Present and in the moment

The God-Man, Mankind, and Creation | Orthodox in the District

The other day, my sister and I were shopping at a discount store. My sister asked the clerk, ‘what is the most popular item you sell?’. The clerk asked her to repeat the question and then proceeded to make a list of the places she likes to visit in our town. Hmmm. She was busy with an activity (ringing up our order, but it was just a cake mix and a package of cupcake wrappers… not at all complicated). It was not particularly noisy in the store so what happened? Was the clerk lost in thought during the conversation? Have we, through the use of technology, forgotten how to speak to one another? Whatever was going on, she was not present and in the moment.

I see this so often. People glued to their cell phones as they walk across the street. Dangerous, people! Aside from obvious physical dangers, and looking doofy when you are too distracted to follow a conversation, how does it effect us when we are not present and in the moment when worshiping or praying?

While God is everywhere present at all times, I am only in one place at a time. If I am rehashing what I said to people during the week, or what they said to me, I am not fully present when I come before the Lord. I suffer. I am too distracted to receive benefit from prayer. My soul is disquieted. I am in the presence of my mind, not God. My offering is incomplete because I am incomplete.

One method we can use to overcome the noise is by saying the Jesus prayer; ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me the sinner.’. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This little, but effective and in essence a huge prayer, has guarded my mind, calmed me and helped me to prepare for important meetings and moments. it has helped me to prepare for deeper prayer whether at temple or at home. It can either be used alone, or as a transitional prayer to take one higher and deeper.

We cannot be in two place at once. The best place to be is wherever we are at the moment. Try using the Jesus prayer to keep you grounded and in the presence of God. It can help melt away distractions & bring you closer to God as He becomes the focus of your prayer.

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The elevation of the Cross of Christ

Saint Helen came to Jerusalem in 326 after she had a dream about the true cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. She felt that she had been divinely appointed to find our Lord’s life-giving cross.

Orthodox Images - Feastal Set 2

When she arrived in Jerusalem, the Catholic bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, told her that the holy sites had been covered by pagan Roman shrines for the previous 180 years. Christians did not visit the sites since they had become the shrines of idols.

Here is what she found:

  • Over the cave in Bethlehem where Christ was born was an idol of Adonis.
  • Over Calvary where Christ had been crucified was a large marble idol of Venus, the goddess of carnal lust.
  • Over the Holy Sepulchre from which Christ had risen from the dead was an idol of Jupiter, king of the false gods.

Saint Helen, in the name of her son the Emperor Constantine, had these pagan monuments torn down and the ground cleared and made ready for Holy Orthodox christian Churches. The Christians in Jerusalem rejoiced.

How did Saint Helen find the true cross?

Here’s the official tradition:

Then she had thus cleansed the place {from the idol of Venus} where the Cross had stood, Helen caused deep excavations to be made, which resulted in the discovery of three crosses, and, apart from them, the writing which had been nailed on that of the Lord. But which of the crosses had been His was unknown, and was only manifested by a miracle. Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, after offering solemn prayers to God, touched with each of the three a woman who was afflicted with a grievous disease. The two first had no effect, but at the touch of the third she was immediately healed.

Since the third cross worked miracles, it became manifest that this cross was the true cross of Christ. And this is how Saint Helen found the true cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When you are so thankful

Last week, my sister had the second of three operations as part of the course for her cancer treatment. Her post op exam of the tissue revealed all is well. God is so good! My thanks and praise seem so inadequate because my heart is so full of awe and gratitude. I want to gather every white flower in the city and bring it into the temple as tribute and thanks.

An ‘aha’ moment

Gallery of hand painted Orthodox Icons - Teofana Orthodox Iconography

It can take awhile sometimes, but when I get it… I GET it!

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

As a child, I had heard the story of Daniel many times. I could never figure out how he got caught praying. when you practice prayer as an internal act, not an outward display, you cannot imagine why the windows would be open for prayer, why one would be on their knees, why they would do all of the above three times per day. While yes… prayer is internal- we say the Jesus prayer all through our day as we work and go about to-and-fro, it is also external.

I realize now that, Daniel must have been prostrating himself before God the Orthodox way! He most likely was making the sign of the cross and prostrating himself. It would have been very obvious to a passerby that he was NOT worshiping a pagan god but THE God.

I did wonder back then why we as Christians did not worship and pray this way? Why does making the sign of the cross make many Protestant Christians so uncomfortable? I would make the sign of the cross every once-and-awhile when I was a Protestant. Invariably, if there was a Protestant nearby they would always ask in a panicked voice, ‘why did you just do that?!’. I did it because; it’s right, I feel better afterward, it is an outward expression of an internal thought/feeling/prayer. Most importantly… it is OK to make the sign of the cross. Making the sign of the cross is not JUST for Catholics or Orthodox Christians. It is for EVERY Christian. Prostrating is not just for Orthodox or Catholics. The Orthodox did it first and several other religions borrowed it from us… that’s ok too. What is not ok is letting the knowledge that other religions do the same things we do keep you from doing them at all. ALL religions pray in some way but not all of them to the same God, of course. However, we still pray. Meaning, knowing that Hindus pray does not keep you from praying. You pray also… I hope, but to the only god worthy of your prayers.

1 Corinthians 10:19Am I suggesting, then, that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot partake in the table of the Lord and the table of demons too.

It is not that you pray in front of icons, but what icons you pray in front of that matters. It is not that you venerate, but what. It is not that you use a prayer rope but to whom you are praying when you use your prayer rope.

I think, Daniel’s story is such an amazing example of the Christian life. In his story is proof of the history of the Orthodox way. The history of Christianity does not begin with the emergence of the Catholic church. It stretches farther back. It stretches back to Pentecost and even farther. This is just one of many mysteries that have been solved for me by the Orthodox church. If you have been looking for answers to some of your own questions, I highly recommend that you attend an Orthodox Christian church. Today is the beginning of the liturgical year for Orthodox Christians. Why not let it also be the first day of, A Year of Orthodoxy for you? Attend at least two services per week making at least one of them each month a Divine Liturgy. If the church you pick to attend has adult classes, attend the classes. If the priest of that church recommends a book for you to read, read it. Practice walking in obedience to a spiritual father (the priest). It helps to prepare you to walk in obedience to the Ultimate Father, God. The Orthodox church can help you understand; the Trinity, who Mary is and why she is so important, who the saints are, what is a martyr, why we celebrate what we celebrate.

A year will pass by no matter what you do; why not give some of the time from this year to attending an Orthodox Church?

When hearts are overwhelmed

... tones to St. Panteleimon, by St. Joseph the Hymnographer: Second Tone
St. Pateleimon the unmercenary healer

Houston, shootings, political upheaval and the constant threat of a new world war looms. In the midst of it all… life goes on.

People are getting butt hurt over so much that in the long run, does it REALLY matter… or is it all a distraction? In the middle of all the chaos and hurt going on; the KILLING happening over words… people are concerned about things that could perhaps be put on the back burner for now. maybe go how and hug your family instead of rioting and protesting over WORDS or things that happened 200+ years ago?

This is how I feel these days over the petty crap going on in America…

Facepalm - Paperblog

What face is on the twenty dollar bill doesn’t matter (today). What, FLOTUS wore to Houston doesn’t matter. Firefighters eating pigs they rescued doesn’t matter (That’s what pigs are for people!). What matters is that people are making money off of the suffering of other people. What matters is that people are hurting and dying. From the actions of other people.What matters is healing from what has already happened and trying to prevent more of the same from happening.

We need to heal. Our nation needs to heal. People must realize that when you punch someone in the face, you are punching God in the face. For some this is not an issue but it needs to be for everyone. We have lost respect for one another and we lack the humility to behave humanely toward one another. When did we become animals? Oh, yes… that’s right. We sent our children to schools and universities where they were taught that there was no God, people are no better than animals. Now… we sit at home wringing our hands trying to figure out what went wrong where, and if it can be fixed. Maybe it can. It would take a great deal of work and not everyone can do what needs to be done.

  1. We would need to considered others to be more important than ourselves. If we could do this one huge thing, we would have no way of justifying beating people up with shields that read, ‘NO HATE”.  If we could do this one thing, we would realize that yes, using salve labor to build a nation is wrong HOWEVER, what is done is done. It is time to forgive and move on which brings me to point #2.
  2. Forgiveness. There can be no healing without forgiveness. We must forgive each other whether or not the other person receives our forgiveness of forgives us in return. We must fall over one another in a rush to apologize and beg for forgiveness. We MUST forgive.
  3. We must repent for what we have done. Lay aside pride & narcissism and repent. Repent for every word and deed committed. If we truly wish to bring about change in the world, and we want to be the change we wish to see in the world, we must love the people around us so much that we would bend over backwards to avoid offending them or hurting them in any way.

ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN Quotes Like Success

4. We must be violent about being at peace with everyone around us. What does this mean? How can we be violent about living peacefully? It means we must fight against anything, or anyone who wishes to steal away our peace. We must also make sure that NO ONE is able to disturb our calm so much so that we lash out at them in retaliation. An example of this is the new Taylor Swift song, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’. A song about a woman so bent on lashing out and seeking revenge she blames her bad actions on the people who offended her. Is she a mindless puppet? No. And neither are you. No one MAKES us hurt them… the choice is entirely ours. Blaming victims for our actions is abuse. Just ask any woman who escaped, or is still in an abusive relationship where her man tells her if she were a better person he would not be compelled to bounce his fists off her face. There is NO excuse for the mistreatment of others. If you were offended by prisoners being water boarded but then you cheer of violent protesters, you are the one who did the water boarding. You are just as violent as those you condemn. You can try and justify it by saying you only thought about it, spoke about it, etc. but violence in one’s heart and mind is still violence. It is not peace. Cultivate a spirit of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never advocated violence and yet his peaceful ways brought about more positive change in America than anything these violent protesters do will.

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5. Be humble enough to receive an apology/request for forgiveness. You are not perfect. It is time you learned this. You say and do things that are offensive to the people around you. If someone comes up to you and apologizes because something you said or did offended them, be gracious. Say, ‘thank you’ to them for bringing it to your attention, apologize for offending them, don’t try and justify what you said or did, don’t tell them you think they are being a big overly sensitive baby… APOLOGIZE and then ask them to forgive you again.

6. Instead of waiting for the world to give you something, give something to the world. Go around and seek forgiveness. Make amends. If you think the world, or the people around you owe you something, you have offended someone somewhere, I guarantee it. Sit down and have a long chat with God. Begin by asking Him to show you where you said or did something offensive. You might be surprised by what he shows to you. Perhaps He will reveal that you are not so much eloquent as rude, boorish and vulgar.

7. Pray for those who have hurt you. Yes… REALLY!

Become aware of God, in whose presence y by John Climacus @ Like ...

 

It has been an overwhelming week. During all of what the world is going through, my own- albeit much smaller world, has been braving its own upheavals. The second mastectomy of a, Dear One in my life. I’ve been dealing with the fear she might not wake up from the anesthesia. Our parish priest of course had words of wisdom for me. Words though true are still hard to hear. Words I would not have heard uttered in the protestant world where everything is a war against which we must do battle. But too… there is acceptance. There is understanding that death is not the final answer, and what comes after death is the ultimate goal of every Christian… or at least it should be.

If eternity in the presence of God is your goal, give up a life of strife, anger, bitterness and hate;these things are sins. Embrace peace, prayer, forgiveness and repentance to name just a few things that will service you better than protesting and revenge.

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365 days later… almost

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

It has almost been a year since I came to investigate the Orthodox Christian church. I began my journey in September 2016 LINK.

My first blog post was not very wordy. In fact, it was a repost of a photo I had found talking about keeping a monastery in one’s heart.

The Dormition of Mary ends the Liturgical year for the Orthodox Christians. I have been a part of something amazing and I will remember this first year as being filled with struggles, the making of new friends, sorrows when a dear family member was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, answers to prayer, family coming to check out what I was up to and now one is to be baptized this Saturday. My nephew and husband both have visited my temple. My husband is still attending on Saturdays. I get to spend a lot of time with my sister talking about the Orthodox Way. She and I attend services together regularly. It is SUCH a huge blessing to be able to discuss what is going on with someone who is also experiencing Orthodoxy for the first time and loving it.

It has, and continues to be a struggle. It is a good struggle. Orthodoxy aligns with what is in the bible in regards to guarding ourselves against sin. It is what I have been looking for for the past 30 years. Yes… 30 years!

I became Orthodox so that I could be changed and I have been. I have removed from my blog two earlier posts written when I was still a Protestant. They no longer represent who I am or what I believe. Do you go to church hoping to change, ‘the establishment’? Or do you attend church, read your bible and pray hoping your heart will soften and you will be changed?

I still have a long way to go in my journey as a Christian. One thing I now realize is why people used to post on social media how thankful they were to have another day on earth. In the Orthodox Church, it is so that we can have another day to work on our sanctification.

lord's day quotes | Thank You LORD For Another Blessed Day!! | IT'S ...

I love when we sing, ‘Many Years’ in church!

1000+ images about Orthodox Christian stuff on Pinterest | Orthodox ...

I have learned about the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians!

Ethiopian Bible is oldest and most complete on earth / OrthoChristian ...
As a Protestant, I never knew they existed.

I learned that cave churches were not just holes in the mountain. They were, and still are beautiful and full of icons and murals.

These Mysterious Cave Churches And Monasteries Totally Rock | HuffPost

... orthodox christian, painting, religion, sumela, sümela monastery

I have learned that there is such a thing as Holy Fire and it is a bona fide miracle that happens EVERY Pascha!

holy sepulchre jerusalem holy fire 5-crop

I learned that Easter baskets originated with the Orthodox Church but we call them Pascha baskets.

lit from the holy fire as thousands gather in the church of the holy ...

I have learned about fasting…

orthodox christianity orthodox icons vegan recipes roman catholic cure ...

…and feasting!

Home Ce gatesc azi ? Retete de post Retete Mic Dejun Sfaturi bucatarie ...

I have learned about icons… SO many beautiful icons!

Why do Christians not Celebrate Jewish Feasts? – Departing Horeb

Presentation of the Holy Virgin into the Temple

I have learned about he prayer rope, the Jesus prayer, the blessing of the waters, confession & repentance, the lives of the ancient fathers and mothers, and so much more.

Prayer Ropes from St. Paisius Monastery

As much as I have learned, I still have so much more to understand.

On head covering

inheadcoveringdoc

I don’t know of any other topic in all of Christiandom that is more talked about… or misunderstood. If there is any other topic that elicits such a range of emotional response as head covering, I do not know what it would be.

Veiled Christian Women - YouTube

First of all there is the confusion as to its origin. When my nephew came to church HERE he asked, ‘What’s with the head coverings? Is that a Muslim thing?’. Sigh… no it is not a, ‘Muslim thing’. Islam did not come around until 300-400 years AFTER Christianity got its start at Pentecost. The origins of head covering are found in Judaism. Paul had been a Jewish leader before his conversion to Christianity. He had intimate knowledge of every law and custom. While some argue that head covering was a cultural standard for women in ancient times and not for women today, it does have a place in modern Christianity.

I began my research on head covering about 4-5 years ago. I had read a comment on a blog about how Christians pick and choose which bible verses they will follow, and if we were against some things because the bible said not to do them then why did we not do other things, such as head covering, which the bible tells us to do? While it is clear the individual who wrote that comment had no understanding of free will, it did get me thinking about head covering, and there began my journey.

At the beginning of this article you will find a link to an article on head covering written by a Jewish Rabbi. I hope it opens for you. It contains information I have never found on any Christian website or video that talks about head covering. Also, I cannot find this article any more on the Net. Maybe you can. I downloaded in onto my computer years ago and it is an invaluable tool. I believe one of the reasons why the bible verse about it is so confusing is because we lack the oral history that pertains to head covering. Because it is something that, Paul had to tell Christians to do, I think it would be a logical conclusion to say that it was not widely practice among pagans which would have been the primary converts to Christianity at the time Paul wrote to remind women to cover and why. Head covering, and the reasons why, would have been a part of daily life for Jewish women. Most of them would have known why they were to cover. Where scripture falls off about it, oral tradition would have carried on like a torch passed down from mother to daughter over centuries. Let’s take a look at the scripture, see what it has to say about head covering and then try to figure out why, Paul said nothing more in regards to covering ‘because of the angels’.

KANDYLAKI: AN EXEGESIS ON WOMEN’S HEAD COVERINGS

1 Corinthians 11:5-

5And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for it is just as if her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, let her hair be cut off. And if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man 8For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. 9Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10For this reason a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels…

Ok, Paul. What about the angels? I wonder if he left out details explaining about the need to cover, ‘because of angels’ because they were such a well known factor of everyday life at that time that what people needed to know was SO well known he had no need to expand upon his statement? I do see where science has convinced many people that such spiritual encounters are not what we should know them to be. We as Christians should be used to such things but many are still doubtful regarding spiritual encounters. They are dismissed or over looked. such things are explained away and if you believe in them then you are the odd ball. Clearly, Paul had personal experience and wise advice regarding angelic encounters. While the bible tells us that the kingdom of heaven is not about miracles, I do believe we would be wise in not dismissing spiritual encounters, or ignoring biblical advice on how to protect ourselves regarding unseen beings.

There is quite a bit being written about head covering. I personally believe that there is a great deal of confusion about it with most of the confusion centering around the verse pertaining to the angels. First let us clear up one important misconception about head covering… head covering is NOT about the oppression, and subjugation of women, by their husbands. Head covering is about revealing the God-given authority of women; to the world around them, their husbands, other men, and the angels.

Women have the right to pray and prophesy publicly. Their head covering shows those around them, seen and unseen beings, that they have been given this gift by God who protects them through their head covering. Yes, it is right for women to head cover when praying at home alone, but it is especially important for us to do so when in public. In his article, Ye’hosheba tells us that when Paul talks about the angels he is talking about good angels, and bad angels. The good angels see the woman praying with her head covered and listen all the more attentively to her prayers because they see her as a woman who understands her God-given authority. ‘She means business how can we help her more?’ Evil angels, those who are the minions of Satan, see a covered woman praying and avoid her. ‘This woman knows her authority! We cannot prevail against her she is too strong. Let us go find one who is weak (uncovered) and see if we can destroy her.’.

Ladies… head covering is a big deal. Do not allow anyone to talk you out of it or try to embarrass you because you practice this important, outward expression of your authority. Once, when I was still a Protestant groping in the dark and trying to figure out head covering, I wore my cover to church.  The pastor of that church did not pull me aside to discuss privately why I covered. Instead, he stood right in front of me and preached a sermon against the practice of covering. Subtle. I hold no grudge against him for it. What he did only served to help me find a place where the practice of head covering would be more readily accepted and encouraged. Hello Orthodox Christianity.

Head covering is part of the armor that I put on when I pray and worship. I would feel, ‘out of uniform’ and unprotected if I were to enter temple without it or pray uncovered. I have had many strange, and wonderful, experiences through head covering. Each one serving to solidify my understanding of the importance of covering.

My dear sisters in Christ, if you have been struggling with head covering you are not alone. If you would like to have a safe place where you can discuss the struggles of head covering, please consider joining this Yahoo group that I have created: OCWWC. I believe head covering can heal, empower, show leadership, and in many ways enrich the lives of women. It is uniquely our weapon given to us by God. So-much-so that even the priest must remove HIS head covering before carrying out certain rites and rituals during liturgy. Please, do not allow head covering to be the thing that trips you up as you walk out your sanctification.

God grant you many years!

Ebb and flow

... , Quadpartrite VRS, Orthodox Christian Icon - at Holy Trinity Store

One distinct difference between Protestants and Orthodox Christians is this; Orthodox Christians tend to meander, Protestants do not. Nothing is really ever rushed in Orthodox Churches… at least not that I have observed so far.

In the Orthodox church, there seems to be this deep connection & understanding of God being in charge and not needing our help at all… with anything. While many Protestants work themselves up into a frenzy through prayer and worship in the hopes of encountering God and influencing His decisions, the Orthodox seem to step back and have a ‘pray… wait & see’ attitude. This wait & see part has been, for me, an especially tough adjustment. While I have heard many Protestants talk about holding God accountable to the promises mentioned in the bible; Orthodox Christians realize that it is God who is sovereign and Who never forgets. Yes, there are promises from God to us in the bible, but how those promises are manifested, and when, is entirely up to God… not us. God IS good and His timing is perfect. We want what we want when we want it often forgetting, or more accurately refusing, to submit to God fully in all things.

My nephew and husband attended Gr. Vespers on Saturday. While I would have loved for them to have walked out committed catechumens with set dates for their baptisms, I realize those are the desires of my heart but that God takes each person on their own journey into the Orthodox Church and personal encounters with Him.

I am thankful that these two people who are so important to me were even at services. I will do my best to place them into the hands of God, step back, pray… not push.

If you have been doing more pushing than praying lately, why not take a step back and spend more time in front of icons and let God take over? His ways are better than our ways. He is good and He loves us.

Lord have mercy.

Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God

Commemorated on June 26

According to ancient tradition, the wonderworking icon of Tikhvin is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the fifth century, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.

In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the (Muslims) Turks, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod the Great witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amid a radiant light. According to an early sixteenth century Russian manuscript, “The Tale of Miracles of the Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God,” the Theotokos herself decided that her image should leave Constantinople, perhaps in anticipation of the impending fall of the Byzantine Empire.

Shortly after its miraculous appearance, the icon was discovered in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin. A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was built on the site of the icon’s final resting place. Miraculously, the icon survived a number of fires.

In the early sixteenth century, through the zeal of Great Prince Basil Ivanovich, a stone church was built to replace the original wooden structure. In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church and enclosed with a stone wall.

In 1613-1614, the Swedish army, having seized Novgorod, made several attempts to destroy the monastery. The countless prayers offered to the Theotokos before the icon were heard, and the monastery was spared. On one occasion, after monks had been alerted to the approaching Swedish army, they decided to flee and to take the icon with them. But the monks soon discovered that they could not remove the icon from its shrine. Seeing this as a sign of the Theotokos’ protection, the monks decided not to abandon the monastery, begging the Theotokos to spare them and their beloved spiritual home. To their amazement, a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery.

When the Swedes encountered the army, they retreated immediately. Word of this miracle spread rapidly, and imperial emissaries soon visited the monastery. Accompanied by a copy of the wonderworking icon, they set off for the village of Stolbovo, 33 miles from Tikhvin, where they concluded a peace treaty with the Swedes on February 10, 1617. Afterwards, the copy of the icon was taken to Moscow and enshrined in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Later, the same icon was placed in the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in Novgorod at the request of the city’s faithful, who also found themselves under attack by the Swedes. Once again, through the intercession of the Theotokos, the city was spared.

Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide. Copies of the wonderworking icon began to adorn churches throughout the land. Some of these copies also proved to be sources of miracles, and it was not uncommon to find the faithful praying before the icon to seek healing for children who were ill.

No fewer than 24 processions with the icon were celebrated each year at the Tikhvin Monastery, where the icon was enshrined. A decorative cover, or “riza,” adorned the icon, exposing only the faces and hands of the Holy Virgin and Christ child. Numerous precious stones studded the riza, and many of the faithful, desiring to express thanksgiving for prayers answered through the Theotokos’ intercession, affixed precious jewelry to the riza.

Most miraculous is the fact that the icon was preserved from destruction or sale after the Russian Revolution, which ushered in a 74-year persecution of the Church. During the 1920s, the communist government demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church turn over countless icons and other precious liturgical items, which through the nationalization of private property were considered the property of “the people.” Many of these sacred items were sold, allegedly to raise money to feed the Russian and Ukrainian population which was afflicted by famine.

During the World War II German occupation, the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery, from where it was taken to Pskov and subsequently to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. While Soviet agents had spotted the icon, Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Bishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. After his retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday in 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.

The icon began its year-long journey to Russia at the 99th annual Pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, May 23-26, 2003. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, together with members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and guest hierarchs, greeted the icon, which was available for veneration by the faithful.

The icon follows the “Hodigitria” model and is similar in style to the ancient Iveron icon of Our Lady. It differs in that the Christ child’s legs are crossed, while the sole of His foot is turned to the viewer. Several historic sources note that several other Hodigitria icons of the Theotokos had been brought to Russia in the 1380s, during the rule of the saintly prince Demetrius Donskoy.

— Archpriest John Matusiak