Our beloved parish, strong in the service of Christ and fervent in the hope of salvation that comes in His Name, was founded in 1948, by Greek immigrants who delighted in the faith of Christ, and desired to raise a temple to His Name. Ever since those first stones were laid, we have sought to hold steadfast to the true faith of the ancient and eternal Church of Christ, and of all of the Apostles and Disciples who followed Him, spreading the faith throughout the ages to every corner of the Earth. And as we have worshiped here, we have been especially sustained by Our Lord, through the intercession of His Mother. For the fact with which we are continually blessed is this: That the blessed Theotokos, has made Her home in our beloved parish in a very special and unique way. This is not something to be said lightly—May Christ forbid it! It is, rather, something said faithfully and prayerfully, through our worship each day, as it was through the prayerful mouths of the faithful throughout the ages as they glorified God. For indeed, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Theotokos is truly our beloved patron.
Our icon of the Theotokos as the Panagia Pantovasilissa (lit. “All-Holy Queen of All”; trans. “Holy Mother Queen of All”) is one of only a handful of such examples in the world. And we are the only parish in America named for this representation of Our Blessed Lady, and which prays to Her each day under this, one of Her many roles in interceding for our salvation. The icon which you see in our iconostasis is based on an ancient, wonderworking icon, through which the grace of Christ still flows and pours forth miracles upon the faithful. It was an icon which is said to have been one of four painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, himself.
This icon of our Lady was enshrined in the iconostasis when Justinian raised the Great Church of the Holy Wisdom. Thus, was our Queen enthroned in the Queen of Churches which was the radiant jewel of Constantinople. She prayerfully looked on as the soul-destroying heresies were cast down. She compassionately inclined Her ear when the Emperor Heraclius fervently prayed before Her as he prepared to sally forth against the unconquerable hordes of the Persians and Avars. She graciously sent forth Her Holy Protection, covering the Queen of Cities with her intercessions during the countless sieges laid by the hordes of those who would assail the Church.
And, ultimately, when the Turks stormed the city, Her icon was cast, desperately, into the sea, to prevent Her being destroyed by those who conquered the Queen of Cities. Yet, by the miraculous power of God, the icon of the Pantovasilissa washed up on the shores of Asia Minor intact, and was cared for by the faithful there. And, after standing as a fervent bulwark of the faithful, She was moved, once again in the face of persecution and desecration, to Attica, where today She stands surrounded by the faithful who faithfully protect the image of their Faithful Protectress in Raphina, Greece.
This, my friends, is the Woman referred to as Our Lady—and the fact that she is, indeed, Our Lady is particularly true for those of us in Lexington, KY. For the icon of the Pantovasilissa enshrined in our iconostasis is a copy of that same, ancient icon which stood, oblivious to the tempests and the sands of time, in the Great Church of the emperors and the patriarchs. And the light which shines forth from Her is that same light which illumined the faithful down through the centuries. A window into heaven, and the Divine Light reflected in the person of the Theotokos, who gave birth to Christ Our God, the True Light, Who illumines the world.
From the implacable hordes of the plundering despoilers to the uncaring waves of the frigid sea of Marmara, the forces of the dark Prince of this World have sought to batter the icon of our most fervent bulwark and intercessor. Yet here She stands, enthroned in our iconostasis, as the faithful sing triumphal hymns before Her, asking Her to intercede with Her Son and our God, that He might save our souls.