With the blessing of Sayedna Silouan, the Orthodox Young Professionals of Great Britain and Ireland has been founded under his omophorion as a ministry in the British Isles to the Faithful in that life stage after formal education but before needing family-oriented ministry. Sayedna appointed Fr Boniface as chaplain for the OYP, with the initial aim to host a conference for Orthodox young professionals in August 2024.
In seeking a patron for the OYP conference, the planning committee prayerfully considered saints who might be understood to be patrons of professional labour, and whose prayers could be sought to bless the work of OYP and its participants. Ultimately, the Theotokos, Ripener of the Harvest (or also called She Who Ripens the Grain or Multiplier of Wheat) was chosen. This representation of the Theotokos grew in popularity after Saint Ambrose of Optina blessed its use, recognising that the Theotokos is “a helper for people in their labours for the acquiring of their daily bread.” Taking the Theotokos Who Ripens the Harvest as a patron encourages the OYP, as a group of young professionals, to remember that it is God who grants success to their professional labours, and by the prayers of the Theotokos, they ask God to bless the work of their hands.
The Theotokos Ripener of the Harvest icon is like many others that follow a unique model of the Panagia Oranta: with a full figure of the Theotokos, with her hands raised in a posture of prayer (orant), in supplication to Her Son. This style of icon is sometimes called the Panagia Skepi Deomeni (All Holy Protectress), most commonly seen in the Protectress of Mt Athos icons (where she is also sometimes holding a walking staff). Like these prayerful icons, the Icon of the Theotokos She who Ripens the Grains – simplified in the OYP logo – is a Panagia Oranta, supplicating God on behalf of the labourers, that the harvest may be multiplied.
It is the prayer of the OYP committee that no matter the kind of labour – paid or unpaid; trade, service, or industry – the OYP conference and fellowship may offer a foretaste of what is promised in John 4:36, ‘that both he that sows and he that reaps may rejoice together’.