Feast Day: August 16th

About the Holy Mandylion of Christ: The Saviour saw him, called to him by name and gave him a short letter for Abgar in which He praised the faith of this ruler… Then the Lord asked that water and a cloth be brought to Him. He washed His Face, drying it with the cloth, and His Divine Countenance was imprinted upon it…


Apolytikion: We Venerate your most pure Icon, loving Lord, as we ask pardon of our offences, Christ God. For by Your own choice You were well-pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh, to deliver from the slavery of the enemy those whom you had fashioned; therefore with thanksgiving we cry to you: You have filled all things with joy, Our Saviour, by coming to save the world.

Kontakion: The Uncircumscribable Word of the Father, was circumscribed when He took flesh of thee, O Mother of God; and when He had restored the defiled image to its pristine state He suffused it with Divine beauty. And as we proclaim our Salvation we record it by word and deed.

Stichera: With what eyes shall we who are born of Earth look upon Your Image, which the armies of the Angels cannot look at without fear as it blazes with Divine Light? For it departs to-day from the land of unbelievers and by Divine decree comes to dwell in the Queen of cities and among a people of true religion. At its entry Kings rejoice, O Christ, falling down before it with fear and faith.

With what hands shall we creatures of dust touch Your Image, O Word? We who are stained by faults touch You, Our Sinless God? We who live in filth touch You the Unapproachable? The Cherubim tremble and hide their gaze; the Seraphim cannot bear to see Your Glory; Creation serves You with fear. Do not then condemn us, O Christ, who unworthily greet from faith Your dread appearance.

Once again the godlike day of the Master’s Festival is here; for He who is seated in the Highest has now clearly visited us through His Honoured Image; He Who is unseen by the Cherubim above appears through painting to those to whom He has become like, formed ineffably by the immaculate finger of the Father according to His likeness. As we Worship it with faith and love we are Sanctified.

The unchanging nature, the most precise definition of the Father, having entered mortal flesh, left behind for us on Earth His characteristics when He went back to Heaven.

When Our Lord was preaching, reports of His great Miracles spread throughout Syria and reached Abgar, the ruler in Edessa, who was stricken all over his body with leprosy and arthritis. Without having seen the Saviour, Abgar believed in Him as the Son of God. Around the time of the Saving Passion of Our Lord, Agbar wrote a letter requesting Him to come and heal him. He sent this letter to Palestine with his own portrait-painter Ananias, and commissioned him to paint a likeness of the Divine Teacher, asking him to depict with absolute accuracy the Lord’s height, hair colour and His Holy Face.

The Letter of Agbar to Christ

Agbar, Ruler of the city of Edessa, to Jesus Saviour, the Good Physician, who has appeared in Jerusalem, greeting! I have heard about You and about Your cures, which are done by You without drugs; for example You make the blind see again; You make the lame walk; You cleanse lepers; You drive out unclean spirits; You heal those who have been tormented by disease over long periods. Having heard all this of You I had one of two ideas: either that You are Son of God, Who do these things, or that You are God. So then I write to You and ask You to and to come to me to cure the suffering I have, and then to be with me; for I have also heard that the Jews murmur against you and wish to do you ill. My city is very small but distinguished and adequate for both of us to live here in peace.


Ananias arrived in Jerusalem and saw the Lord surrounded by people listening to Him preach. He handed Abgar’s letter to Christ and as the crowd were flocking to Him, Ananias climbed up onto a small rock to paint the portrait of the Lord. His effort however was not successful because he was quite unable to capture the exact form of Our Lord because it appeared differently at one point and took on another appearance at another point. The Saviour then called Ananias to him by name and gave him a letter for Abgar.

The Letter of Christ to Abgar

Blessed are you, Agbar, who have believed in Me, though you have not seen Me. For it is written of Me that those who have seen me do not believe in Me so that those who have not seen Me may believe and live. As to what you wrote about My coming to you, it is necessary that I accomplish all that I was sent out to do and, after I have accomplished it, to be taken up to the Father Who sent me. And when I have been taken up I will send you one of My Disciples, named Thaddaios, he will heal your disease and grant you and those with you Eternal Life and peace, and he will make your City such that no enemy can prevail against it.

At the end of the letter, Our Lord Jesus Christ fixed seven seals in Hebrew letters. It is a play on the Greek words “Θεού θέα θείον θαυμα” (Theou Thea Theion Thavma) and means Depiction of God Divine Wonder.


Then the Lord asked for some water to wash His Face, he was also handed a cloth folded in four. When he dried His Face with the cloth, His Most Pure and Divine Face was imprinted on the Cloth. He then gave the Cloth to Ananias saying “Go, give this back to the one who sent you.” He also promised to send His disciple to heal Abgar and guide him to Salvation.


Returning to Edessa, Ananias gave the Holy Cloth and letter to Abgar. Reverently, Abgar pressed the Holy Cloth to his face and he received partial healing. Only a small trace of the terrible affliction remained until the arrival of the disciple promised by the Lord. He was Saint Thaddeus, Apostle of the Seventy, who preached the Gospel and Baptized Abgar and all the people of Edessa.


Abgar put the Holy Napkin in a gold frame adorned with pearls, and placed it in a niche over the city gates. On the gateway above the Icon he inscribed the words “O Christ God, let no one who hopes on Thee be put to shame.” For many years the inhabitants kept a pious custom to bow down before the Icon Not-Made-by-Hands, when they went forth from the gates.


One of the great-grandsons of Abgar, who later ruled Edessa, fell into idolatry. He decided to take down the Icon from the city wall. In a vision the Lord ordered the Bishop of Edessa to hide His Icon. The Bishop, coming by night with his Clergy, lit a lampada before it and walled it up with a board and with bricks.

Many years passed, and the people forgot about it. But in the year 545, when the Persian Emperor Chozroes I besieged Edessa and the position of the city seemed hopeless, the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to Bishop Eulabius and ordered him to remove the Icon from the sealed niche, and it would save the city from the enemy. Having opened the niche, the bishop found the Icon Not-Made-by-Hands: in front of it was burning the lampada, and upon the board closing in the niche, a copy of the Icon was reproduced.