The “Three-Handed” Icon of the Mother of God at New Gracanica Monastery

D. No. 633/10
December 21, 2010

To All the Clergy, Church Boards and KSS Organization
Of the Diocese of New Gracanica and Midwestern America

Dear Brother Clergy, Brothers and Sisters,

We take this opportunity to inform you of a joyous occasion in our Diocese. Namely, on December 22, 2010, the Most-Venerable Archimandrite Metodije, Abbot of the Royal Lavra, Hilandar Monastery, accompanied by Hierodeacon Arsenije and the Director of the Hilandar Foundation from Belgrade, will visit Chicago and Serbs in America. This is a historical visit for our Church, for it is the first time that an Abbot of Hilandar Monastery is visiting this continent. This visit of the above mentioned distinguished guests is important in its own merits, but our joy is even greater, for they are bringing with them a copy of the famous “Three-Handed” Icon of the Mother of God, which has been made for our New Gracanica Monastery with the blessing of Hilandar Monastery.

After the reconciliation of our divided brothers, We regard this as the most important spiritual event in this part of the world, and especially for our Diocese. This was solely made possible by the former National KSS of the former Diocese of America and Canada, Metropolitanate of New Gracanica. The Icon costs $50,000 and we are immensely grateful to them for this donation.

In order to worthily enthrone the Icon, which is undoubtedly one of the greatest sacred things amongst Serbian people, We have decided to consecrate it on Saturday, January 1, 2011, after Divine Hierarchical Liturgy, which will start at 10:00 a.m., and in the presence of our Clergy, members of the Diocesan Council, representatives of the Diocesan KSS, as well as all local KSS Organizations of our Diocese. We invite all to attend this glorious event. For those who will not be in a position to be with us, We ask that they join us in thanksgiving to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for this blessing.

After the consecration of the Icon, a festive lunch will be served and a special program dedicated to this event will be held at the Monastery Hall. Please note that we are going to be collecting donations for the reconstruction of the Hilandar Monastery, which sustained substantial damage in a recent fire. Checks can be made payable to “New Gracanica and Midwestern American Diocese”, indicating in the memo that the donation is for “Hilandar Reconstruction”.

In anticipation that we all will immensely benefit from the presence of the “Three-Handed” Icon and spiritually be brought to the Mother of God and Her Son, our Savior, Whose Nativity we are approaching, We send Our Archpastoral blessing to all.

+ L O N G I N

Bishop of New Gracanica and Midwestern America

About the “Three-Handed” Icon of the Mother of God

One of the most beautiful and well-known icons, not only among the Serbs, but in general in the Orthodox world, is called the “Three-Handed” Icon of the Mother of God.  This holy icon is kept on the Holy Mountain in the Serbian Royal Lavra – Hilandar Monastery.  It is known as the “Three-Handed” because it has a third hand made out of silver depicted on it.  This third hand was added by St. John Damascene, who during the reign of Emperor Leo III the Isaurian, had his right hand cut off.  St. John was a great defender of icons, while the Emperor was against the veneration of icons.  When they put St. John in prison, they cut off his hand, and he prayed to the Mother of God during the night, asking her mercy and help.  Falling asleep at prayer, he saw in his dream the Mother of God and heard the words: “Behold, your hand is healed, do not be sad anymore, but fervently make effort….”  Out of thanksgiving for the miracle that the Most-Holy Mother of God worked, St. John painted an icon of her and added this third hand.  The icon was kept in his monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified in Palestine, and was given to St. Sava, the First Archbishop of Serbia, during one of his visits to the Holy Land.  The monks of this holy monastery gave this icon to St. Sava of Serbia as a gift in accordance with the prophetic vision of the founder of this monastery, St. Sava the Sanctified.  Namely, St. Sava the Sanctified left this prophecy for the brotherhood of the monastery to give this icon to the Prince from the Balkans who becomes the Monk Sava, when he one day visits his monastery.  After a few centuries, when St. Sava of Serbia found himself in this holy habitation, the monks, realizing where he was from and his name, gave him the “Three-Handed” Icon as a gift.  Our saint brought the icon to Serbia, and later it was brought to Hilandar in a miraculous manner, where it has its throne.  Until recently, the most revered monk of Hilandar was considered the Pro-Abbot, while the “Three-Handed” Icon was looked at as the Abbess, and from her was taken a blessing for everything that was to be done in Hilandar Monastery.  Even though the monastery not long ago began to choose its abbot, the “Three-Handed” Icon continues to bless the brotherhood and pilgrims from its elevated throne.  The arrival of the copy of this miracle-working icon to New Gracanica truly is shown as an event of specific meaning for the Serbian people, our Diocese, the entire Serbian Orthodox Church and beyond!  The Most-Holy Theotokos, to whom our monastery is dedicated, will protect our holy place even more so through her icon.  And the icon will connect us all with St. Sava, Serbia and Hilandar Monastery, the source of our spirituality and “Svetosavska” thought.

The copy of the “Three-Handed” Icon is a donation of the Diocesan KSS of the former Diocese of America and Canada of the Metropolitanate of New Gracanica.  The icon has a monetary value of $50,000 and was made in Thessalonica with the blessing of Hilandar Monastery.  Archimandrite Metodije, the Abbot of Hilandar Monastery, brought the icon to New Gracanica.  Accompanying him are Hierodeacon Arsenije and Mr. Milivoj Randjic, the Director of the Hilandar Monastery Foundation from Belgrade.  The blessing of the icon and the placing of it in its throne in New Gracanica will take palce on Saturday, January 1, 2011, after Divine Liturgy, which will be served by His Grace Bishop Longin and His Grace Bishop Peter from the Russian Church Abroad, with clergy and monastics at 10:00am.  Following this holy rite, a festive banquet will be served and a program will be held, at which donations will be collected for the renovation of Hilandar Monastery, which suffered a serious fire.  Donations for the renovation of Hilandar Monastery can be written to New Gracanica Monastery, with the memo: “For the Renovation of Hilandar”.