Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Virgin Mary in Cyprus

In the iconographic tradition of the Orthodox Church we find the Theotokos depicted with Jesus Christ, showing the significance of their relationship. Without Jesus Christ, Mary is not the Theotokos. With Him, she becomes the Mother of God. This relationship is also evident in the Holy Bible, where her life is not given to us in detail. On the contrary, we know little about her, and after Jesus’ Ascension we do not hear much about her life; however, she is present in the early life of the Church in Jerusalem.

According to Tradition, the Virgin Mary, travelling to Mount Athos, stopped in Cyprus in order to visit Lazarus, her Son’s friend who He resurrected. Lazarus was at the time the first bishop of Kitiou, today known as Larnaca. According to another tradition, when the Theotokos visited the mountains, where the Holy Monastery of Kukkos is located, the trees would bow to her, venerating her. This also shows the continued relation between Cyprus and Palestine. Additionally, this is seen in the book of Acts, whereby Cyprus was one of the first stops St Paul and St Barnabas made, in order to teach about Jesus Christ to the gentiles.

One of the holiest icons of the Theotokos, in Cyprus, is located in the Holy Monastery of Kukkos, which is believed (by some) to be one of the icons painted by St Luke, when the Virgin Mary was still alive. This icon was initially in Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, which was later transferred to Cyprus, as a gift by the Byzantine Emperor Isaakios Komnenos, when the Monastery of Kukkos was being built. Additionally, during the iconoclastic period (8th and 9th centuries AD), many icons were moved to Cyprus, mainly from Asia Minor, in order to preserve these holy icons. Due to this reality, Cyprus greatly venerated the Mother of God, forming new monasteries, for example the Monastery of Machaira, Trooditissas, Trikoukkias, Chrysorrogiatissas and the Virgin Mary of the Great Agros. Many more monasteries and churches in Cyprus are dedicated to the Theotokos, showing thus the importance she maintains for the Orthodox faithful of the island, and the continued love the people of Cyprus show to the Mother of God. 

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