Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


The Virgin’s Three Stars

March 10th, 2014, Promulgated by Bernie
Icon of the Theotokos "Odigitria" ("Directress"), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

Icon of the Theotokos “Odigitria” (“Directress”), painted by the Fathers of Vatopedi Monastery, Mount Athos

(Click on Pictures to see sharper images)

“And was Incarnate of the Holy Spirit

and the Virgin Mary”

In many icons of the All Holy (“Panagia”) Virgin she appears with three stars on her. Most westerners probably do not notice them as anything more than decorative accents but they are an important visual code to those of the Eastern Orthodox, and Byzantine Catholic Churches.

Do you know what they signify?

Christ’s incarnation is a great mystery. Christ was not conceived in the way that men are conceived. The conception took place from the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Consequently, a man did not participate. We can see this if we study the event of the Annunciation of the All-Holy (Panagia) Theotokos (see Luke 1:26-38). The Virgin Mary is called the Theotokos,which is a Greek word, used by the Fathers. It means Birthgiver of God. This is because she gave birth (tokos) to God (Theos)and not to a mere man (Jesus is one Person not two Persons, but of/in two natures, completely human and completely divine). The third Ecumenical Council concerned itself especially with this point. The Panagia was a virgin before the conception, virgin after the conception and virgin after the birth.

Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Hodegetria Madonna, Comnenus Mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

We see this in every icon that represents the Panagia; she is depicted with three stars on her, one on her head and the other two on each shoulder. The Panagia was completely pure. In the Holy of Holies she had achieved theosis. The purity of Panagia was due to the grace of God, her own personal ascetic effort, and the successful purification of her ancestors. All the purifications in the Old Testament had the Panagia in view. Indeed, the Panagia’s parents conceived her with prayer, fasting and obedience to God; this is why the seed of Joachim (the father of the Panagia) is called “immaculate seed”.  –Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos, Entering the Orthodox Church”.

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