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Icons

In the period of the persecution of the faithful in Russia, many refugees tried to preserve from desecration, destruction and mockery all that was sacred to the Russian heart. Every icon, every thread, every clump of earth connected with a holy site, with a saint, was considered a sacred item. And in the diaspora, the Lord showed His mercy and grace through the appearance of new miracle-working icons, new saints and new holy objects. All this is preserved as sacred in the monasteries and churches of the Russian Diaspora. Almost evey church contains special icons, relics and objects--they are countless. Here is a list of the most important ones:

Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, Protectress of the Russian Diaspora

On 8 September, 1295, on the day of the Nativity of the Most-Holy Mother of God, a small force of hunters from Rylsk came to hunt at the Tuskora river, 27 versts from Kursk. One of the hunters, an honorable and pious man, seeking prey in the woods, found a small icon lying face down on the root of a tree. He had barely lifted it to inspect it when the spot upon which the icon lay burst out with a strong spring of pure water. The icon turned out to be of the type referred to as the "Sign" of the Mother of God. The hunter who found the icon knew that this was no ordinary occurrence. He called his companions and together they built a small wooden chapel, into which they placed this icon. The residents of Rylsk, hearing of the newly-appeared icon of the Mother of God, began to visit it for veneration, and many miracles began to appear from it.

In 1385 the Kursk region was again swept by the Tatars. They tried to burn down the chapel and its Icon, but the wooden structure would not burn. The priest who lived by the chapel, Fr. Bogolep, explained to them that the reason for this miracle was the Icon itself. The incensed Tatars hacked the Icon in half and tossed the pieces in different directions, then burned the chapel.

They took the priest prisoner and was forced to tend to Tatar flocks. Some time later he was ransomed by emissaries of the Muscovite Grand Duke who were on their way to the Golden Horde, and he returned to the place where the chapel had stood. After a long search, while praying and fasting, he found both halves of the holy Icon, placed them side by side, and they grew together seamlessly, exhibiting only something "like dew".
In 1676 the holy Icon traveled to the Don River for blessing the Don Cossack troops. In 1684 Tsars Ivan and Petr Alekseevich sent a copy of this Icon with the order that it accompany Orthodox troops into battle. In 1687 the holy Icon was sent to the "Great Army." In 1689 copies of the holy Icon were given to the armies in the Crimean campaign. In 1812 a copy of the holy Icon was sent to Prince Kutuzov and the battling troops. Before his icon St. Seraphim of Sarov prayed and was healed.

On the night of 7-8 March, 1898, conspirator revolutionaries-atheists tried to blow up the Miracle-working Icon with a hellish bomb, but the Lord Jesus Christ glorified His Most-Pure Mother yet more, for despite the terrifying destruction in the cathedral surrounding the Icon, it remained untouched.

On 12 April 1918, the holy Icon was stolen from the cathedral of the Monastery of the Sign of the Mother of God and stripped of its ornamentation, but on 2 May it was found and returned to its place.

Finally, in 1919, while accompanying Bishop Feofan of Kursk and Oboyan' and some monks of the Monastery of the Sign, the holy Icon crossed the border to the neighborly Serbia. In 1920 it again, at the behest of General Wrangel, visited Russia at the Crimea and remained there until the final evacuation of the Russian Army in the first days of November, 1920. The holy Icon returned to Serbia, where it remained until 1944, when, together with the Synod of Bishops, it went abroad, to Munich (Bavaria) with Metropolitan Anastassy. In 1951 Metropolitan Anastassy moved from Munich to America. Since 1957 the Icon had resided in the main cathedral dedicated to it in the Synod of Bishops in New York. The holy Icon regularly travels to all the dioceses of the Russian diaspora

The Lesna Icon of the Mother of God

The Lesna Icon was found on 14 September 1683 by a shepherd, Alexander Stelmashuk, of the town of Lesna, Bel'sky uezd, Grodnenskaya guberniya, in a thick forest on a pear tree surrounded by a bright light.
The holy icon did not stay with the shepherd. It was confiscated by a Catholic Polish landowner. Misfortunes which then befell him moved him to give the icon to an Orthodox church in the town of Bukovich, near Lesna. Then again it was taken away by Catholics and placed in a Catholic church, which, in 1863, was handed over to the Orthodox faithful. At the same time the holy icon was returned.

The icon is carved into a dark red oval stone. Some 500 miracles from it have been counted. It's feast day is on Pentecost, and on 8 September. The Icon is kept in France, at Lesna Convent in Provemont. Only once did it leave the Convent--on the 1000-year anniversary of the Baptism of Russia in Paris.

The Incorrupt Relics of Hierarch John

The relics of St. John—the Miracle-worker of Shanghai and San Francisco and the twentieth century's great ascetic, archpastor and man of prayer--were found to be incorrupt in 1993, on the threshold of his glorification. The relics were transferred from the burial-vault beneath the church into the very Cathedral of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Joy of All Who Sorrow, in San Francisco, during the glorification of St. John in 1994. His relics are the only intact relics open for veneration in North America. Numerous pilgrims come from all the countries of the world to pray at St. John's relics. General prayers are performed weekly at the reliquary, and oil is sent all over the world from an ever-burning lamp. The Liturgy is performed daily in the cathedral church, and there is access during all services to the holy relics.

The Relics of the Holy New Venerable-martyr Elizabeth Feodorovna

The holy New Venerable-martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her faithful cell-attendant, Nun Barbara, accepted a martyric end at the hands of the atheists in Alapaevsk in 1918. The remains of the holy Martyrs were conveyed to the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Peking, and from there they were transferred on an English ship to Jerusalem and interred at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane. On the threshold of the glorification of the assembly of the holy New-martyrs and Confessors of Russia by the Russian Church in 1981, the holy remains of the holy New-martyrs were opened and transferred into the very Church of St. Mary Magdalene, where, in accordance with St. Elizabeth's desire, they rest to this day. Russian pilgrims to the Holy Land visit the Church of St. Mary Magdalene without fail in order to kiss the relics of the holy New-martyrs and to pray to them.

A Venerated Copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God

In 1934, an exact copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God was sent from the holy mountain of Pochaev to the Ascension Cathedral in the Bronx (New York City) as a blessing to American Russia. This holy object was solemnly greeted and placed above the royal gates of the Ascension Cathedral. Subsequently, this icon would be brought each year to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville for the public festivity of the feast of Venerable Job of Pochaev. Before it, an akathist would be performed. When the cathedral in the Bronx was closed, the icon was removed to Jordanville and placed in a case in the lower church of St. Job. At the present time, the icon is transferred on the day of the feast of the Dormition to the Dormition cemetery church and remains there until the celebration of the commemoration of Venerable Job, when, as before, it is met by a procession, and an akathist is performed before it.

The Portrait-Icon of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov

This original portrait of the saint, painted during the holy man's lifetime, is in the Novo-Diveevo Convent near New York. The Venerable one is depicted in full stature in his declining years. He is leaning on a staff in his right hand, and in his left hand he holds a prayer-rope. As those who have seen this portrait state – “the wondrous face of the Venerable one has remained completely undamaged by time. From the Venerable one's face, pale and emaciated by ascetic struggles, the holy Elder's blue, amazingly communicative eyes gaze. It is impossible to tear oneself away from this gaze: He looks directly at your soul, and it seems that the saint's glance--at times kindly, at times sternly--penetrates into all the corners of your soul.”

During the days of the saint's glorification in 1905, the whole Royal Family prayed fervently before this image. During the destruction of the Convent by the Bolsheviks, the image was taken to Kiev, where it was situated in the Neberezhno-Nikol'sky Church, and in 1945 it was transferred to the Protection Church, newly opened under the Germans, in Podol. During the retreat of the Germans from Kiev, the image was taken out by one of the translators (a Russian Orthodox Christian) to Lodz', and then handed over to Protopresbyter Adrian Rymarenko, who was then the rector of the Russian Cathedral in Berlin. During one of the brutal nighttime air-raids against Berlin, those returning from shelter saw that an incendiary bomb, having pierced the cupola of the Cathedral, had fallen into its left side-chapel. The Shroud situated there and the image of the Venerable one that lay upon it were enveloped in fire; next to it, the stand for the Cross and the nearby image of Saints Gurias, Samonas, Abibas were burning. The fire was quickly extinguished, and remarkably, the flame did not at all touch either the Shroud or the image of St. Seraphim, even though everything round about was scorched. The night passed. The morning divine service began, but the smell of burning did not disappear; on the contrary, it became all the more intense. They rushed again to seek the cause, and in the Cathedral's attic they discovered a second, smouldering incendiary bomb. They had hardly touched it, when a huge shaft of flame leapt up from it. Thus, the fire smouldered for twelve hours but did not flare up. From that moment, the Cathedral did not suffer from fire any more, although everything around it was burnt and destroyed.

In accordance with God's inscrutable ways, the flow of Russian people surged to America, and with them also arrived the Diveevo holy object – the image of the Venerable one – as well a particle of his holy relics and a piece of his mantia.

The Montreal Myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

The Montreal Iveron Icon was painted on Athos in 1981 by a Greek monk from the original Icon of the Mother of God the Portaitisa. In 1982, Jos_ Mu_oz Cortez, a Spaniard by origin who had long ago accepted Orthodoxy, brought this icon from Athos to Montreal, Canada. Here is what happened, said Jose Munoz: “On the 24th of November, at three o'clock in the morning, I was wakened by a powerful fragrance. At first I thought that it came from relics or a spilled bottle of perfume; but on going up to the icon, I was awestruck: it was entirely covered with fragrant myrrh! I froze on the spot at such a miracle! Soon the myrrh-streaming icon was taken to church. From that time, the Icon of the Mother God has continuously streamed myrrh, with the exception of Passion Week. It is remarkable that the myrrh has flowed out mainly from the hands of the Mother of God and Christ, and also from the star on the right shoulder of the Immaculate one. At the same time, the back side of the icon is always dry.”

The wonderworking image has been in America, Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria and Western Europe. No matter where this icon has been, it has spread love and concord everywhere, as, for example, in one community where the quarreling parishioners found once again the way to prayer and church unity. Its presence increased prayerful fervor to such an extent that Liturgies performed in its presence could be compared to paschal Liturgies, which are so intense in the Orthodox Church.

Many cases of people's return to attending church, to going to Confession, to receiving Communion are known. Thus, one poor woman, having learned of the death of her son, prepared to take her own life; but touched to the depths of her soul at the sight of the wonderworking icon, she repented of her horrible intention and immediately went to Confession.

The icon streamed myrrh for fifteen years. On the night of 30-31 October 1997, the custodian of the icon – Jos_ Mu_oz Cortez – was brutally killed in Athens, and the wonderworking Iveron Icon vanished without a trace…

The Harbin Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow"

In the 1920's in the Far East, in the city of Harbin a young Bishop Nestor, through his labors and efforst established the "House of Mercy," a charitable institution/hostel, both for the elderly and sick and for orphaned children. At this House of Mercy, Bishop Nestor set up and consecrated a church in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow." Learning of this, one of the Bishop's close assistants, a deeply-religious Russian woman, Ekaterina Ivanovna Kurmey, donated her own icon of this type. The ancient icon had already darkened so much from time that it was almost impossible to discern the faces of the saints, let alone reading the inscriptions.

One day, the rector of the church, now deceased, Fr. Julian Sumnevich (particularly revered by the Orthodox residents of Harbin for his spirituality and irreproachable life) noticed that the old icon began to lighten and renew itself...Not believing his eyes, he decided to wait some time; but the renewal was progressing quickly, and in a few hours the icon was so bright that the miracle was undoubtable and apparent to everyone who saw it and knew its previous condition.

Within a day, the holy Icon was absolutely bright, the faces of the saints and the inscriptions were distinct and so clear that one could believe that the Icon had only just been painted.

This stupendous miracle of God's grace roused the entire city. Old residents of Harbin remember this event well. Believers from all over began coming to the new holy Icon to venerate it and pray--and the renewed Icon became one of the most important holy objects not only of the church, but of all of Orthodox Harbin.

When the last rector of the church of the House of Mercy, Archimandrite Philaret (later the third First-Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia), also left Harbin for Australia after great difficulty, and then on to the USA, the renewed Icon remained in this church, along with other holy objects. The church was closed after its rector had left, and its holy objects and items became the property of the Chinese government. After many strenuous and difficult efforts, the acting warden of the church of the previous several years, Z.L. Tauz-Zvereva managed to gain permission to export the holy Icon. Only in the fall of 1965, during Vladyka Metropolitan Philaret's trip to Europe, was the renewed Icon, after a lengthy stay in Hong Kong, sent to the USA to the Synodal Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, where it remains in the lower church of St. Sergius of Radonezh. The present clergy of the Synodal Cathedral bear witness to the fact that occasionally, myrrh appears on the surface of the Icon.

The Holy Blood of the Royal Martyrs

In the Cathedral of the Most-Holy Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco is a special icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The icon was painted by a student of Archimandrite Kyprian, Archbishop Alypy. Two relics are housed in the icon: an icon of the Mother of God "Sky of Grace" which belonged to the Royal Family in Ekaterinburg. The icon was donated to the Cathedral by Grand Duke Nikita Alexandrovich Romanov.

The second relic is a medallion with a chip from the wall of the Ipatiev House. This wall was splattered with the martyric Royal blood. A general of the Rifled Life-Guards of the Tsarskoye Selo division, Alexander Alexeevich Tyunegov, being in Kolchak's Army in 1918, escorted the investigator Sokolov to the Ipatiev House and witnessed the condition of the basement where the brutal act was committed. A.A. Tyugenov later found himself in Australia and, after his death, the medallion with the relic was passed on to Archbishop Anthony of Western America and San Francisco of blessed memory.

The Akhtyrka Icon of the Mother of God

"Three years since the day of the transposition of the icon to the house, on the day of the Protection of the Most-Holy Mother of God, a priest entered the room where the icon was and was struck by the unusual light emanating from it; this phenomenon began to occur over and over, but the priest piously prayed and spoke to no one of it. As soon as he fell into a light sleep, the priest saw the Mother of God and heard her instructions: to clear the icon of dust and wash it with clean water. The priest, waking from his slumber, immediately went to fulfill the will of the Mother of God, cleaning it of dust, washing it with pure water and gathered the water into a basin to pour it into the river the following day.

Afterwards, he fell asleep again, and saw in his dream that he is approaching the river with the basin of water with which he cleaned the icon, but on the way, he heard the voice of the Mother of God: "Return home and keep this water; it will heal all those suffering from fever." The priest had a daughter who had for a long time suffered from fever; awakening, he gave her this water to drink, and the daughter was instantly cured. After that, all who suffered from fever would come to this icon in prayer and would be healed."

The priest put the Icon into Holy Protection Church. As Bishop Philaret writes: "In the church, wondrous healings of various sick people flowed from the holy icon, and its glory spread to faraway places."

As is always the case in such instances, the Church was obligated to conduct an "investigation" of the miracles of the holy icon, since groundless faith or deceit in this matter could bring the truth more damage than even stubborn disbelief. The investigation lasted for eight years, and since the "historical veracity of the miraculous occurrences proved to be indubitable, both by their circumstances and by the variety of miraculous events," the Holy Synod in 1751 recognized the Akhtyrka Icon of the Mother of God as miracle-working. In 1753, on the site of the appearance of the Miracle-working Icon, at the order of Empress Elizabeth, a new Church of the Protection was built of stone.
During the revolution, the icon disappeared, but later turned up mysteriously in Harbin and was acquired by S.A. Stepanov. According to protopriest N. Trufanov of Harbin, who had often venerated the Icon in Akhtyrka, the one acquired by Stepanov was that same Miracle-working Icon of Akhtyrka. In the 1950's, S. Stepanov took the Icon to Brazil, and then to San Francisco, where he handed it over to the Committee of Russian Orthodox Youth as a blessing. At the present time the Icon is under the auspices of Archbisho Hilarion of Sydney and the Australian and New Zealand Diocese.

The Copenhagen Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God

On Friday of the first week of Great Lent, 1995, in the church of St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Copenhagen, an icon of the Most-Holy Mother of God of Jerusalem began to emit myrrh. This Icon, an exact replica of the miracle-working icon kept over the Royal doors of the Protection of the Most-Holy Mother of God in St. Panteleimon Monastery on Mt. Athos, was painted at that monastery in 1911-13 and sent as a gift to Empress Maria Feodorovna on 22 April 1928 by monk Denasios. The Athos Icon, in turn, is a copy of the miracle-working Icon from the Krivozerkiy Hermitage (Kostroma guberniya), painted in 1825 by Fr. Nikon, a hieromonk of the Nil of Sora Hermitage.

On the eve of the holidays of the Mother of God, at vigil and on Sundays after vespers, Athonite monks lower this icon and an akathist is read before it. A lengthy inscription on the verso of the icon sent by Fr. Denasios to Denmark states that the icon was being sent by the long-suffering Empress Mother in consolation, with a prayer that the Most-Holy Mother of God does not abandon the much-suffereing Russian land and Russian people in the homeland and abroad.

At the present time, the Icon is framed under glass. The streaming of myrrh continues, but only during divine services. A few tears appear which stream down and quickly evaporate without reaching the bottom of the frame. For the second time in a short period the children of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia have become witnesses to a miracle. For the second time an icon of the Mother of God (as was the Iveron Myrrh-streaming Icon, which also hailed from Mt. Athos, of the Most-Holy Mother of God) began to emit myrrh. What do these events signify? Is it consolation for all of us, or is it a warning? Inscrutable are the ways of the Lord and unfathomable for the mind of man are the mysteries of His Providence. Humbling one's self-absorbed mind before the miracle, let us be horrified at our lukewarm attitude, for the Most-Holy Virgin weeps while looking upon mankind, at her own kind, who are obstinate and bitter. The everlasting and life-creating Divine power made dry wood and mineral paint stream with aromatic empathy. Let us pray our Most-Holy Intercessor to give life to our own wooden hearts. Most-Holy Mother of God, save us!