Panagia, (Greek: Παναγία, or fem. of panágios, pan- + hágios, meaning All-holy) is a title given to Virgin Mary, the mother of God, and is used especially in Orthodox Christianity. The word is also transliterated Panayia or Panaghia. The title is applied to a number of usages associating the Theotokos within Orthodox life.
In Orthodox Christian piety, Mary, as the Theotokos, is honored as the All Holy who is the supreme example of the cooperation of between God and Man, as God, Who always respects human freedom, did not become incarnate without the free consent of the Virgin. The Holy Scripture tells us, her agreement was freely given: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38).
In iconography, Panagia is used in referring to icons of the Virgin Mary. Of the many icon examples of Panagia, one of note is that of the Theotokos wherein she faces the viewer directly, usually depicted full length, with her hands in the orans position, and with a medallion showing the image of Christ as a child in front of her chest . The medallion symbolically represents Jesus within the womb of the Virgin Mary at the moment of the Incarnation.
This representation is also called the Virgin of the Sign or Our Lady of the Sign, a reference to Isaiah 7:14 ("Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel"). Such an image is often placed in the apse of Orthodox church buildings.
In associations with vestments the medallion bearing the icon of the All-Holy Theotokos and worn by a bishop is usually called a Panagia. This medallion is also referred to as an engolpion, When a bishop is vested for the Divine Liturgy or another service, he wears a panagia and a pectoral cross over his other vestments. The primate of an autocephalous church, when fully vested, wears a panagia, a pectoral cross, and an engolpion of Jesus. Bishops of all ranks, when not vested, will usually wear the panagia alone over their ryassa. This is often the detail that, to the casual observer, distinguishes a bishop from a priest or a monk. The panagia is usually oval in shape and crowned with a depiction of a miter. Sometimes, bishops may wear a panagia which is either square or shaped like a double-headed eagle. This is especially true of bishops of the Greek tradition.
When the bishop is vested before the Divine Liturgy, the Panagia is presented to him on a tray. He blesses it with both hands and the subdeacons bring it to him to kiss and place the Panagia around his neck, while the Protodeacon swings the censer and says the following prayer: "May God create a clean heart in thee, and renew a right spirit within thee, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen."
After the Liturgy, when the bishop removes the Panagia to unvest, he crosses himself, kisses the Panagia and places it on the Holy Table. After unvesting and putting on his outer riassa, he blesses the Panagia, crosses himself again, and puts it on before exiting through the Holy Doors to bless the faithful.
The term Panagia may also refer to a prosphoron (Greek: αρτος της παναγιας), the offering bread, which is solemnly blessed in honor of the Theotokos during the Divine Liturgy. From this loaf is cut a large triangle in honor of the Theotokos and placed on the diskos during the Liturgy of Preparation. The remainder of the loaf is blessed over the Altar Table during the hymn Axion Estin, just before the blessing of the antidoron. The priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the Panagia over the Sacred Mysteries (consecrated Body and Blood of Christ) as he says, "Great is the name of the Holy Trinity."
In some monasteries there is a special ceremony called the "Lifting of the Panagia" which takes place in the trapeza. After the dismissal of the Liturgy, a triangular portion is cut from the prosphoron by the refectorian (the monk in charge of the refectory). The Panagia is then cut in half and laid crust downwards on a tray. The brethren will go in procession from the catholicon (main church of the monastery) to the trapeza, and the Panagia is carried on its tray at the head of the procession. Once there, the Panagia is placed on a table called the Panagiarion.
After the meal, the refectorian takes off his klobuk (epanokamelavkion and kamilavkion), and bows to the assembled brethren, saying, "Bless me, holy Fathers, and pardon me a sinner," to which the brotherhood bows and replies, "May God pardon and have mercy on you." Then, taking the Panagia in his fingertips, he lifts it up while saying, "Great is the name," and then the community continues with "of the Holy Trinity." The rite then continues with, "O All-holy Mother of God, help us!" with the reply, "At her prayers, O God, have mercy and save us." Two hymns are then sung while the refectorian, accompanied by a clergyman with a hand censer, offers the Panagia to those assembled. Each takes a piece between his finger and thumb, passes it through the incense, and then consumes it as a blessing.
The word Panagia is widely used in association with names of places and people. There are numerous islands and villages in Greece and Cyprus named Panagia. Many of these take their name from the churches and monasteries that are dedicated to Mary.
From "Panaghia" are derived the common Greek given names Panaghiota (feminine; pronunciation: Pah-nah-YAW-tah; common diminutives: Ghiota, Nota) and Panagiotis (masculine; pronunciation: Pah-nah-YAW-tees; common diminutives: Panos, Notis). Both names signify that the person is named in honor of Mary, mother of Jesus and consequently their name days are celebrated as if they were named Mary or Marios.
- The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, p. 368 (ISBN 0-631-23203-6)
- The oldest known surviving manuscript contain the ritual of the Elevation of the Panagia is found among the manuscripts preserved at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC.