Honoring the Blessed
"All creatures, the assembly of Angels
the human race rejoice in You, O Blessed
From the early times of Christianity, the
Blessed Virgin Mary, because of Her great virtues, Her help
to the needy, and Her preeminent role in God's plan for the
salvation of mankind, held a distinct position of admiration
and love among Christians.
The honoring of the Holy Virgin began from
the time when the Archangel Gabriel greeted Her with the words:
"Rejoice, O Blessed One, the Lord is with Thee! Blessed
art Thou among women!" announcing to Her the mystery
of the conception of the Son of God. A few days later with
the words "Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb," the
righteous Elizabeth saluted the pure Virgin. St. Luke explains
in his Gospel that the Holy Spirit revealed to Elizabeth that
Mary had become the Mother of the Lord, the promised Savior
of mankind (Luke 1:28-42).
The Orthodox Church expresses reverence toward
the Blessed Virgin by the many feast days commemorating the
various events in Her life. In prayers the Virgin Mary is
called Theotokos, which in Greek means the Mother of God,
since the One Who was born from Her was at the time of conception
and always will be the true God.
Many Christian preachers and poets composed
prayers, songs of praise (called Akathists) (from the Greek,
meaning not-sitting) and inspirational sermons in honor of
the Virgin Mary. With all this reverence for the Blessed Virgin
Mary, Theotokos, it is consoling and enlightening to learn
how she lived, how she prepared herself, and how she blossomed
to such a spiritual height as to become the receptacle for
the incarnate Word of God.
Several prophecies of the Old Testament foretold
of the incarnation of the Son of God and of the blessed Woman
who would become a tool for the salvation of mankind. The
very first promise concerning the Redeemer, heard by our fallen
ancestors Adam and Eve, contained a prophecy about a special
Woman. God said to the devil: "I shall put enmity between
thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and Her Seed"
(Genesis 3:15). It should be noted that during the time of
the Old Testament the progeny were always called the seed
or descendent of a male parent. Only here is the Redeemer-to-Come
referred to as the Seed of the Woman, and this was the first
indication that He would have no human father. Many centuries
afterward the prophet Isaiah added important details to this
first prophecy of Genesis. He said that the Woman, Who will
give birth to the Messiah-Emmanuel, will be a virgin. "God
Himself shall give you a sign," explained the prophet
Isaiah to the disbelieving descendants of king David, —
"the Virgin shall accept into her womb and bear a Son,
and shall name Him Emmanuel, which means: God is with us"
(Isaiah 7:14). Even though the word "Virgin" did
not seem right to the ancient Hebrews, since a birth without
fail conjectured conjugal cohabitation, they did not dare
to substitute another more "appropriate" word, for
example, "woman." Another important message in the
prophecy of Isaiah about the coming Messiah is that He will
be God Himself. Hence the title Theotokos — "birth-giver
of God" — given to the Virgin Mary by the ancient
The Life of the
As we know from early Christian writings,
the Apostle Luke the Evangelist personally knew the Virgin
Mary and based several chapters of His Gospel on Her recollections.
He even quoted Her exact words several times. He was a physician
and an artist, and because of his affection for Her, he painted
Her portrait, from which later icon painters made copies.
The Birth of the Most Holy Virgin Mary. As
time drew near for the Redeemer of the world to be born, there
lived in the town of Nazareth, in Galilee, a man by the name
of Joachim with his wife Anna. Joachim was a direct descendant
of King David but lived a very modest and simple life. Both
he and his wife were God-fearing people and were known for
their humility and compassion. They never had children and,
being very aged, had little chance at having any. However,
not willing to despair, they continued to ask God to send
them a child. They even made a vow that if they had an infant,
they would dedicate that child to the service of God. At that
time, to be childless meant to be punished by God for sins.
Childlessness was especially difficult for Joachim since,
according to prophecy, the Messiah-Christ was to be born into
his family line. Owing to their patience and faith, the Lord
finally sent them a great joy: Anna had a daughter. The newborn
child was given the name of Mary, which means in Hebrew "Mistress-Hope."
Presentation to the Temple. When the Virgin
Mary became three years old, Her God-fearing parents prepared
themselves to carry out their vow: they took Her to the temple
in Jerusalem in order to consecrate Her to God. Mary was left
to stay at the temple, in a special school for girls. There
She, with the other maidens, was taught the Law of God as
well as handiwork. She prayed and read the Scriptures. The
Blessed Virgin lived at the temple for approximately eleven
years and grew up to be deeply pious and obedient to Him,
as well as very modest and industrious. Willing only to serve
God, She gave a vow to never marry and to remain forever a
The Holy Virgin Mary at Joseph's. Since Joachim
and Anna were in advanced old age, they did not live for long
after Her presentation to the temple, and the Virgin Mary
was left an orphan. When She reached Her fourteenth birthday,
according to the law, She could no longer stay at the temple
and had to wed. The High Priest, being aware of Her vow but
reluctant to violate the law of marriage, formally betrothed
Her to a distant relative of Hers, the widowed octogenarian
Joseph, who promised to care for her and protect her virginity.
Joseph lived in the town of Nazareth and also came from the
lineage of King David. He was not a wealthy man and worked
as a carpenter. Joseph had children from his first marriage:
Judah, Simon, James (the Lesser) and Joses (Matthew 13:55),
whom the Gospels refer to as "brethren" of Jesus.
The Virgin Mary led as modest and solitary a life in the home
of Joseph as She did in the temple.
The Annunciation. During Her first year in
the house of Joseph, about six months after the appearance
of the Angel Gabriel to Zacharias (see Luke 1:8-25), as the
birth of the prophet John the Baptist was approaching, the
forenamed Angel was sent by God into the town of Nazareth
to the Holy Virgin with the joyous news that the Lord had
chosen Her to become the Mother of the Savior of the world.
The Angel, having appeared, told Her, "Rejoice, O Blessed
One! (literally, "filled with grace") The Lord is
with Thee! Blessed art Thou amongst women." Mary was
puzzled by the words of the Angel and unsure what this greeting
was supposed to mean. The Angel continued by saying to Her:
"Fear not, Mary, for Thou hast found favor with God.
And therefore, Thou wilt bear a Son and shalt name Him Jesus.
He shall be great and shall be known as the Son of the Most-high,
and to His Kingdom there shall be no end." Still puzzled,
Mary asked the Angel: "How can that be, since I know
not a man?" The Angel replied that this would be accomplished
by the power of the omnipotent God: "The Holy Spirit
shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Most-high shall
overshadow Thee; therefore, accordingly, that Holy One which
shall be born of Thee shall be called the Son of God. Your
relative, Elizabeth, not having had any offspring till her
very old age, shall soon give birth to a son; for with God
nothing shall be impossible." Then Mary humbly answered,
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according
to thy word" (Luke 1:26-38). After this reply the Holy
Spirit descended upon Mary, and She conceived the Word of
God. Thus, in the most modest circumstances happened the greatest
miracle in the life of mankind! Here the Infinite joined the
finite; the Light, unapproachable to Angels, descended into
the Virgin's womb!
In discussing this Angelic appearance, the
Fathers of the Church underline the wisdom of the young Mary.
She was careful not to accept Gabriel's message in haste,
remembering what happened to Eve when she believed the serpent.
Although God decided to make the Virgin Mary the Mother of
the Savior, He wanted Her voluntary consent because He never
overpowers or disregards the gift of free will that He gave
Visiting the righteous Elizabeth. Having
heard that her relative Elizabeth, the wife of the priest
Zacharias, would soon bear a son, Mary hastened to visit her.
On entering the house, She saluted Elizabeth. Upon hearing
Mary's voice, Elizabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit,
recognized Mary to be worthy to become the Mother of the Lord.
She cried out aloud and said: "Blessed art Thou among
women, and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb! And from whence
is such happiness for me, that the Mother of my Lord should
come to me?"
The Virgin Mary, in answer to Elizabeth's
greeting, glorified God with the following words: "My
soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in
God my savior. For He hath regarded the low estate of His
handmaiden: for behold from henceforth all generations shall
call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great
things; and Holy is His name. And His mercy is on them that
fear him from generation to generation" (Luke 1:46-50).
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then
returned to Nazareth.
When the righteous, aged Joseph learned that
Mary was expecting a child, he was scandalized, assuming that
something had gone very wrong. Jewish law required unfaithful
wives to be mercilessly stoned. But God revealed to Joseph
not to be afraid of what had happened and to be kind to Mary.
The Angel of God appeared to Joseph in his sleep and told
him that Mary would bear a Son through the action of the Holy
Spirit, just as the Lord God had predicted through the prophet
Isaiah (Is 7:14) and the Angel commanded Joseph to give Him
the name "Jesus" Savior — because He shall
save people from their sins.
The subsequent Evangelical narratives mention
the Virgin Mary in conjunction with the events in the life
of Her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, they speak of Her
in connection with the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, then
His circumcision, the worship of the Magi, the offering brought
to the temple on the 40th day, the flight into Egypt, settling
in Nazareth, traveling to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover
when He reached His twelfth birthday, and so forth. We will
not dwell on those events here. It should be noted that though
the Evangelical references to the Virgin Mary are concise,
they give the reader a clear comprehension of Her great moral
eminence: Her humility, great faith, patience, courage, obedience
to God, love and dedication to Him, and devotion to Her Divine
Son. From these incidental but characteristic references we
see why, in the words of the Angel, She became worthy "to
attain favor from God."
The first miracle performed by Jesus Christ,
at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, gives us an insight
into the great kindness of His Mother and into Her influence
on Her Son. These qualities made Her a powerful intercessor
for all Christians, especially for those who suffer or are
oppressed. Having noticed a shortage of wine at the wedding
feast, the Blessed Virgin drew the attention of Her Son to
that fact, and though the Lord answered Her cryptically "What
is it to Me and You Woman? My hour has not yet come,"
She was not discouraged by this rebuke, being sure that Her
Son would not ignore Her plea. She told the servants: "Whatever
He tells you, do this." As can be seen from this forewarning
to the servants, this undertaking would come to a favorable
Indeed, Her intercession drew divine intervention
to an event in the life of a poor, little-known family. Thus
happened the first miracle of Jesus, after which "His
disciples believed in Him" (John 2:11).
The Gospels depict the Mother of God as having
constant concern for Her Son, following Him in His journeys,
always ready to help Him at any time, caring for His well-being
and tranquility at home, which He always refused to take advantage
of. Finally, we see Her standing in indescribable grief by
the Cross of Her Crucified Son, hearing His final words and
commandments, entrusting Her care to His beloved pupil. Not
a word of reproach or despair left Her lips. She conceded
all to the will of God. This was the time of Her supreme greatness.
Again, briefly, there is mention of the Virgin
Mary in the Acts of the Holy Apostles when, upon Her as well
as the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit
descended in the form of fiery tongues. After that, according
to tradition, She lived some 10 to 20 years. Fulfilling the
Lord's will, the Apostle John the Theologian, author of the
fourth Gospel, took Her into his home, and with great love,
as if being Her own son, he cared for Her till Her very end.
When the Christian faith spread to other countries, many Christians
came from far off countries to see and hear Her. From that
time the Most Holy Virgin Mary became a mother to all of Christ's
pupils and a high example of virtue.
The Dormition (called the Assumption by the
Roman-Catholic church). Once, as the Holy Virgin prayed on
the Mount of Olives (near Jerusalem), the Angel Gabriel appeared
to Her, as he had the first time in Nazareth, holding in his
hand a branch with a white flower from Paradise, and announced
to Her that in three days Her earthly life would come to an
end and that the Lord would take Her to Him. The Lord arranged
it so that toward that time the Apostles congregated in Jerusalem
from the many parts of the world where they were preaching.
At the hour of Her end, a bright light illuminated the room
in which the Virgin Mary was lying. The Lord Jesus Christ
Himself, surrounded by Angels, appeared and received Her most
pure soul. The Apostles buried Her holy body, according to
Her wish, at the foot of the Mount of Olives in the Garden
of Gethsemane, in the cave where reposed the bodies of her
parents and of the righteous Joseph. During the burial, many
miracles came to pass. By touching the bier of the Mother
of God, the blind regained their sight, demons were exorcised,
and many diseases were cured.
Three days after the burial of the Theotokos,
there arrived belatedly the Apostle Thomas, who had missed
the burial. He was very distraught at not having paid his
last respects to the Mother of Jesus and wished to see Her
body for the last time. When the cave in which the Virgin
Mary was buried was opened, Her body was not found, but only
Her burial clothes. The Apostles returned to their home in
amazement. In the evening during their prayers, they heard
Angels singing. Glancing upward, the Apostles saw the Most
Holy Virgin surrounded by Angels, in radiant heavenly glory.
She said to the Apostles: "Rejoice! I am with you for
all the days and nights."
She has been fulfilling this promise to help
and defend Christians to the present day, having become our
heavenly Mother. For Her great love and all-powerful help,
Christians always have honored Her and turned to Her for help,
appealing to Her as the "Fervent intercessor for the
Christian race, the Joy of all those who grieve, Who did not
abandon us after Her Dormition." From these earliest
times, following the example of the prophet Isaiah and the
righteous Elizabeth, all Christians began to address Her as
the Mother of God or Theotokos, and this title was confirmed
during the Third Ecumenical Council (431 AD) in Ephesus.
The Most Holy Virgin Mary serves as great
example to all those who are striving for perfection. She
was the first who decided to dedicate Her whole life to God
and who showed that voluntary virginity is higher than wedded
life. From the first centuries, in emulating Her and Her Son
and other prophets and apostles, many Christians began to
pass their life in virginity, prayer, fasting, meditation
and contemplation. Thus, the monastic life arose, and there
appeared many monasteries which became sources of inspiration
for a pious life and spiritual wisdom. Unfortunately, the
present ungodly world does not appreciate and even sometimes
ridicules the advancement of virginity, disregarding the words
of the Lord: "For there are eunuchs who were born thus
from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made
eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves
eunuchs (virgins) for the kingdom of heaven's sake."
To this the Lord added this very unambiguous directive: "He
who is able to accept it, let him accept it" (Matthew
In reviewing the earthly life of the Theotokos,
it is essential to emphasize that, just as at the moment of
Her greatest glory, when She was chosen to become the Mother
of the Savior, as well as at the hour of Her greatest grief,
by the prophecy of the righteous Simon, as She stood at the
foot of the Cross when "a weapon pierced Her soul,"
She displayed complete self-control and faith in God. In all
events, big or small, She invariably manifested the strength
and beauty of Her virtues: humility, perseverance, patience,
courage, hope in the Lord and unbounded love for Him! That
is why we Christians hold Her in such high esteem and want
to emulate Her.
Contemporary Apparitions of
the Mother of God
From the very first days after Her Dormition
to the present time, the Most Holy Virgin has been giving
succor to Christians. This belief is substantiated by accounts
of Her appearances and especially by the multitude of miracles
performed by Her icons. We shall mention here some of Her
apparitions and miraculous icons.
Protection of the Holy Virgin. This feast
was established in remembrance of Her apparition during the
siege of Constantinople [Istanbul] in the middle of the 9th
century. The Slavs [Variags], at that time pagans surrounded
the city of Constantinople by sea and land with a huge army.
Christians inside the city rushed to their churches with prayers
for divine help. A beggar in the city, Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ's-sake,
was in the church of Vlahern praying all night with many other
Christians. In the fourth hour of the night, the Saint saw
a majestic Woman, the Virgin Mary, coming forth above the
royal gates (in the middle of the sanctuary) accompanied by
John the Baptist, John the Theologian, and many saints, some
preceding and some following Her, singing hymns and praying.
Saint Andrew approached his pupil Epiphanius and asked if
he also saw the Queen of the world. "I see Her and tremble,"
answered the latter. And while they looked, She stood above
of the sanctuary and prayed for a long time.
Then the Virgin Mary removed Her veil and
spread it over the church and the city. Saint Andrew told
the people about this apparition of the Holy Virgin. Encouraged,
they made a procession along the walls of the city and submerged
in the sea an icon of the Virgin Mary. A few hours afterward
a great storm arose and destroyed most of the enemy ships.
The Slavs who survived retreated, and the town was saved.
From that time many Slavs started to convert to Christianity.
Saint Andrew by birth was also a Slav. Perhaps explains why
Russians so greatly honor this appearance of the Mother of
God to him and dedicate to this miracle the feast of the Protection
of the Holy Virgin, which is celebrated each year on October
The information that follows regarding other
appearances of the Mother of God is drawn from foreign publications.
Our Church has not as yet voiced its opinion on these events,
and we cite them here simply as supplemental information.
Fatima, Portugal. On March 13, 1917, not
long before the revolution in Russia, the Virgin Mary, surrounded
by a radiance, appeared in Fatima, Portugal, to three shepherd
children. For several months She continued to appear to the
children, and at one of Her appearances five to eighteen thousand
people convened from all parts of Portugal. An unforgettable
miracle occurred when, after a torrential rain, unexpectedly
there came an unusual light, and in an instant the people's
soaked clothes became dry. The Virgin Mary was summoning the
people to prayer and foretold the forthcoming conversion of
Russia from godlessness to faith in God. The Roman Catholic
Church later interpreted Her words as foretelling the conversion
of Russia to Catholicism. However, this was not what the Virgin
said. Now, as the Russian people turn back to God and to their
Orthodox faith, we are witnessing the fulfillment of this
Egypt. For more than a year from April 2,
1968, the Virgin Mary appeared in Zeitun, a suburb of Cairo,
above a church dedicated to Her name. Her appearances, which
usually occurred between midnight and five in the morning,
attracted a multitude of worshipers. The Mother of God was
surrounded by radiance as bright as the sun, and around Her
there hovered white doves. Soon all of Egypt heard of the
appearances of the Mother of God, and the government became
concerned that these public gatherings at the site of Her
appearances should proceed in an orderly fashion. The local
papers wrote in Arabic about these apparitions of the Holy
Virgin, and several press-conferences were held about them,
during which people shared their impressions regarding what
they had heard from Her. The Mother of God also visited individuals
in the suburbs of Cairo, such as the Coptic patriarch who
was skeptical of Her appearing to the people. During the appearances
of the Mother of God there occurred many cures that were confirmed
by local doctors.
The Washington Post on July 5th, 1968, wrote
of additional appearances of the Theotokos over the Church
of St. Damian, in the industrial area of Terra Gulaki, north
of Cairo. The Virgin Mary was seen holding the infant Jesus
in Her arms, and accompanying Her were several saints, among
them St. Damian. As elsewhere, Her appearances were accompanied
by many cures of incurable diseases: blindness, kidney and
heart diseases and many others.
Medjugorje, Yugoslavia. From June of 1981
the Virgin Mary started to appear on a hill in Medjugorje.
At these appearances there sometimes congregated as many as
ten thousand people. Many saw Her surrounded by unearthly
radiance. Then the appearances to the public stopped, and
the Blessed Virgin began to appear regularly to six young
people, speaking to them. Italian and other newspapers described
these events, and Medjugorje became a place of constant pilgrimage
by the faithful from all parts of the world. Our Lady slowly
disclosed to the young people 10 mysteries, which they must
impart to church representatives in due course. The Holy Virgin
promised that on the third day after revealing Her last mystery
She will leave a visible "sign" for the faithful.
Representatives of the medical world and other highly-respectable
people testify that the young people who have been seeing
the Blessed Virgin were absolutely normal, and that their
outward reactions to these appearances were natural. Often,
the Virgin Mary, while weeping, told the young people of the
necessity to establish peace on the earth: "Peace, peace!
The earth will not be saved until peace is established over
it. It will happen only when people find God. The Lord means
life. Those who have sound belief in Him will attain life
and peace… Christians have forgotten prayer and fasting."
It is interesting to note that in Medjugorje, where atheism
had predominated and where there were a lot of communist party
members, most of the Medjugorjians became believers and renounced
communism. Also in conjunction with the apparitions of the
Mother of God in Medjugorje, there occurred many miraculous
Lvov, Ukraine. At Easter 1985 in the town
of Lvov, during the celebration of the Liturgy by the Metropolitan
John at the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Mary, in view of
a great throng of faithful there suddenly appeared through
the window pane a cloud as bright as a ray of sunlight. It
slowly took the shape of a human form, and all acknowledged
it to be the Holy Virgin. In a spiritual impulse, the people
started to pray aloud and call upon Her for help. People standing
outside also saw in the window the image of the Holy Virgin
Mary and tried to enter and prayed aloud. The throng kept
increasing as news of the miracle spread with the speed of
lightning. All efforts of the militia to disperse those praying
were in vain. People started to come from Kiev, the Pochayevskaya
Lavra, Moscow, Tbilisi and other towns. The governor of Lvov
requested that Moscow send some experts to investigate what
was going on. The scholars began to argue that there were
no miracles so that the people should disperse. Suddenly the
Blessed Virgin spoke: "Pray; repent from your sins, since
there is little time left …" After this She cured
many cripples and sick. The vision of the Virgin Mary and
the cures continued for three and a half weeks, and She spoke
much on the salvation of mankind, as the people remained there
day and night.
Some Miraculous Icons of
the Blessed Virgin Mary
It is customary to name the miraculous icons
of the Virgin Mary according to the towns in which they originated.
The Vladimirskaya Icon is one of the most
ancient miraculous icons of the Mother of God. In the middle
of the 5th century the Icon was transported from Jerusalem
to Constantinople, and in the middle of the 12th century it
was sent by the patriarch to Kiev, to the Grand Duke Yury
Dolgoruky, and was placed in the Dievichy monastery in Vyshgorod.
In 1155 Prince Andrew of Vyshgorod, when traveling to the
North, took with him the miraculous Icon of the Blessed Virgin.
On the way, there were held short divine services praising
the Lord (Te Deums), and miracles occurred. On the banks of
the Klyazma river the steeds carrying the Icon could not move.
The prince called that place Bogolubov, that is, Beloved by
God, and built there two stone churches, into one of which
the Icon was placed. On September 21, 1160, the Icon was transferred
into the church at Vladimir, and from then on it has been
known as the "Vladimirskaya." Since 1395 the Icon
has been located in the Uspensky Cathedral in Moscow, to the
left of the royal gates. The Icon became famous due to many
miracles performed. Before this Icon Russian tsars were anointed
as rulers, and metropolitans were appointed. The feast day
of the Icon is celebrated on August 26/September 8, as well
as on May 21/June 3 in honor of the liberation of Moscow in
1521 from its bondage to the Crimean Khan.
The Icon of Kazan. In 1579, a nine-year-old
girl by the name of Matrona, whose parents' house burned down
during the 1579 fire in Kazan, saw in a dream the image of
the Blessed Virgin Mary and heard a voice commanding her to
retrieve a holy Icon hidden in the ashes of the burned house.
The holy Icon was discovered wrapped in an old cloth under
the stove, where it was buried, most likely during the rule
of the Tartars when Christians were forced to conceal their
faith. The holy Icon was triumphantly transported to the nearest
church, the Church of St. Nicholas, and later to the Cathedral
of the Annunciation, where it received renown for curing the
blind. A copy was made of the Icon and sent to the tsar, Ivan
the Terrible. In honor of its arrival, a special feast day
was established on the July 8/21.
The Icon of Znamenia, which means "The
Sign," also known as the Icon of Kursk. It was found
on September 8, 1295, by a hunter at the root of a tree on
the bank of the Tuskor River in the province of Kursk. When
he took the Icon in his hands, a spring of water came from
under the tree. The hunter built a chapel near the tree and
placed the Icon therein. From that time the Icon began to
perform many miracles. In 1383 the Tartars of the Crimea,
devastating the province, cut the Icon into two parts and
threw them into opposite directions. They took as prisoner
the priest Bogolyub, who performed the services in the chapel.
Having been redeemed by the envoys of the Grand Duke of Moscow,
Bogolyub found the split pieces of the Icon, joined them,
and miraculously they grew together. In 1597 the Icon was
brought to Moscow by the will of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich. In
view of the return of the holy relic, a monastery was founded
which was given the name of the Root Hermitage. Since the
time of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the Icon has been encased
in a cypress board, with the portrayal of the Lord Sabaoth
above and of Prophets on the sides.
In 1612 the Icon miraculously saved Kursk
from being captured by the Poles. The grateful inhabitants
built the monastery of Znamenie, into which the Icon was brought
every year and stayed from the 12th of September until the
Friday of the 9th week of Easter. The rest of the time it
remained at the Hermitage.
On March 7, 1898 the Icon remained unharmed
during an attempt by revolutionaries to blow it up in the
cathedral of the Znamensky monastery. After midnight a bomb
placed under the Icon went off with a terrible noise. Everything
around was torn apart and scattered. Only the Icon remained
intact. During the revolution the Icon was also stolen in
April of 1918, but was miraculously found in a well several
months later. Finally the Icon was taken from Russia in 1920
by Bishop Theophan of Kursk and placed in Holy Trinity Church
in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. This Holy Image rendered great assistance
when Belgrade was bombarded during the Second World War. Bombs
never fell on the houses visited by the Icon, although they
destroyed the surrounding areas. Presently the Icon resides
in the Znamenia Cathedral in New York City, though from time
to time it is taken to different temples of the Russian Orthodox
Church Abroad for adoration. Every year numerous healings
continue to flow from this Holy Icon.
The Weeping Icons. During the past 100 to
150 years there have appeared several Icons of the Blessed
Virgin Mary with flowing tears. These miraculous events most
probably point to the grief the Virgin Mary feels toward mankind
at the approach of the antichrist.
In February of 1854, in the Romanian Orthodox
monastery of Sokol, one of the Icons of the Blessed Virgin
Mary began to weep. This miracle coincided with the Crimean
war in Russia and drew thousands of pilgrims daily. The weeping
sometimes occurred every day, and sometimes at intervals of
2 to 3 days.
In March of 1960, a lithograph of the Icon
of the Virgin Mary, known as that of the "Passion,"
that belonged to a Greek Orthodox family from Long Island,
New York, began to weep. When the Icon was transported to
the Cathedral of St. Paul, white doves hovered above the Icon.
The paper on which the Icon was imprinted became wrinkled
from the copious flow of the tears. At times the tears appeared
bloody, and pious pilgrims pressed pieces of cotton to the
Icon to take home and apply to the ill. Shortly afterward
a lithograph of the Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Iveron
that belonged to another Greek Orthodox family in that same
area also began to flow tears. These two weeping Icons drew
a great number of praying people, and both local and foreign
papers have described the great number of miracles emanating
from them. One of the Icons has been examined by scientists
in order to determine the origin of this fountain of tears,
and scholars at the University of British Columbia confirmed
the fact that the tears did flow but could not explain this
from a scientific point of view (Orthodox Life, 1960, n. 8,
On December 6, 1986, the Icon of the Blessed
Virgin Mary on the altar screen in the Albanian Church of
St. Nicholas the Complaisant, in Chicago, began to weep. This
miracle has been attracting up to five thousand people to
the church who wished to see this miraculous Icon with their
own eyes. The weeping Icon was painted 23 years ago by a Manhattan
painter by the name of Constantine Yussis. A specially gathered
committee confirmed that "there could be no explanation
of this enigma."
The Myrrh-Pouring Icon. An Orthodox Chilean
by the name of Joseph (Jose), who had been living on Mount
Athos since 1981, saw in a monastery a copy of the Iveron
Icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary and wished to own it. At first
he received a refusal; then unexpectedly the abbot handed
the image over to him with the words: "Take it, this
Icon must go with you!" Joseph brought the Icon to Montreal.
On November 24, 1982, at 3 o'clock in the morning, Joseph's
room was filled with a wondrous fragrance: on the surface
of the Icon appeared drops of wondrously fragrant myrrh. The
Archbishop Vitaly of Canada, now Metropolitan and Chief Hierarch
of the Russian Church Abroad, offered to bring the Icon to
the Russian cathedral in Montreal. Since then the Icon has
Russian Orthodox churches in several countries. Sometimes
during services attended by multitudes, the myrrh appeared
not only on the icon itself, but on the outer surface of the
glass, before the eyes of those praying, and even starting
to drip on the floor, filling the church with a wondrous fragrance.
It is remarkable that each year during Passion Week the Holy
myrrh would stop flowing from the Icon and then resume its
flow after Easter. The Icon was responsible for many wondrous
Tragically, on October 31, 1997 while in
Athens, Greece, Joseph was murdered and the icon mysteriously
disappeared. A copy of this icon resides in St. John the Baptist
Cathedral in Washington, DC.
It is impossible to enumerate here all the
miraculous icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After the revolution
in Russia many ancient
cons began to restore themselves (become
shining, as if newly painted). On occasion, in front of a
person's eyes, old and dark icons have lightened as if new.
There are thousands of such self-restored icons. The faithful
saw in these miracles signs of the forthcoming spiritual revival
Miracles and apparitions do not occur without
cause. Most likely the miraculous apparitions of the Virgin
Mary are meant to awaken our faith in God and a sense of repentance.
Unfortunately, many in our day have become deaf to spiritual
subjects, are turning their back to God, and choose a pagan
way of life. But we, Orthodox Christians, should always remember
our Heavenly Mother, our Intercessor at the Lord's Altar,
and ask Her guidance and protection. O most holy Theotokos,
Prayers to the Virgin
Virgin Mary, our most gracious Queen and
our hope; shelter of orphans, and protector of travelers,
joy of the grieving, interceder for the abused! See our distress;
see our affliction. Assist us, for we are helpless; direct
us, for we are strangers. You know our offense, — ease
it as You will. For we have no other help but Yours; no other
intercessor, nor gracious consoler but You. O Virgin Mary.
Protect us and shelter us for all time. Amen.
Troparion: It is truly meet to bless Thee,
O Theotokos, the ever blessed and most immaculate, and the
Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and more
glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Thee, who without
defilement gavest birth to God the Word, the true Mother of
God, we magnify Thee.
Vesper's Troparion: Theotokos Virgin! Rejoice
Blessed Mary, the Lord is with You! Blessed are You among
women, and blessed is the Fruit of Your womb, because You
gave birth to the Savior of our souls.
Some feast days in honor of the Blessed Virgin
Mary: Annunciation – March 25/April 7; Dormition –
August 15/28; Birth – September 8/21; Holy Protection
– October 1/14; Presentation to the Temple – November