Archive for February, 2016

An Extraordinary Visitor

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Your information is correct: the Kursk Root Icon has indeed been traveling throughout the Southeastern United States in recent days. In fact we were very fortunate to have had it in our home one evening this past week; here is one of the photos we took. From the way your question was posed, I assume you are aware of this icon’s extraordinary history, but for those of your friends to whom this is new and with whom you might wish to share a few facts, here are the essentials:

Discovered near the city of Kursk in Russia on 8 September 1295, the icon—a Virgin of the Sign—is associated with numerous miraculous events and phenomena over the course of many centuries. It is said to have survived several attempts to destroy it, “healing” itself in one case after it was split in half with an axe and emerging another time from an explosion as the lone survivor; and it is believed to have been the source, occasion, or medium for a wide range of miraculous cures, including that of a young future saint, Seraphim of Sarov. Spirited out of Russia at the Bolshevik Revolution, it resided in various places in Europe for several decades and is now kept at the Russian Cathedral of the Mother of God in New York when it is not on tour.

Returning to Russia in 2009 for the first time since the Revolution, the Kursk Root Icon was greeted by many thousands of Orthodox Christians, who patiently stood in line for hours for an opportunity to kiss this holy object. To have had our own private darshan with this medieval Virgin—to be able to spend time venerating and praying before Her, opening to the uncreated energies with which She is believed to be imbued and sharing in the devotional energies that have been directed Her way for over 700 years—was a tremendous gift. We were reminded of the words of Elizabeth: “How is it that the Mother of our Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)

Here I share a photograph of the icon in our oratory, resting on the altar in front of my own icon of the Virgin of the Sign as Burning Bush, which you’ve no doubt seen on my website. And here you can see our priest reading some prayers as we prepare to carry the icon throughout our house for the annual blessing, singing this special hymn: “Come, ye faithful, let us radiantly celebrate the wondrous appearance of this most precious image of the Mother of God, and drawing grace therefrom, let us cry out with compunction: Rejoice, O Theotokos blessed Mary, Mother of God!” (Kontakion for the Icon, Tone 4).