After travelling to Ephesus and Antioch, and filling people with the Word and love of the teachings of her Son, the Theotokos returned to Jerusalem, and stayed there for a while. One day, she received a letter from her Son’s beloved friend, Lazarus. Lazarus, who Christ raised from the dead after 4 days of his repose, had now been consecrated a bishop, spreading the Christian message. In the year 52 A.D. St Lazarus had a deep longing to see and spend time with the Theotokos, whom he had not seen in a long while. However, for fear of the Jews who still sought him, he did not approach Jerusalem, where the Theotokos abode.
Hearing of this, the Theotokos wrote to St Lazarus, comforting him and asking him to send a ship to her so that she could meet him in Cyprus. She did not wish to compel him to come to Jerusalem for her sake. Upon reading her letter, St Lazarus was filled with immense joy and contemplated the deep humility of the Theotokos! He immediately sent a ship to her, and together with the St John the Theologian and others, the Theotokos set sail for Cyprus.
Before setting sail, the Theotokos prayed to her Son that He may guide their travel according to His will. It happened that after some time at sea, a violent storm
passed, which set their ship off course. By divine providence, as the storm calmed, they found themselves outside the port of Clemes (Clementos) on Athos in Greece. At that time, Athos was inhabited by pagan tribes who worshipped pagan goddesses. Many young girls from all over Greece were sent there to become priestesses to serve in the pagan temples. It was forbidden under penalty of death for men to step foot in this place. Ancient history, specifically the writings of Plutarch and Anaximander, have recorded the gold-ivory statue of Jupiter which sat atop the mountain, and acted as a lighthouse to those travelling at sea.
Upon the blessed Virgin Mary’s ship approaching Athos, this statue fell and was shattered into pieces! The ship landed ashore near the location of the modern day Monastery of Iveron. The Holy Theotokos sat for a while to rest and was in astonishment and the sheer
beauty of the place. At this moment, the Theotokos asked her Son if she may receive Athos as despite the pagans who had inhabited the area. At this request, the ground shook and the pagan statues in all the temples fell prostrate and broke into pieces. The trees even bent down as though prostrated and venerating the Mother of God who had touched
base upon the land! A voice was then heard which said, “Let this place be thine inheritance and garden, a paradise and a haven of salvation for those seeking to be saved”. The Theotokos then remembered the words of the Archangel Gabriel who told her many years before (after Pentecost) that her lot would be a Macedonian Peninsula. From then on, the mountain was consecrated as the inheritance and garden of the Mother of God,and named the Holy Mountain!
It is called this because the Theotokos chose this as the place which would be under her protection. She prayed, “ My Son and My God, bless this place, this lot of mine. Pour thy mercy upon it and keep it free from harm till the end of this world, together with them that dwell therein for thy holy name and mine…”The time will come when, from every direction, it will be filled with a multitude of monks. On account of this my soul rejoices exceedingly glad because they will praise and glorify the name of my Son and my God….I shall lighten their afflictions and labours. I will be for the monks an invincible ally, invisibly guiding and guarding them, a healer, a source nourishing them, and make it possible for them, with but scant means, to have sufficiency for life”. Amazingly, the once pagans who worshipped false goddesses, upon meeting the Theotokos and hearing the truth and teachings of Her Son, immediately believed an
d were baptised in the name of Christ! The Theotokos appointed a leader and teacher for the newly-baptised Christians, and performed a number of miracles during her time with them. She then left the Holy Mountain and eventually continued on her journey to Cyprus, where she met with St Lazarus.
This is how the Holy Mountain of Mount Athos became the dedicated place of the Mother of God!