She Who is Quick to Hear
We have recently commemorated the Icon of our Lady Theotokos called “Quick to hear”; its feast is November 9th or 22nd depending which calendar one follows. It is this icon to which this blog site is dedicated. This icon is at Dochiariou Monastery on the Holy Mountain. The icon received this name the 16th century. At that time the steward of the monastery, Nilus, in his daily work would pass by the icon while carrying a torch. The icon was outside the dining hall. The smoke from the torch was dirtying the icon and so one evening the Theotokos said to him as he passed the icon: “Stop dirtying my icon”. He thought this was some of the other monks playing a joke so he continued to do this. He was then struck blind by the Theotokos. He repented before the icon, and was healed by her. She again spoke and called herself “Quick to hear”. Thus the icon received its name.
The refrain in the akathist hymn for this icon reads: “Rejoice thou who art quick to hear, fulfilling our petitions for our good”. But let us consider: What is it we should be asking for? Well, above all we should be asking for salvation, we should be hoping for life in Christ in this world which will continue in the life to come. So let us talk about one aspect of getting our souls in proper order and acceptable to God.
The Holy Fathers of our Church say that there are three powers of the soul. They are the desiring power, the incensive power or that of anger, and the intellectual power. The desiring power should be turned towards God, in love for Him. The incensive power should function as zeal for God and be turned against our invisible enemies in anger. The intellectual power should rule over the other two and be set on God, as the holy Apostle Paul teaches: “Set your minds on the things that are above” (Col. 3:2), and “be renewed in the spirit of your mind”. (Eph. 4:23)
But since the fall of our first parents these powers of the soul are distorted and turned upside down so-to-speak. The desiring power can be effected with love for money, possessions or physical pleasures. The incensive power can be turned towards things or our fellow men or even God and there can be a passion of anger or hatred. Our ability to reason becomes affected by all this.
And even if these two powers of the soul were directed properly, if we were to feed our intellect with the things of this world rather than the things of God we would be false to the dignity of being created in God’s image and the salvation He has wrought for us. As St. John the Theologian testifies: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever”.(1John2:15-17) And the Holy Apostle Paul instructs us: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) He also, as St. John, strictly warns us of the opposite: “walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart”. (Eph. 4:17-18)
So let us conclude by praying to the Theotokos; and to do this let us make use of the hymnology of the feast of the Icon, “She Who is Quick to Hear”. The following are the verses of Ode 7 of the second Canon for this feast:
O Lady, thou guide of thy servants to salvation, set aright the three parts of our soul, that, deemed worthy of the grace of dispassion, we may chant: O most-hymned Lord and God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!
Direct the desiring power of our soul to divine zeal, that it may thereby love God wholly and ever strive towards Him as the all-blessed End of desire.
O Virgin, help us to turn the incensive power of our soul against the invisible enemies of our salvation, and fill our hearts with saving love towards our neighbors and God.
To our souls reasoning give wings towards God-pleasing reflection, delivering us from thoughts contrary to God, O Mistress, and strengthen us all to think, speak and do that which is good.
Through the prayers of Thy most pure Mother, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!