Neo Ionia, Greece, November 14, 2017
Tens of thousands of residents of the Greek capital were blessed to be able to venerate the Cincture of the Most Holy Theotokos which had been delivered to the suburb of Neo Ionia on November 3 by a delegation from Vatopedi Monastery, headed by Abbot Ephraim. The holy relic remained until yesterday for veneration in the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries, reports Russian Athos.
On the day that the relics arrived from Mt. Athos, the reliquary containing the Belt of the Mother of God was solemnly greeted by Metropolitan Gabriel of Nea Ionia and Philadelphia together with clergy of the diocese. Despite the fact that it was a working day, a multitude of workers gathered on Heraclius Avenue to share in the joy of greeting the relic.
The ark was accompanied along the streets of Nea Ionia by a crowded procession and several militant and civilian bands, as well as an honor guard.
More than 10,000 faithful showed up on the first day alone to venerate the holy Cincture. The flow of people did not stop in the remaining days of the relic’s visit.
On the night of November 5-6, an hours-long vigil was celebrated in the Church of the Holy Unmercenaries according to the Athonite order. Molebens and Divine services were celebrated at every day before the holy relic, and on the final day of its stay, a festive Divine Liturgy was celebrated, after which the holy Belt was taken by Met. Gabriel to the local St. Olga Hospital for the benefit of the personnel and patients.
The holy relic is being delivered today to Larissa, the capital of the Thessaly region in Greece, where it will remain in the St. Nicholas Church until November 19. The Cincture will then be taken to Aetolia-Acarnania, where it will remain in the Church of St. Spyridon until November 22. The next stop is Agrinio, where the Belt will remain in the Church of the Life-Giving Spring until November 25.
The holy relic will be accompanied by Archimandrite Ephraim and brethren of the monastery throughout the entire trip.
According to Tradition, the Cincture belonged to the Most Holy Theotokos. It is believed that it was woven from camel hair by the Mother of God herself. After her Dormition, the holy Belt was kept by the holy apostle Thomas. He was not present at her burial, coming to Jerusalem three days later. When the apostles opened the grave of the Most Holy Theotokos, that St. Thomas could bid her farewell, they found it empty. Only the clothes in which she was buried remained. On the third day, the Virgin Mary herself appeared to the apostles, comforting them with the words, “Rejoice! For I am always with you.” According to Tradition, before that she had appeared to St. Thomas from Heaven, giving him her Cincture.
In the 10th century, the Cincture was cut into pieces which were then given to monasteries in Bulgaria, Georgia, Rus’, Cyprus, and on Mt. Athos. The feast of the Holy Cincture was established in the twelfth century, being celebrated on August 31.