The “Chernigov-Gethsemane” Icon of the Mother of God

The Chernigov-Gethsemane Icon of the Mother of God is a copy of the famed Ilyin-Chernigov Icon of the Mother of God (April 16), which was to be found at the Trinity-Ilyin monastery near Chernigov on Mount Boldina, and where in the eleventh century Saint Anthony of the Kiev Caves struggled in asceticism.

Saint Demetrius of Rostov described the miracles of this icon in his book THE BEDEWED FLEECE. He wrote in conclusion: “The end of the booklet, but not of the miracles of the Most Holy Theotokos, for who can count them?” The grace-bearing power of this icon is manifest also in its copies.

The Chernigov-Gethsemane Icon of the Mother of God was painted in the mid-eighteenth century and was passed on to the Trinity Sergiev Lavra in 1852 by Alexandra Grigorievna Philippova, who piously kept it for a quarter century. (This icon was given to her by the priest John Alekseev, who received it in turn from one of the monks of the Trinity Sergiev Lavra.)

On the advice of the head of the Lavra, Archimandrite Anthony (+ May 1, 1877), the icon was placed in the newly-consecrated cave church named for Saint Michael, Leader of the Heavenly Hosts, which was consecrated on October 27, 1851 by Saint Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow (November 19), who assumed an active role in the building of the Gethsemane skete.

In this manner, the icon took in the currents of grace of all the history of the Russian Church, it acquired the blessing of Saint Anthony of the Caves, of Saint Sergius of Radonezh and of his parents Saints Cyril and Maria (September 28), and finally, of the ascetics of the nineteenth century. These spiritual connections providentially come forth through the Chernigov-Gethsemane Icon of the Mother of God.

It is remarkable that the first miracle of this icon was witnessed on the day of the Church New Year, September 1, 1869, when the twenty-eight-year-old peasant of Tula governance, Thekla Adrianova, was healed, after being completely crippled for nine years.

Living at the hostel by the caves, and then at the Lavra during the celebration of the Repose of Saint Sergius (September 25), Thekla recovered completely. Saint Innocent the Metropolitan of Moscow (October 6 and March 31), learned of the miracle from his daughter the nun Polyxeni, treasurer of the Borisov wilderness monastery. On the feast of Saint Sergius, he himself met with Thekla and asked her about the details of the healing. On September 26, 1869 Saint Innocent arrived at the Gethsemane skete and gave the blessing for a Molieben to be served before the glorified icon, while he himself prayed with tears.

By September 26 three healings had occurred already, and a whole series of miracles in November of that same year. The fame of the icon of the Mother of God spread with unusual swiftness. Exhausted by suffering and sickness, thirsting for bodily and spiritual healing, people from every class of society came with firm faith to the wonderworking icon, and the mercy of God did not forsake them.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, more than 100 miracles had been recorded. By its great esteem the icon benefited the ascetics of the Gethsemane skete: the schemamonk Philip (+ May 18, 1868), the founder of the cave monastery, and his three sons, the hieroschemamonks Ignatius (+ 1900), Porphyrius (+ 1905 ?) and Basil (+ April 1, 1915). They preserved accounts of the deep love, which the hieromonk Elder Isidore (+ February 3, 1908) displayed for the Chernigov-Gethsemane Icon.

The initial celebration of the icon was established on April 16, on the day when Ilyin-Cherigov icon was celebrated. Later, it was transferred to September 1, the day of its glorification. At the present time there are copies of the Chernigov-Gethsemane icon at Trinity-Sergiev Lavra. They are found in the temple of Saint Sergius, in the monastery trapeza, and in the portico of the Trinity cathedral, painted by Elders of the Gethsemane skete and the Zosimov wilderness monastery.

Source: https://www.oca.org/saints/lives/2012/09/01/102458-chernigov-gethsemane-icon-of-the-mother-of-god

The Humility of the Mother of God

With wonder will I speak of Mary while I stand in awe, because the daughter of earthly beings has ascended to such a high rank.

Now did grace itself bend down the Son to her, or was she so beautiful that she became the Mother of the Son of God?

That God descended on earth by grace is manifest, and since Mary was very pure she received Him.

He looked on her humility and her gentleness and her purity, and dwelt in her because it is easy for Him to dwell within the humble.

”On whom will I gaze except the gentle and humble?” He looked on and dwelt in her because she was humble among those who are borne.

Even she herself said that he looked on her lowliness and dwelt in her, because of this she shall be extolled, for she was so pleasing.

Humility is total perfection, so that when man beholds God, then he behaves humbly.

For Moses was humble, a great one among all men; God went down to him on the mountain in revelation.

Again humility is seen in Abraham, for although he was just, he called himself dust and ashes.

Again, also, John was humble, because he was proclaiming that he was not worthy to loose the sandals of the Bridegroom, his Lord.

By humility, the heroic in ever generation have been pleasing, because it is the great way by which one draws near to God.

But none on earth was brought low like Mary, and from this it is manifest that no one was exalted like her.

In proportion to lowliness, the Lord bestows manifestation; He made her His mother and who is like her in humility?

Mar Jacob of Serug: Homily Concerning the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, Mary

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!

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

A Prayer against Passions, Torments, Despair and Distress

A Prayer of Saint Nikolaj (Velimirovic) to the Most-Holy Theotokos

 

Waves of passion disturb my spirit, great sadness and anguish have overwhelmed my soul. Embalm my soul with Thy Son’s peace, O Most Holy One, and by His Grace drive away every doubt and despair. Calm the storm of my sins that, like a fiery worm, burn me, and quench its flame. Fill my heart with joy, O Most Pure One, and disperse the fog of my iniquities before me, for it confuses me. Illumine me with the light of Thy Son. Helpless is my soul, and everything is cumbersome, even prayer. Here I am, cold as a stone, my lips whispering prayers, while my heart remains immovable, for it is smothered in anguish. Melt the ice which envelops my soul and warm my heart with Thy love.

I rely not on human protection, but fall down before Thee, O Most Pure Sovereign Mother of God; reject me not, but hearken unto the prayer of Thy servant. Sadness has overcome me; I can endure the demonic attack no more. I have no protection; there is no shelter for this poor man, and in this battle, I am ever being wounded. I have no consolation, but in Thee, O Holy Sovereign. O Hope and Protection of all who believe, reject not my prayer.

O Most Holy Mother of Christ, Most Pure, Most Blessed Theotokos, Satan is pounding at me like the waves of the sea against a ship, pursuing me by day and tormenting me at night. I have no peace; turbulent is my soul, my spirit trembles. Hearken, O Most Holy One and help me. Intercede before the dear Lord that He may have mercy on me and forgive the sins I have committed. O Most Holy Mother of Jesus, Thy grace is great, and the mightiest opponent to the powers of Hades. Thou art able to save even the greatest of sinners who, having been cast into the depths of hell by unclean powers, should call upon Thee. So too, save me, for lo, Satan will have me stumble and will destroy my faith, but I trust in the Lord. I magnify Thee, Who art more holy than the Cherubim and the Seraphim. Amen.

Today’s Liturgy and the Blessing of Honey

Dear brothers and sisters,

It was – as always – a great joy to gather today for the Divine Liturgy, followed by the veneration of the Precious Cross and the blessing of honey.

Though yesterday was the feast of the Procession of the Life-Giving Cross and the All-Merciful Saviour, we were unable to have Liturgy, so we ‘caught up’ with August’s first feast of the Saviour at compline yesterday evening and today, after Liturgy.

The icon of the All-Merciful Saviour

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