The Kazan Icon “Of the Seven Lakes”

Dear brothers and sisters, in addition to being the feast of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, today is also the feast of the Seven Lakes Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. The photograph is of one of my favourite cell-icons.

 Its origin story relates that near the end of the 1500s, a fellow named Evfimiy was born to a poor family.   Being a pious individual, he went to live in a monastery.  When his parents died, he inherited an icon of the “Smolensk” type from them, which he took with him to the region of Kazan.  He eventually settled in a secluded place many miles from the city.  It was surrounded by seven lakes.  There he eventually founded a monastery.

Though some time later he went to live in the Metropolitan’s house in Kazan, he nonetheless continued to guide the monastic community he had begun, and he also decided to give up his inherited “Smolensk” icon to the Seven Lakes monastic community.  The wooden church at the monastic site was eventually replaced by a stone church, and the “Smolensk” icon was placed in it, on the left side of the Royal Doors that led to the altar.

In June of 1654, there was a severe plague in Kazan, and people were dying.  It was decided to send the Seven Lakes – Sedmiezernaya – “Smolensk” icon to the city. 

It is said that a nun had a vision in her sleep, in which a shining old man who looked like St. Nicholas appeared to her, telling her that the people of Kazan should fast for a week and repent, and that the Mother of God was coming to the city to save the people from the plague. 

The nun did not do as she was told, so the old man appeared to her when she next slept, scolding her.  Finally, she went to the city officials and reported her vision.   According to tradition, all the citizens of the city went out, carrying their own “Kazan” icon, to formally meet and welcome the Sedmiezernaya icon some two miles from the city, where they fell to their knees and prayed for “her” help in ending the plague.

It is said the plague subsided when the icon was carried in procession around the city of Kazan.  The city eventually returned the icon to the Seven Lakes Monastery, but again in 1656 there was a plague in Kazan, so the icon was brought back to Kazan, and again the plague subsided.  After that, it became the custom to bring the icon from the Seven Lakes Monastery to the city of Kazan each year, when it would leave the monastery on June 25th and be brought into the city in a formal procession on June 26th (July 9, New Style).

The “Seven Lakes” Icon is also commemorated on July 28 and October 13.

Never, O Mother of God, will we cease to speak of thy powers, unworthy as we are. For if thou didst not intercede in prayer, who would have delivered us from so many dangers? Who would have kept us free until now? Let us never forsake thee, our Lady, for thou ever savest thy servants from all perils.



Celebrating the Yaroslavskaya Icon of the Mother of God

Today we celebrate the feast of the Yaroslavskaya Icon of the most Holy Mother of God, one of the “Umilenie” of “Tenderness” icons that are so loved in the Slavic lands.

This was the first wonderworking icon of the Mother of God revealed during the Tatar-Mongol yoke, and was brought from Kiev to Yaroslavl soon after the invasion of Batu Khan by the holy right-believing Princes Basil and Constantine (July 3).

As we stand or kneel before the icon, we encounter the Virgin’s deep love and care for the Infant-Saviour, as she holds Him close to her – though her face shows reflective inner thought rather than looking at the Child or at us. The Saviour touches His mother’s face, focusing on her as he holds the hem of her robe with his other hand.

This is a perfect icon of the sacred motherhood and love of the Mother of God, to whom we turn in prayer, particularly asking her maternal care for  the Archpriest Yves, the Subdeacon Peter, Gennady, Alexey, Valery, Irina, Anastasia, Fidelmia, Anamieka, Phoevos, Mary-Louisa, Mairi, Ruth-Silouana, the infant Lawrence, Susan and all who are sick- and for all refugees from Ukraine, who like her holy icon have fled from their homeland to escape war and bloodshed.

Save thy servants from harm, O Theotokos, for all we, after God, flee unto thee, as to an unassailable wall and intercessor.

Look with loving-kindness, O all-hymned Theotokos, upon my cruel bodily suffering, and heal the sickness of my soul.

Most Holy Lady, Theotokos save us!

The “Unexpected Joy” – a miracle of the Mother of God

Christ is Risen! Христос воскресе! Hristos a înviat! Χριστός ἀνέστη!

As we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in Cheltenham today, our thoughts were very much with Mother Melangell, as she celebrated the altar-feast of her skete, named for the icon of the Mother of God, “Unexpected Joy”.

The story of this icon appears in The Fleece Bedewed, by St Dimitri of Rostov: a work which describes various miracles of the Mother of God.

The icon “Unexpected Joy” actually consists of an icon within an icon, with words of dialogue and narration often woven into its design.

We see a young man, who despite a life of crime never lost his devotion to the Mother of God, and prayed before the icon of Our Lady and the Infant Saviour every day, repeating the Archangel’s greeting: “Rejoice, O Virgin full of grace!”.

However, his prayer never stopped him then going out and stealing until the Mother of God interceded in this situation, for when he turned to the icon, he saw the Mother of God and Christchild in the flesh, and the Infant Saviour had bleeding wounds on His hands and feet, and blood flowed from a wound in His side. The horrified man fell to his knees and instinctively questioned the Mother of God: “O Mistress! Who did this?”

The life-changing answer for the man was in the challenge of the Virgin’s quiet words: “You and other sinners. Over and over again you crucify My Son by your sins.”

The horrified man cried out, “Have mercy upon me,” but the Mother of God rebuked him saying, “You call Me the Mother of mercy, yet you offend Me and bring Me sorrow by your deeds.”

In this, is a challenge for us all. We call the Saviour our Lord, yet we disobey and offend Him; we call our Lady Mother, yet we bring hurt and insult that we would not even think of throwing at our mother according to the flesh.

The man, who had tried to mix devotion to the Mother of God with a life of disobedience and crime appealed to her, as a source of help, hope and rescue:

“No, Mistress. May my malice not overcome your indescribable kindness and mercy! You alone are the hope and safe haven of all sinners! Have mercy upon me, O benevolent Mother! Entreat your Son and my Creator on my behalf.”

The horror of the words he had heard had already awakened his soul and brought him to profound repentance, and seeing this purification and change the Mother of God entreated her Son, our Saviour:

“My benevolent Son! For the sake of My love have mercy upon this sinner.” But the Son replied to Her: “Do not be angry, My Mother, if I do not obey You. I, too, entreated My Father to have this cup of suffering pass Me by.”

Though the Mother of God continued to pray for this man, who brought her Son grief and great sorrow, the Saviour seemed immovable until Our Lady placed the Infant on His own feet and prepared to fall at His feet to beg for the repentant thief.

It was then that the Saviour spoke and stopped her:

“What do you wish to do, Mother?!”

And the Mother of God, our perpetual-intercessor replied, “I shall remain, lying at Your feet together with this sinner until You forgive him his sins.”

The Saviour replied, “The law requires a son to venerate his mother, while justice demands that the giver of the law be himself obedient to the law. I am your Son; you are My Mother; I am obliged to do you homage by fulfilling your request. Let it be as you wish! His sins are now forgiven for your sake! And as a token of forgiveness, let him press his lips to My wounds.”

The man rose up, trembling, still wrapped in the vision and approached the Infant Saviour, and kissed His wounds, and begged that he should always be able to see his own sins and repent of them, and in the gift of this knowledge, his life was transformed, and he lived the rest of his life in knowledge and repentance.

This knowledge is one so greatly needed, as we become conscience-numbed, very often not even understanding that our behaviours are even sins. The world – and even the Christians in the world – loses all sense of sin and error. People come to confession, saying that they can’t really think of anything that has gone wrong since their last confession, and that all seems to be well.

We need to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us, that we might receive the knowledge of the repentant criminal remembered through this miracle recorded by St Dimitri, and we need to remind ourselves how like this once deluded man we are, asking how we can be spiritually wakened and enlivened, as he was – being mindful of our errors, the need to change and repent.

Let us begin by praying the Canon to the Mother of God by the Monk Euthymios, the Chancellor, that we might be brought to realisation and repentance, and to amendment, and newness of life, in which we understand our culpability and our responsibility for the Saviour’s sacred wounds.

The Murom Icon of the Mother of God

This year, Bright Monday coincides with the feast of the Murom Icon of the Mother of God.

This icon was brought from Kiev to Murom by the Holy Prince Constantine of Murom (May 21) early in the XII century. For a long time, but quite unsuccessfully, Saint Constantine tried to attract the pagan inhabitants of the Murom principality to Christianity. His counsels met with no sympathy; moreover, they filled the people with hatred and contempt.

The more fanatical pagans plotted and swore to kill the Prince, or drive him out of Murom. When Constantine discovered the plot he prayed fervently to God. Then taking with him the Icon of the Mother of God, which he brought from Kiev, he went to confront the conspirators, trusting in the intercession and the help of the Queen of Heaven. When the pagans saw the Icon, they were so overcome with astonishment that they begged the Prince to forgive them. Then they agreed to be baptized into the Christian Faith.

The Murom icon is renowned for many other miracles, the most remarkable of which is the following. At the end of the XII century, Saint Basil was the Bishop of Murom. The people, mistakenly suspecting him of living in a way which was not appropriate for his high episcopal rank, intended to kill him. When Saint Basil learned of this decision, he asked his enemies to postpone his death until morning. All night long he prayed in the Church of Saints Boris and Gleb.

After serving the Divine Liturgy, he went to the temple of the Annunciation and there he served a Moleben before the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he brought from Kiev. Placing all his hope in the Queen of Heaven, Saint Basil took the miraculous Icon and went to the Oke River. Removing his mantya, he spread it upon the water and stood upon it holding the Icon of the Mother of God. Suddenly there was a strong wind and Saint Basil was carried upstream against the current. Six hours later, the Bishop sailed to a place called Old Ryazan. There the people and the Prince received the Saint with honor. However, since Old Ryazan was poorly protected from the invasion of the Tatars, under whose yoke Russia was at that time, Saint Basil decided to look for another, safer place.

In 1291 he moved to New Ryazan, taking with him the Icon of the Mother of God. Since then, all his successors have lived in New Ryazan. Thus, with the abolition of the Murom cathedra, a new episcopal cathedra was established – that of New Ryazan.

Originally, the commemoration of the Murom-Ryazan Icon of the Mother of God took place on the second Sunday of the Apostle’s Fast, then in 1810 (1814?) the Holy Synod, at the request of the residents of Ryazan, changed the Feast Day to April 12, when Saint Basil is commemorated.

The Murom Icon bears a certain resemblance to the Yakhrom Icon (October 14), in which the Divine Child is cradled on His Mother’s left arm; His right hand touches her chin, while His left hand hangs down holding a scroll representing the Scriptures. In the Murom Icon, however, the head of the Divine Child leans back against His Mother’s shoulder, and the scroll is open to reveal the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (Luke 4:18).

The original Icon has not been preserved (all traces of it were lost when it was transferred from Murom to Ryazan). Frequently, copies of the Murom Icon were made, many of which are now found in various churches and museum collections. One of the copies was kept in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Murom until its destruction in the XX century.


The Blessing of the Kursk-Root Icon

Dear brothers and sisters,

The last few days have been a great blessing from the Mother of God, through the visit of her ancient, wonderworking Kursk-Root icon of the  Sign, and have been filled with prayer and devotion: during the icon’s travels, in parish homes, in church in Cardiff and Cheltenham, during the day and the night, and in the final joyful-sorrow of the handing-over of the image to its next custodians in this Marian journey.

The moleben services in Chippenham, Cardiff and Cheltenham brought the faithful together, not simply from our own parishes, but from other Orthodox communities, and it was a great joy to meet and talk with brothers and sisters from Birmingham, Bristol, Poole and Swindon – all of us united as children of the Most Holy Theotokos.

It was also a joy to go to parish homes that had not been previously graced with a visit from the icon, and we look forward to visiting more homes in the future.

I would like to thank all who came to pray with such zeal and devotion, and all who worked so hard: the members of the kliros and altar-team; matushka Alla for such superb floral arrangements; our sister Xenia for sweet herbs for the faithful to take as an evlogia from Cheltenham; oltarnik Oswald for coordinating Cheltenham set-up; Isaiah from the Swansea parish for his excellent photographs (to be seen here soon) and Deacon Mark for being an able coordinator and chauffeur.

Deacon Mark and I would like to thank parishioners for such warm hospitality in their homes, in welcoming the icon and honouring the Mother of God, and in the generosity shown to those caring for the icon on its journey.

We parted from the icon at the gates of the church in Telford, and the icon will be in Wallasey for the weekend, before visits to Norfolk, St Leonard’s and Oxford, as well as time in London.

Above all, our thanks are due to the Most Holy Mother of God, for the great and grace-filled icon that she gave to the world as a consolation and blessing in 1259, granting countless blessings to the people of God over the subsequent centuries – especially in the most troubled and dangerous times.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark

Forthcoming Visit of the Kursk-Root Icon

Dear brothers and sisters,

Yesterday, brought the wonderful news that the Wonderworking Kursk-Root icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, will be brought to Cardiff on Friday 18 March, with the hope that it will be possible to make a Wiltshire stop en route.

The following morning, it will visit the faithful in Cheltenham, before continuing to Telford, and thence to Wallasey.

Given the shortness of the visit and limited time, home visits will be for those who have not previously welcomed the icon into their homes, and will be limited to Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.

Those who would like to welcome the icon for the first time are asked to contact the parish clergy, so that a preliminary plan may be made, allowing the clergy to ascertain the length of time required.

An evening service will be celebrated in Cardiff on 18 March, with the details confirmed once the availability of St John’s or one of the other city churches is known.

Please mark these important dates in your diaries, so that you are able to honour the Mother of God through the veneration and welcoming of her precious icon.

Revealed on September 8, 1259, the wonderworking icon has been a constant channel of miracles, and after finally leaving Russia in 1920, it became the sign of the protection of the Mother of God, leading the exiles who fled the Soviet Union – a miraculous protection in the dark years of the Second World War, a consolation for the thousands of displaced persons, and the Hodegetria of the Russian Orthodox Diaspora – in Constantinople, in Greece, Serbia, then Austria and Germany, and now in every corner of the world.

We look forward to welcoming the icon to Cardiff, once more, and honouring Our Lady, the Theotokos.

Troparion, Tone 4: Having obtained thee as an unassailable rampart and wellspring of miracles, O Most Pure Mother of God, thy servants quell the assaults of enemies. Wherefore, we pray to thee: Grant peace to our land, and to our souls great mercy.

Hymns for the Sunday of the Holy Fathers

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the elect of the patriarchs, the fathers before the Law, have shone forth like beacons, for all the prophets and the righteous shone forth from them like radiant lamps. With rays of honourable prophecy have they illumined all creation; and they earnestly pray to God in behalf of the world.

Rejoice, ye honourable prophets who dedicated yourselves well to the Law of the Lord, and by faith revealed yourselves as unshaken and unbreakable pillars of Christ; and, having passed on to heaven, ye beseech Him to grant peace to the world and to save our souls.

Lift up thy voice, O Zion, Thou truly divine city, and proclaim the divine memory of the fathers, honouring Abraham, Isaac and the ever-memorable Jacob; for, lo! we all magnify Judah and Levi, the great Moses and the wondrous Aaron, and we honour David, Joshua and Samuel. And weaving divine hymns into godly praise on the forefeast of Christ’s nativity, we ask that we receive grace from Him, and that He grant the world great mercy.

O Elijah, who once rode upon a divine chariot of fire, come thou forth, and thou, O divinely wise Elisha; and joining with Ezekiel and Hosea, rejoice! O ye honoured and divinely inspired twelve prophets, join chorus, and all ye righteous, chant in hymns unto the nativity of Christ; ye most blessed youths that quenched the flame of the furnace with the dew of the Spirit, entreat Christ on our behalf, that He send down upon our souls great mercy.

Most blessed art thou, O Virgin Theotokos, for through Him Who became incarnate of thee is hades led captive, Adam recalled, the curse annulled, Eve set free, death slain, and we are given life. Wherefore, we cry aloud in praise: Blessed is Christ God. O Thou Who hast been so pleased, glory to Thee.

The Icon of the Mother of God: “Unexpected Joy”


The Unexpected Joy appears to be a traditional depiction of Christ and His Mother, however there here a few notable differences: blood is seen on the wounds from His Crucifixion, and the icon even takes on the quality of “an image within an image”, as a man is seen in the lower left-hand corner, his hands raised in supplication towards Jesus and His Mother. What is the significance of this third person?

St. Dimitri of Rostov records a young man who after praying before an icon of Christ and the Theotokos often went out to commit a sin. One day after praying, he saw that the wounds of the Crucifixion had suddenly appeared on the icon. The youth cried out, asking the Theotokos why this had been done. The Theotokos responded that this was done because he, and other sinners like him, continued to crucify Her Son all over again.

Only then did the Young Man realize how much his sins meant, and he begged for forgiveness. She was moved to mercy, but Her Son refused, noting that he also had asked His Father to take the cup of suffering away from him.

The Theotokos continued to entreat Her Son, reminding him how she nursed Him, and how she suffered at His Crucifixion. When he continued to refuse, St. Dimitri records that the Virgin Mary rose up, and put Her Son down, ready to fall at His Feet if necessary, until he forgave the sinner.

Moved at the depths of His Mother’s compassion, Christ stated that the law requires that a son obey his mother, and that the Lawgiver too must obey the law; he agreed to fulfill his mother’s request, requiring only that the man kiss his wounds.

The sinner rose up, trembling and transformed, and went to kiss the wounds of the Infant. At once, the vision ended, and the sinner began to cry tears of joy, living out the rest of his days in true repentance.

This tradition became widely known throughout Russia, and then the subject of many icons, which are highly venerated there.


Two canons of the Theotokos

Ode I, Canon I, Irmos: I shall open my mouth, * and be filled with the Spirit, * and utter discourse to the Queen and Mother; * and be seen radiantly keeping festival, * joyfully praising her wonders.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O thou who opened the portals of God’s tender compassion when the archangel offered thee his salutation, close not off His love for mankind from us who hymn thee.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Wondrous was thy life on earth, O most glorious Virgin Mother, yet even more wondrous is thy dwelling in heaven; for thou dost unceasingly reveal the wonders of thy maternal loving-kindness toward those who hymn thee.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

The Son, Who was timelessly begotten of the Father before all ages, didst thou in latter times conceive through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, giving birth to eternal joy for the world.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O sea which drowned the devil, the noetic pharaoh! Rejoice, O stone which gave drink to those thirsting for the life of the Spirit! For thou hast given to the human race the Redeemer of those held captive and the Guide of those who are lost.

Canon II, Irmos: Taking up the Song of Moses, O my soul, * cry aloud: * ‘A helper and a protector hath become unto me salvation. * My God, * whom I will glorify’.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou hast delivered the whole human race from slavery to the enemy, having given birth to the Saviour of all the world. Him do thou beseech, that He save us from the assaults of the evil one.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou hast delivered the whole human race from slavery to the enemy, having given birth to the Saviour of all the world. Him do thou beseech, that He save us from the assaults of the evil one.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

O most holy Virgin, in the midst of our perils be thou a mediatress and intercessor for us before thy Son, that, delivered from them, we may glorify Him with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O thou who art more exalted than the angels and archangels, and higher in honour than all creation, thou art the great intercessor of the Christian race.

Ode III, Canon I, Irmos: O Theotokos, thou living and plentiful fount, * establish in spiritual fellowship those who sing hymns to thee, * and in thy divine glory * grant them crowns of glory.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Confirm in the virtuous life those who fervently hymn thee, and earnestly entreat Him Who was born from thee, that we not be deprived of crowns of glory due to our sins.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

In our life we have angered thy Son by our sins more than any of the iniquitous; yet be thou our mediatress, O loving Mother.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

May Jesus Who is the Lover of mankind, Who was born of thee and hast the authority to forgive men their sins, grant unto us crowns of glory in His divine glory.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O virgin who contained the infinite God within thy womb, who carried Him as a babe and fed Him at thy breast!

Canon II, Irmos: Establish me, O Lord my God, * that mine enemy may not boast concerning me; * for Thou, O Lord, art my confirmation, * my refuge and my power.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Hearken unto our prayers, O Virgin Mother, and give ear unto our sighs; and make supplication to thy Son on our behalf.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

In that thou art full of tender compassion, give ear to our supplications, and grant us deliverance from grievous and evil circumstances and sorrows.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Still thou the tempest of the threefold waves of life, and drive away our evil passions, O most pure one, that we may glorify thee in peace and dispassion.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Come, ye people of God, let us now praise the Queen of heaven, who gazeth down upon us from her holy heaven and leadeth us up to the heavens.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sessional Hymn, in Tone V: O fervent and invincible intercessor, * diligent and unashamed hope, * rampart, protection and haven * of those who have recourse to thee, * O pure Ever-Virgin do thou, together with the angels, * entreat thy Son and God, ** that He grant peace, salvation and great mercy to the world.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Repeat Sessional Hymn.

Ode IV, Canon I, Irmos: He who sitteth in glory upon the throne of the Godhead, * Jesus the true God, * is come in a swift cloud * and with His sinless hands he hath saved those who cry: * Glory to Thy power, O Christ.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O Mother who hast given birth to the Saviour, do thou thyself save from the misfortunes and the grief of life those who confess thee to be the Theotokos.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O Mother of the Son and Redeemer Who lifted up our sins upon the Cross, heal all our grievous and incurable sicknesses.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

God the Word, the hypostatic Wisdom, chose thee to be His dwelling-place. Him do thou earnestly entreat, that He save us by the judgments which He knoweth.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O all-comely, beauteous Bride! Rejoice, O pure turtledove! Rejoice, O Mother of Emmanuel, ever-virgin Theotokos!

Canon II, Irmos: I hymn Thee, O Lord, for I have heard report of Thee, * and I was afraid; * for Thou comest to me, seeking me who am lost. * Wherefore, I glorify Thy great condescension towards me, * O greatly Merciful One.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us. Even though our tongue is at a loss how to praise thee worthily, yet, moved by love for thee, with all our heart and all our mind we glorify and praise thee, the mediatress of all good things.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Who can plumb the depths of the sea? And who is “able to number the great mercies and compassions which thou hast for us?

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

O Father and Lord of heaven and earth, what thanks shall we offer Thee? For thou hast given to the Christian race a good and powerful mediatress.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Stretching forth thy hands toward Him Who was born of thee, O all-loving Mother, cease not to make supplication for us, that by thine entreaties we may be counted worthy of earthly and heavenly gifts.

Ode V, Canon I, Irmos: All creation stands in awe of thy divine glory; * for thou, O Virgin who hast not known wedlock, * didst contain within thy womb the God of all, * and gave birth to the timeless Son, * bestowing peace, upon all who hymn thee.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Heaven and earth are amazed, beholding thy tender compassion toward the Christian race, O most glorious Virgin Mother, for thou dost condescend even to those sinners who have fallen the most, O most good one.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Save thy servants from evils and tribulations, O Theotokos, and grant unto those who hymn thee the peace of God which transcendeth any earthly peace.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou hast given birth unto Him Who hath reconciled those above with those below, Who descended to earth for this purpose, yet hath not separated Himself from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O Queen of heaven and earth! Rejoice, thou who dost surpass the angels and archangels! Rejoice, for through thee the Reconciler foretold to us by Jacob hath come down!

Canon II, Irmos: O Christ my Saviour, the enlightenment of those lying in the darkness of sin. * I rise early to hymn Thee O King of Peace, * enlighten me with Thy radiance, * for I know no other God than Thee.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

From the spheres of the celestial lights the Archangel Gabriel brought to thee the joy of the annunciation; and obeying that ineffable counsel of God, O thou who art wondrous among women, thou thyself dost bring joy unto all who hymn thee with faith.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou hast truly given unexpected joy to the whole universe – the world below and the world above, for He Who issued forth from thee hath brought peace and united those above with those below. Him do thou now beseech, that we be delivered from malice and misfortunes.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

The poison of sin hath penetrated the whole human race through our ancient forefather, but He Who was born of thee hath cleansed, hallowed and saved all. Him do thou now beseech, that we be delivered from sinful and unseemly passions.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thy compassions are beyond number and are like unto the goodness of the Word thy Son. This we know, and know well. Yet what shall we render unto thee for them, O supremely compassionate Virgin Mother?

Ode VI, Canon I, Irmos: Celebrating the divine and solemn feast * of the Mother of God * O ye divinely wise, * let us come, clapping our hands, * and glorify God who was born of her.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Spiritually celebrating a sacred festival now, O ye who love the feasts of the Church, come, let us hymn the Mother of God with songs, glorifying her Son, Who hath bestowed such grace upon His Mother.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Look upon the hymnody of thy servants, O Birthgiver of God, casting down the conceited pride of our enemies, visible and invisible, and pouring forth thine exalted mercies upon the humble.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou art the root from whence Christ, the Rod of Jesse, sprang forth: a Man from the house of David, and God Who is co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O joyous Mother! Rejoice, O thou who dost surpass all the daughters of mankind in beauty! Rejoice, O noble scion of the divinely chosen race of David!

Canon II, Irmos: I am held fast in the depths of sin O Saviour, * and am overwhelmed by the sea of life, * but as Jonah was delivered from the sea-monster, * so also deliver me from the passions, * and save me.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

By thy birthgiving thou hast saved the human race from Hades, death and corruption; wherefore, as is meet, all the ranks of heaven and earth bless thee as the Mother of the Destroyer of Hades, and our Liberator from death.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Turn not away from us because of our sins, O most holy Virgin, but by thy supplications mediate for us liberation from Hades and everlasting death.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

O the slothfulness, O the indifference toward our salvation, wherein we have wasted our whole life! What torment, what flames lie before us! Yet by the grace given thee, O Mother, save us!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Thou didst bear Christ, the divine Fire, in thine arms without being consumed; wherefore, standing now before the fiery throne of His glory, pray thou, that He enflame us with the desire to do good.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kontakion, in Tone VI: We have none other help, we have none other hope but thee, O Lady. * Do thou help us! * In thee do we trust, and in thee do we boast; ** for we are thy servants. Let us not be put to shame.

Ikos: Entrust me not to the intercession of men, O most holy Lady, but accept the prayer of thy servant; for I am held fast by sorrow and cannot endure the arrows of the demons. I have no protection, neither have I any place to flee, wretched as I am. Ever vanquished, I have no consolation save thee, O Lady of the world. O hope and intercession of the faithful, disdain not mine entreaty, but render it profitable.

Ode VII, Canon I, Irmos: Refusing to worship created things * in place of the Creator, * the divinely wise youths bravely trampled down the threatening fire * and rejoicing they sang aloud: * O supremely hymned Lord and God of our Fathers, Blessed art Thou.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou didst spurn all the beautiful things of this world, O pure one, desiring to serve God alone; and to Him thou didst chant: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O Lady, to the one God do thou guide us who have failed utterly to follow the pious children, but have instead cleaved unto creation instead of the Creator; and teach us to chant: O God our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

With noetic eyes, O Christ, Daniel foresaw Thee as the Stone uncut by human hands, destroying the vain kingdoms of mankind, for the salvation of those who hymn Thee, and the Father and the Spirit: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O mountain overshadowed by the grace of God, from whence Christ was quarried, the Stone set by God the Father as the Cornerstone of His Church, to Whom we chant: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Canon II, Irmos: The bush which burned with fire on the mountain * and the dew-bearing furnace of the Chaldeans * clearly prefigured thee, O Bride of God; * for, without being consumed, * thou didst receive the divine and immaterial Fire * within thy material womb. * Wherefore, we chant unto Him Who was born of thee: * O God of our fathers, Blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

God the Word, the Creator and Fashioner of all, in latter times made His abode within thy womb, O most glorious divine Maiden, and hath taught all to chant: O God of our fathers, Blessed art Thou!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Sorrows, tribulations, and sicknesses have, because of the great multitude of our sins, brought our souls down in the abyss like the waves of the sea; yet setting our hope on thine aid, O Mother of God, we do not despair, but cry aloud to thy Son: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Who in heaven can describe thy power, which He Who issued forth from thee hath given thee? And who on earth can render audible all the praises made to thy great protection and thine assistance to mortals, who chant: “O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!”?

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

O pure Maiden who knewest not wedlock, cleanse our minds of vain thoughts and our hearts of wicked lusts, that with pure souls and undefiled lips we may chant unto thy Son: O God of our fathers, blessed art Thou!

Ode VIII, Canon I, Irmos: The Offspring of the Theotokos * saved the holy children in the furnace. * He who was then prefigured hath now been born on earth, * and He gathereth all creation to hymn thee: * all ye works praise ye the Lord * and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Hearken, O pure Virgin Maiden, unto the words announced to thee by Gabriel: Thou shalt bear a Son Who doth save those who chant: Hymn the Lord, O ye works, and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

He Who issued forth from thee in the flesh saved from fire the children who gazed upon Him with faith. Him do thou beg, that He save us also who burn with the flame of the passions and sing to Him, thy Son: Hymn the Lord, O ye works, and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

O Christ, Thou wast seen in the Babylonian furnace as a radiant Angel like in appearance unto the Son of God. Unto Thee, with the Father and the Spirit, do we chant: Hymn the Lord, O ye works, and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O bush seen by Moses, who in latter times sprang forth from the root of David and hast given birth ineffably to the Saviour of all, to Whom we chant: Hymn the Lord, O ye works, and supremely exalt Him throughout all ages!

Canon II, Irmos: The three holy children were not obedient * to the decree of the tyrant; * and cast into the furnace they confessed God, singing: * O all ye Works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

The fleece wet with dew, which Gideon beheld, mystically prefigured thee, the Virgin Mother, who without knowing a man hast given birth to God the Word by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. To Him do we chant: Bless the Lord, O ye works of the Lord!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

The mindless rage of the tyrant cast the pious children into the furnace kindled with fire, but thy Son quenched the power of the flame with mystic dew. Him do thou entreat, O most holy one, that He deliver us from everlasting fire and deprive us not of the dew-bearing kingdom, that we may chant there: Bless the Lord, O ye works of the Lord!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Thou didst serve the ineffable mystery of the incarnation of Christ, loving Him with all a mother’s love, and didst maternally lament Him as He hung upon the Cross. Him do thou entreat, that He not reject even the most hardened of sinners, that they may chant: Bless the Lord, O ye works of the Lord!

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

We glorify and hymn thee as is meet, O most compassionately merciful Mother; for thou art the great helper of the Christian race, our supremely good and speedy aid.

Ode IX, Canon I, Irmos: Let every mortal born on earth, * radiant with light, in spirit leap for joy; * and let the host of the angelic powers * celebrate and honour the holy feast of the Mother of God, * and let them cry aloud: * Rejoice! O Theotokos, thou pure Ever-Virgin.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

God, Who became incarnate from thee and hath come unto us, rendered thy womb more spacious than the heavens. O wondrous marvel! The Infinite is contained in the Virgin’s womb, that we may hymn her throughout all ages!

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Entreat Him Who was ineffably conceived by thee in latter times, O Virgin Theotokos, that He transform all our grief into joy and grant us His never-waning light, that we may hymn thee throughout all ages.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou art the throne of the glory of God which Ezekiel mystically beheld, for thou didst receive into thy most pure womb the Son of God Who is co-enthroned with the Father and the Spirit, and didst hold Him in thy maternal arms.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Rejoice, O animate temple wherein God dwelt in the flesh! Rejoice, O ark overshadowed by the glory of the Son of God! Rejoice, O all-blessed and pure Ever-Virgin Theotokos!

Canon II, Irmos: Thou didst contain within thy Womb * the God whom nothing can contain, * and hast brought forth joy to the world, * wherefore we sing thy praises, * O Virgin Theotokos.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Thou hast given to the world the good Shepherd Who sought the lost sheep, and with Him thou dost now reign. Lead unto Him all the sheep that have gone astray.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

The Father, Who passeth all understanding in His love for those who have fallen in Adam, hath through thee revealed the Lamb Who taketh away the sins of the whole world. Cease thou never to make supplication before Him, that by the Blood of His Son we may be sanctified and cleansed.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

O Son of God Who art equally glorified with the Father and the Spirit, by the supplications of her who gave birth to Thee forsake us not who are perishing.

Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

He Who was incarnate and became a man through thee hath set thee higher than all the angelic ranks. Standing there, lead us also up to the heights of heaven, taking away our every sin.

Troparion, in Tone IV: O ye faithful people, let us celebrate in spirit today, * glorifying the fervent helper of the Christian race; * and, hastening to her most pure image, let us cry aloud: * O most merciful Lady and Theotokos, * grant unexpected joy * unto us who are weighed down by sins and many sorrows, * and deliver us from all evil, * entreating thy Son, Christ our God, ** that He save our souls.

Greetings for the Feast of the Kazan Icon

Dear brothers and sisters, festal greetings to you all, as we celebrate the autumn feast of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates some three-hundred ‘revealed’ icons of the Mother of God, among which we find the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, in whose name our parish is dedicated.

Throughout the centuries of Muscovite and Imperial Russia, just as so many icons of the Theotokos have been revealed in miraculous circumstances, so the Mother of God has revealed and manifested her maternal care and protection for the Orthodox faithful and the lands of Rus – through her icons, through her miraculous intercession, and through her countless miracles worked in the lives of ordinary people.

On the very day of the Tsar’s abdication, the Mother of God renewed her “Reigning/Derzhavnaya” icon, showing that for the faithful, she would now take upon her shoulders the role of Tsaritsa of the Russian realm, leading the faithful through the torment and torture of the Soviet period, and throughout those dark years her maternal-care continued to be felt. And, during those torturous years, the faithful were never left without the consolation of the Mother of God.

Together with the Icon of the Sign, and the Vladimirskaya, the Wonderworking Kazan Icon is one of the ‘Palladium’ icons, carried by the faithful into battle and defence of the realm, and today’s feast commemorates the defeat of the Poles, in the Time of Troubles (after the death of Ivan the Terrible) and the first significant defeat of the Napoleonic army, after snow and ice lashed the invading French forces. Such was the faith of believing people even in Soviet times, that we have the well-known description of a copy of our beloved Kazan Icon being carried around besieged Leningrad during the Second World War.

Yet, despite the miraculous victories and the martial hymns to the Mother of God as “Triumphal leader in battle”, for Russian Orthodox believers the Theotokos is not so much impressed upon our spiritual consciousness as Heavenly Empress, but as the merciful Mother of Christians, who cares for the faithful, nurturing them, providing for them in their hour of need, bringing joy in sorrow, becoming a hope for the hopeless and help for the helpless.

This always strikes me whenever we sing the beautiful hymn, Царице моя преблагая (Tsaristsa moya preblagaya), to the beautiful yet very simple melody from the Krasnogorsk Monastery,

O my most blessed Queen, O Theotokos my hope, guardian of orphans and intercessor for strangers, Joy of the sorrowful, Protectress of the oppressed; Thou beholdest my misfortune, Thou seest my sorrow. Help me, for I am infirm; feed me, for I am a stranger. Thou knowest mine offense: do Thou loose it, as Thou dost will, for I have none other help but Thee, nor any other intercessor save Thee, O Mother of God. Do Thou preserve and protect me unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Behind this present feast’s triumphal language, and images of victory in which we speak of the Mother of God as Lady, Queen and Mistress and her ‘mighty protection’, this celebration leads us to the tenderness and warmth of the motherhood of the Theotokos – summed up by that wonderful word umilinie – which is tenderness, compassion, mercy, loving-kindness, warmth, with so many other subtle shades of meaning when applied to the motherhood of the Mother of God.

As we look at the Kazan Icon, there is nothing complicated, and its scheme is in many ways minimal, simple and straightforward, and it has traditionally been this icon that has been carried before newly-weds, to become the heart of the icon-corner in each new home, at the centre of Orthodox family-life.

In the classic Hodegetria icon, the Mother of God directs us to her Son with her outstretched hand, but in the Kazan Icon she rather does so in the inclination of her head, as she bows contemplatively towards the Christ-Child, avoiding the eyes of the viewer, so that it is the Saviour who engages with the one who stands before the icon, and it is His eyes they meet, not the self-effacing and humble Mother.

As she ever leads us to her Son, ever interceding for us, before the Holy Trinity, let us never be strangers to her maternal care, however broken or dysfunctional our lives may have become. Rather, let us turn to her with all of our problems and sorrows, as well as our joys, bringing our lives, ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, even enemies to her merciful-care. It is beneath that merciful-care, that reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing may happen, through her prayers, through her grace, and with her help.

It is often in the most grievous of sorrows, and the most desperate situations that we learn the value, the wholesomeness and necessity of a Mother’s love, and in the Mother of God we find maternal care that never ceases, that never dies, but always seeks out those in need, to lead us to the Saviour in His Kingdom, into which she has been assumed in glory.

On this feast, let us do as the deacon calls us to do during the litanies:

“Commemorating our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary with all the saints, let us commit ourselves and one other, and all our life unto Christ our God.”

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

Asking your prayers, with love in Christ.

Hieromonk Mark

The Petrovskaya Icon of the Mother of God

On this day, on which we remember St Peter, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Rus, we also celebrate the Petrovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, which was the work of his own hands.

From the cell of Hieromonk Mark

This is one of the most intimate of the umilenie (tenderness) icons, in which the left hand of the Mother of God holds the Christ-child, whilst her right hand not only points to the infant Saviour, but caresses Him, holding Him against her chest, whilst the face of the Holy Mother and her Divine Son touch.

The Mother of God is still the Hodegetria (She Who Shows the Way) in this icon, but she does not do so with a gesture of regal formality, but in a movement that is characterised by love, warmth and familiarity as she diverts us from herself to the Son was the meaning of every second of her life. She does not even look at us, but averts our eyes, deep in contemplation.

This icon profoundly captures the motherhood of the Virgin, and is far from the icons which represent her as the Queen of Heaven, majestic and imperial. Rather, in this icon we see the grace-filled, humble humanity of the Mother of God.

Superfluous detail is ignored by the iconographer, and we – looking at the mutual love of mother and child – are left with only the simple incarnational and salvific Truth, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

This is the selfless and dutiful mother, who at the wedding in Cana will say, “Do whatever He tells you.” and from this icon, pointing to the Way, the Truth and the Life, she continues to say this to each of us.

Most glorious, Ever-Virgin, blessed Mother of Christ our God, present our prayer to thy Son and our God, and pray that through thee He may save our souls.