist, then on to the bell tower.
The procession concludes at the entrance to the main church, where three prayers are read from the Minea on the day of St Dimitry. The large icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God is traditionally carried during the procession by all the nuns, starting with the eldest.
All monastic labors are suspended on this day except for the most necessary, and all the nuns strive to partake of the Holy Gifts of Christ.