Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
There are several ways we celebrate major feast days: there is usually a forefeast, the feast day itself, and an afterfeast or apodosis. With the feast of the Dormition, August 15, I know of two major celebrations of miraculous icons of the Virgin Mary which mark the feast and its apodosis. The first is from the island my parents are from, the island of Lipsi. The second is from the area of Evrytania, the motherland of many of the people in the parish my husband serves. Evrytanians are also known for their delicious zymaropita, zucchini cornbread.
Panagia Tou Harou
The icon named Panagia tou Harou is of the Virgin and Christ, but in this icon, she doesn’t hold the Christ child on her lap, but a miniature crucified Christ. The miracle comes from flowers that were offered as thanks to the Virgin Mary. In the 1940s, a woman was praying in a little countryside chapel before Panagia tou Harou. Her prayers were answered, and in gratitude she placed a simple bouquet of lilies on the icon. These lilies were forgotten and dried on the icon. In the following year, on Vespers of the Apodosis of the Feast of the Dormition (August 23), when they opened the little chapel that housed the icon, these dried lilies had blossomed again and were fragrant. Since then, this miracle occurs annually and is celebrated with thousands of pilgrims.
The icon named Panagia Prousiotissa is a miraculous icon believed to be written by St. Luke the Evangelist. This story goes back to the year 829 in the city of Proussa, in modern-day Turkey, when icons were being destroyed. A faithful nobleman and Christian fled the city with the miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary to protect the icon from destruction. In transport, the icon was lost and miraculously found in a cave on a very rugged mountainside by a young shepherd boy. When the nobleman heard the news, he retrieved the icon. He felt responsible to protect it, take it to a more convenient location, and to build a chapel to honor the Mother of God. After a day’s journey down the mountain, the icon left his custody once more and was found back in the cave as before. The young man, confused and ashamed for losing the icon again, heard the Virgin Mary explain that she was more comfortable in the wilderness with the peasants and shepherds than in the city with the politicians. She also invited him to stay with her in a life of peace. He honored her request and spent the rest of his life near the chapel he built for her in the rugged mountain, which was the start of a monastery that continues to exist today. Faithful make pilgrimages to venerate the icon between August 15-23 for the Feast of the Dormition and the feast’s apodosis in thanksgiving for prayers answered throughout the year.
I’ve shared many recipes from my parents and their Lipsotiko background. Today, I am sharing a recipe from the area of Karpenisi, a city near the monastery of Prousiotissa. During church gatherings and pot lucks, we always find a pan of zymaropita, zucchini cornbread. It is a rich and rustic side dish that is sure to please.
Preheat oven to 375*
Grate 4 zucchini (I use a big food processor) and a pinch of salt. Let sit in a strainer to draw out the moisture.
Chop 1 Vidalia onion. Sautee onion in 2 T butter until transparent.
- 1 box Jiffy Corn Bread/Muffin Mix
- ½ c cream of wheat
- 1 stick softened butter
- 5 eggs
- 16 oz. small curd cottage cheese
- 8 oz. well crumbled feta cheese
- ½ c milk
(I will also add any grated hard cheese I have, including Asiago, Parmesan, or Romano.)
Drain and squeeze zucchini, add to transparent onions, and saute for a few more minutes to remove more moisture.