Δευτέρα, 3 Ιουλίου 2017

Αγία Ειρήνη Χρυσοβαλάντου - Saint Irene Chrysovalantou

22x30cm / 8,6x 11,8inch.
Egg tempera
+ Η Οσία Ειρήνη έζησε στα χρόνια της βασίλισσας Θεοδώρας, που αναστήλωσε τις άγιες εικόνες.

Η Ειρήνη καταγόταν από την Καππαδοκία και διακρινόταν όχι μόνο για την ευσέβεια της, αλλά και για την σωματική ωραιότητα της και για την ευγενή ανατροφή της. Είχε ζητηθεί λοιπόν σε γάμο, από διακεκριμένο άνδρα του παλατιού και ξεκίνησε για το Βυζάντιο. Στη διαδρομή όμως, πέρασε από τη Μονή του Χρυσοβαλάντου και τόσο ελκύστηκε από τη συναναστροφή των καλογριών, ώστε πήρε τη μεγάλη απόφαση να παραμείνει μαζί τους. Έτσι απέρριψε τις κοσμικές δόξες, γύρισε στην πατρίδα της, πούλησε τα υπάρχοντα της, βοηθώντας πολλούς φτωχούς και τα υπόλοιπα χρήματα τα εναπόθεσε στη Μονή. Έγινε μοναχή και η ζωή της μέσα στο μοναστήρι υπήρξε πολύ ασκητική και αγία.

Όταν πέθανε η ηγουμένη, η Ειρήνη, παρά την άρνηση της, ορίστηκε διάδοχος της. Από τη νέα της θέση, επετέλεσε τα καθήκοντα της άριστα. Ο Θεός μάλιστα, την προίκισε με το προφητικό και θαυματουργικό χάρισμα. Έτσι δια της προσευχής της, απάλλαξε πολλούς από τα δαιμόνια. Προαισθάνθηκε τον θάνατο της και απεβίωσε ειρηνικά, γεμάτη χαρά για το ευχάριστο ουράνιο ταξίδι της.


Ἀπολυτίκιον 
Ἦχος πλ. α’. Τὸν συνάναρχον Λόγον.
Βασιλείας γήινους πάλαι οὐκ ἔτυχες, ἀλλ' ἄφθαρτων στεφάνων νῦν σὲ ἠξίωσεν, ὁ Νυμφίος σου Χριστὸς ὁ ὡραιότατος ὢ καθιέρωσας σαύτην, ὅλη καρδία καὶ ψυχή, Εἰρήνη Ὁσία Μῆτερ, Χρυσοβαλάντου ἡ δόξα, ἠμῶν δὲ προσφυγὴ καὶ βοήθεια.
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+  Our venerable mother Irene of Chrysovalantou was the abbess of the monastery of Chrysovalantou during the ninth century. Her feast day is on July 28.
Originally slated to wed the Emperor Michael, she went to the monastery of Chrysovalantou, and immediately engaged herself in vigils and prayer. She then replaced the Abbess very early on, and increased her spiritual struggles, with great trust in God to guide the community properly. She developed the gifts of foresight and exorcism. Her prayer through the night continued in the courtyard of the monastery, and caused herself to levitate and the cypress trees to bend towards her. She was granted three apples from St. John the Theologian, visions of angels, and appeared in a vision to the Emperor to release an unjustly convicted man. After her death at 102 years, she continued to be a wonderworker.
Irene was born in Cappadocia to an aristocratic family. She had a sister who would later marry Empress Theodora's brother Vardas.
Empress Theodora, who ruled the empire after the death of Theophilus as regent for her son, re-established Orthodoxy and removed the iconoclasts. On her son Michael's twelfth birthday, Empress Theodora sent messengers to find a suitably beautiful, virtuous, and refined girl for Michael's wife. Coming across Irene, they offered and she accepted to wed Michael, and they (along with some of Irene's family) set off for Constantinople for the wedding.
During the journey to Constantinople they passed Mt. Olympos, and Irene asked to visit Ioannikos the recluse to receive his blessing. The hermit's spiritual insight allowed him to foresee the arrival of the group, and also Irene's future, and he said, "Welcome Irene, Servant of God. Proceed to the Imperial City in joy because the convent of Chrysovalantou needs you in the community."
Irene, amazed by his prophetic power, prostrated and begged his blessing. Ioannikos lifted her up, gave her strength with spiritual thoughts and gave his blessing, and Irene joyfully continued the journey to Constantinople. On her arrival, she was received with great ceremony by relatives, patricians, senators, and poor.
But, the wedding was not to be: Michael had already been married. Irene was not upset, but rather gave thanks to God; turning down many marriage proposals from outstanding men in Byzantium, she set off for the Monastery of Chrysovalantou.

Irene was impressed by the monastery's atmosphere and the sisterhood's way of life, so much so that she freed her slaves, gave her inherited wealth and dowry to the poor and entered the community, wearing a habit of sackcloth. With humility and obedience she served the sisterhood, cheerfully and attentively performing the most lowly and despised tasks, and never using worldly sophistries or aristocratic indignation.
The abbess of Chrysovalantou noticed that Irene was following Christ's words that "without Me, you can do nothing. Anyone who remains in Me as I remain in him will bear much fruit" (John 15:5); and the novice was admired by all for her obedience, humility, love, and enthusiasm; her community went so far as to say that she had the spirit of a freed slave.
In her cell she read the lives of the saints, learning from St. Arsenius the night-long prayer. Irene asked for a blessing to embark on this, and the abbess, recognising Irene's humility, granted her request before the end of her first year of the novitiate. Irene was able to stand from morning to night with hands raised, sometimes standing for full days without movement, much to the amazement of the abbess.
Irene would do this for three years, and the evil one was unable to divert her because of Irene's success in subduing earthly thoughts and temptations through abstinence and obedience. Her food was bread and water, with occasional supplements from herbs or vegetables; her habit was replaced only every Easter, and she would only clean it to give to the poor during Lent. Her obedience was cleaning the bathroom. Any wayward thoughts or signs of the evil one's activity were immediately confessed to the abbess, with Irene's exercises recommenced.
After this, Irene had only to cross herself as successful defense against the evil one; however, on one occasion she was so shaken with doubt that she fell to the ground, shedding tears of prayer to the Lord, His holy Mother, all the saints and the archangels (to whom the monastery was dedicated).
"O Blessed Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), everlasting God, at the intercession of Your most holy Mother and in the presence of the archangels, their armies, the celestial powers and all Your saints, help Your servant. Deliver me from the assaults of the devil."
After many tears in many nights, she was able to overcome these doubts, and in her renewed devotion she appeared transfigured to many people whom she led to the Lord, renewing the faith of rich and poor and causing many unmarried women enter the monastery.
After some time, the abbess became weak and near the time of her repose. The sisterhood was filled with sorrow on realising this, while Irene shed many tears. On her last day, many nuns had gathered in her cell, but Irene was not there; the abbess noted this, and said to them:
"Do not lament my departure for in my successor you have a leader who is wiser than I. Be obedient to her, this daughter of light, lamb of Christ and vessel of the Holy Spirit. Do not accept anyone but Irene."
Then, with the words "Glory to You, O Lord, in Your mercy," she reposed. Irene was not told of these disclosures for the sake of her humility, but the sisterhood prayed that the Lord's will would be done, and then sought the patriarch's advice. Patriarch Methodios the Confessor was a leader of great courage, and, through the iconoclasts, had the stigmata of Christ, and also had the gift of foresight. When the patriarch asked who should be the superior, they responded that the patriarch should decide, guided by the Holy Spirit. Patriarch Methodios asked if there was a humble nun named Irene; and if so, that she was the choice pleasing in the sight of God. The sisterhood was filled with such joy at the workings of the Holy Spirit that Methodios rose and offered incense as thanks to the Lord, and ordained Irene deaconess. After advising her in the ways of administering and guiding the sisterhood, the patriarch clothed her as abbess and gave the sisterhood his blessing as farewell.
When the sisterhood arrived at the monastery, they held a great celebration for the friends and spiritual children of the monastery. Irene was joyless because she felt herself to be utterly inadequate for the task, however, the sisterhood reassured her. In her cell she constantly prayed, saying:
"Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of Your sheep, help Your servant and this, my flock, because we have no power of our own to resist the assaults of the demons. Leave us not without Your grace."
To which she received the reply:
"Watch and pray without ceasing for from this day you will have the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of many for whom our Lord was incarnate and shed His precious blood, souls that He has committed to your care. Take care that the 'blind do not lead the blind' so that both fall into the ditch."
In receiving this command, Irene redoubled her spiritual exercises and was given great wisdom and revelations in how to lead the flock. With this strength from God, she told her sisterhood:
"I know, beloved sisters in Christ, that it was not logical that I, your humble, unworthy, and illiterate servant, should be called to teach you, but the ways of God are mysterious. If it is by His grace that I am your superior, then I pray that you will obey me. Surely if we do not obey the laws (promised before God and His angels) of the habit we wear, we achieve nothing. For it is said: 'faith without works is dead' (James 2:17). Why have we left the unreal and temporal world? To disobey His commandments? If so, like the foolish virgins we also will lose the eternal kingdom. (Matthew 25:1-13) The soul cannot be divided so as to have both pride and humility, unrestricted pleasure and abstinence. Therefore let us rid our soul of worldly desire and seek only purity, humility, patience, and love (prayer of St. Isaac the Syrian) lest we lose not only ourselves but others also."
The more Irene was respected for her judgment, holy way of life, and miracles, the more she humbled herself. She identified with the unrepentant thief such that, at the offering of Eucharist, she had to hide her face to prevent people from seeing her tears. Sometimes Irene would remain in prayer and contemplation for as long as a week without ceasing, taking only uncooked vegetables and water for sustenance.

Apolytikion in the Plagal of Tone One (Tone 5)
modeled on 'Ton Synarnarhon Logon (Co-eternal with the Father)'
Not a temporal kingdom on earth didst thou obtain,
but Christ, thy most comely Bridegroom, vouchsafed thee heavenly crowns,
and thou reignest as a queen with Him eternally;
for thou didst dedicate thyself unto Him with all thy soul,
O Irene, our righteous Mother,
thou boast of Chrysovalantou, and mighty help of all the Orthodox.

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