Rejoice, sweet-scented Lily, who gives fragrance to the faithful (First Akathist)

“It was inconspicuous and insignificant, but it became wider than the heavens. It was an endless endurance in sorrows, but it became joy for all. She felt and called herself a ‘handmaid’, but became Queen of Heaven and Earth. We leave our pains, sorrows, and struggles to her, and She revealed herself to us – as a source of grace. She transforms our bitterness, because she is an unspeakable sweetness. She saw our darkness and appeared as a bright star. She experienced unimaginable solitude and became an Advocate for all. She saw violence and became peace. Pure and undefiled by anything in this world, she transcended natural boundaries and became paradise. Just the mention of her causes joy and comfort. She comforts those who love her, inspires good thoughts, a reassuring gaze, and sweet consolation. She is present among the faithful through the numerous icons of her, from which her holy, carved, divine image radiates. She became our embrace and Mother… the Mother of God.”

– Elder and Bishop Partenij Bigorski

Our holy Church has wisely organized the order of worship. With every supplication and every plea from our contrite hearts, the seal of praise is placed upon the Mother of God. The Saints have long recognized that the Most Holy Theotokos is the easiest path for us to reach God’s ears, that which is deeply buried in our souls. Following this order, the first Akathist hymn is offered to Her who is wider than the heavens and who receives our prayers, as if to seal our prayerful outpouring of the soul in this first week of repentance, with the triumphant cry: “Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!”

The exclamation that resounded in all our homes was a sweet prayer to the Heavenly Queen, for our people, for the Church, for the whole world that suffers in temptations, unrest, wars. May She, the Merciful One, have mercy on Her Son, to lovingly watch over His sinful children, to give us His enlightenment, not to deprive us of His grace on which we only hope by His mercy, for without His help we are like a boat lost in a stormy sea, which has lost its way: Rejoice, O Most Pure One, who gave birth to the path of life, who saved the world from the flood of sins; Rejoice, O Bride of God, news and terrible speech: rejoice, the dwelling place of the Lord of all creation. However exhausted the body may be from the exertion of fasting, however weakened the strength, these beautiful God-inspired verses that the church poets sang to the Mother of God with love, powerfully uplift the spirit, enliven those present in the church, especially when these verses are conveyed through the gentle voice of our beloved Elder, Bishop Antaniski. Like a burning torch of love for the Queen Mother, he warmly pours out his son’s prayers to her: We praise you who wove the crown of immortality for the world: Rejoice, O Virgin, saying to You, nourishment of all and protection and strengthening and holy refuge.