On October 8, 2017, the feast day of St Sergius of Radonezh, His Eminence Metropolitan Veniamin of Orenburg and Saraktash celebrated Divine Liturgy at St Nicholas Cathedral in Orenburg, Russia. The Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign," the main holy icon of the Russian diaspora, spent recent days at the cathedral.
His Eminence was joined by His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, the caretaker of the Kursk-Root Icon. Singing the service were the Bishop’s Choir under the direction of Yulia Vaganova and Orenburg Theological Seminary Choir under Priest Alexander Romashkov.
Protopriest Andrei Chichev delivered a sermon, in which he reminded the faithful of the life of St Sergius the Miracle-Worker of Radonezh: “St Seraphim is a symbol of the patience, the love for God that are able to overcome all temptations. He embodied the patient life in Christ.
“Apostle Paul calls upon us to emulate our teachers, who for us are the saints. We are inspired by the ascetic feats performed by the righteous of God. But not all of us possess that ability, and it is not for everyone. But as we ponder the lives of the saints, we must emulate their faith and their reliance on the Lord.”
“A wondrous, miraculous image has come to visit us,” said Metropolitan Veniamin. “The miracle-working icon has been brought to our God-preserved city with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and by decision of the Synod of Bishops. I thank the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, the Council of Bishops of the Church Abroad and Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan for their spiritual support and the opportunity for helping our spiritual strength. We will approach the icon with faith and hope, and ask the Mother of God that She strengthen and edify our faith, that She grant us strength and healing of body and spirit, so that we can worthily live out our lives on earth in accordance with the commandments of Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, towards our salvation. May our friends and relatives likewise be saved.”
Bishop Nicholas then congratulated the clergy and laity of Orenburg on behalf of Metropolitan Hilarion and the Synod of Bishops on the visit of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God: “All week,the miracle-working icon has blessed your land and each of us as well. Tomorrow, the icon will depart for New York, where it has been kept for almost 60 years.
“For a hundred years, this icon of the Mother of God has attended the Russian emigration throughout the world. Not one other holy icon travels throughout the world as much as this one. Wherever Russian Orthodox Christians may be, they know that God and the Mother of God are with them. Let us remember the words of the Mother of God: “Fear not, little flock, for I am with you and no one can be against you!’ That is, ‘no one can defeat you, for I am with you, your loving Mother.’ Let us cherish Her love in our hearts. Each of us must become a caretaker of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God ‘of the Sign,’ remembering that it visited us, we must know its prayer, the history of the icon, and tell everyone about this wondrous image!”
On October 9, Metropolitan Veniamin again celebrated Divine Liturgy before the icon at St Nicholas Cathedral. Protopriest Vladimir Akinshin then delivered a sermon:
“The life of Holy Evangelist John the Theologian teaches us that the Lord loved His disciple, who in turn loved the Savior. Disciple John stood at the Cross when the other apostles scattered. The Lord entrusted His Ever-Virgin Mother to the Holy Evangelist. St John cherished his love for Christ, and so preached on the sea, in prison. How could he remain silent about the One Whom he truly loved? We see the inscription on the icon: ‘I give you a new commandment—love one another.’ And Apostle John kept this commandment his whole life. When he no longer had the strength to travel and preach Christ, the rich and the poor came to see him, and he said to all of them: ‘Children, love one another.’ Having love for one’s neighbor is the surest and most important proof that we love our Creator.”
Metropolitan Veniamin then said “We often say that there are no miracles in our day, that the great miracles occurred when the Savior walked this earth, granting vision to the blind, hearing to the deaf, raising the dead. We hear that such miracles occurred during the times of the earliest Christians, the confessors. But I bear witness to the fact that today, through the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign,” more than one miracle has taken place. Many people have told me that what they asked of the Mother of God before Her holy image was granted to them.”
An akathist was then read before the icon. After the services, the delegation of the Russian Church Abroad departed with the icon back to New York.