When the Fathers of the Church speak of the person of the Panagia, on the one hand they are possessed with great respect and reverence because they know that it is the mystery of mysteries, on the other hand, as having knowledge of Holy Scripture which they interpret through their experience of the illumination of the Holy Spirit, they find various prefigurements of the miracle of the earthly presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such an event is invoked by the God-inspired sacred hymnographer Saint Joseph in his Canon of the Akathist Hymn:
“Rejoice, bedewed fleece, which Gideon, O Virgin, foresaw.”
A. “Rejoice, Bedewed Fleece”
This miracle is mentioned in the book of Judges. Gideon, wanting to verify the promise given to him by God for the salvation of his people from their various enemies, asked at one point: “I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” When in the morning Gideon picked up the wool, it was so wet that the water filled the water bowl. But he persisted for a second time, to test God. And God condescended again. Now he asked for the wool to remain dry, while the ground be covered with dew, and the sacred writer notes: “That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.”1
With this incident, the Fathers of the Church saw the foreshadowing of the Theotokos. The Virgin accepted the dew of Heaven from above, namely the Holy Spirit. And in the dryness of humanity at that time, she brought to the world not only the heavenly rain, but the Lord of the clouds, as Saint Gregory Palamas characteristically says. An Angel of the Lord reveals to Gideon that he will save Israel.2
Again the Angel of the Lord, the most-graceful Gabriel, the minister of the New Testament, revealed to the Virgin Mary: “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”3 While Gideon asks repeatedly for signs of God’s presence, the humble daughter of Nazareth subjugates her will to God to minister the plan of the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
B. “Rejoice, Bedewed Fleece”
Since the Theotokos brought to the world the “spring of water welling up to eternal life”,4 so she irrigates with her presence every God-loving soul.
This is why Saint Mark the Evgenikos addresses the Panagia prayerfully pleading:
“The fleece of divine precipitation, All-Immaculate One, irrigate my soul dried up with passions and inflamed with evil; Theotokos, may your visit gush out the water of life, Christ the Lord.”5
In spiritually arid seasons where the heat of sin and apostasy persists, the Theotokos is the one who gives us the heavenly dew and leads us with the purity of her state and her humility to the inexhaustible source of grace, which is Christ.
She irrigates us with the drench of devotion and gives us the tears of repentance, which heals our spiritual blindness in order that we may see the face of Christ. And because, due to the number of our sins, we don’t have this ability to see the face of the Savior born from her, this is why we supplicate to her: “Intercede with the One born of you, Theotokos and Virgin.” This is what the Saints of our Church did. They arrived to Christ while holding the hand of the Panagia.
“To your assistance do I flee, Lady Theotokos, the debtor of a myriad of talents.”
To this bedewed fleece we resort tonight in this wonderful Service of the Salutations, and we plead to her to open our darkened eyes, that she may be a consolation to our soul and, after God, our hope and our protection.
by Metropolitan Seraphim of Kastoria
1. Judges 6:36-40 2. Judges 6:14
3. Luke 1:28
4. John 4:14
5. Theotokarion of Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, Monday Vespers.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.