More than a hundred miracle-working icons of the Most Holy Mother of God were revealed by the Lord in Russia. That was at the time when piety flourished in our Fatherland, when the entire Russian people were united in faith and unswervingly observed the rules and customs prescribed by the Holy Fathers, and when Holy Russia flourished with holy ascetics, who were a lofty example of the truly Christian life. Many miracles appeared from the icons of the Most Holy Mother of God, which are glorified by the grace of God emanating from them. By these wondrous miracles the Lord turns our hearts to His Most Pure Mother, so that we love Her, so that with all our hearts we feel that She is our merciful Intercessor and Protector from troubles and sorrows.
The Image of the Mother of God of Kazan, beginning of the 20th century
By the appearance of many miracle-working icons of the Most Holy Mother of God, the Lord again and again blesses the veneration of icons restored by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. The Most Holy Mother of God Herself, when Apostle Luke showed Her the image of Her that he had written, said: “Let the grace of the One Who was born of Me and My mercy be with this icon.” The Most Pure Virgin, having come to her relative Elisabeth, prophetically proclaimed that all generations of Christians would honour Her: «My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed» (Luke 1:46-48).
The story of the appearance of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God is as follows.
In the 16th century, in the reign of Ivan the Dread, the strong Tatar Khanate with the capital in the city of Kazan existed to the east of Russia. Frequent military raids, capturing of the Russian people, devastation of cities and villages prompted the Russian people to conquer Kazan and free Russian prisoners, whose number at that moment had reached 60 thousand people. So in 1552 Kazan was taken by the Russian army, the prisoners were released, and the Christian faith began to establish itself in those places. The conquest of Kazan occured under the protection of the Most Holy Mother of God and contributed to the beginning of the apostolic preaching of the Gospel among pagans and people of other faiths who lived along the Volga. The Most Holy Mother of God, who already during her earthly life was the patroness of the preachers of the Word of God and shared the labours of the Gospel preaching with the Holy Apostles, saw the zeal and diligence of Christians in spreading the Orthodox faith and did not delay to send them the heavenly help, revealing her miracle-working icon in the city of Kazan. This event is narrated by hieromartyr Hermogen, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, who was at the time of the appearance of the icon a priest in Kazan and at the time of writing of the Story – Metropolitan of Kazan: «What a wonderful miracle has happened in our days by the merciful visitation of the Creator of all good our Lord and God Jesus Christ and our Most Holy and Most Blessed Lady Mother of God and the Ever-Virgin María, Who gave birth to Him, through the most wonderful and miracle-working icon in the most glorious city of Kazan!.. And the news of God’s merciful visitation of us – about the appearance of the icon of the Mother of God and ineffable miracles abundantly exuded to those who come to Her with faith – rolled like thunder everywhere, to all ends of the Russian land.»
In 1579 a terrible fire destroyed the part of the city of Kazan, mostly populated by Russians. People of other faiths gloated, interpreting that as a heavenly punishment to the Christian conquerors. “The faith of Christ,” says the chronicler, “has become a parable and a desecration.” But in reality the fire in Kazan portended the final establishment of Orthodoxy in that land.
After the fire, the Russians began to restore houses and churches. At the place where the fire had started, there was a house of one strelets, which burned down together with other houses. When the strelets began to build a new house, the Mother of God appeared in a dream to his nine-year-old daughter Matrona and ordered to announce to the people that they should take Her icon from the earth, and indicated the place of finding in the ashes of the burned down house in which Matrona had lived. This vision repeated several times. The girl fulfilled the will of the Mother of God, telling people about the vision, but they did not believe the girl. Then Matrona and her mother, began to dig themselves in the indicated place and found the great treasure – the holy icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, wrapped in a sleeve of shabby clothes. The icon was bright, without the slightest damage, as if it had just been painted. The whole of Kazan soon learned about the wondrous appearance and resounded with the bell ringing. A procession of the cross led by the bishop arrived at the place where the holy icon was found and transferred the holy image to the nearest church in the name of st. Nikola, and then to the city Cathedral of the Annunciation. On the way to the cathedral the first miracles of the healing of the blind from the icon of the Mother of God took place. This wonderful event, which took place on July 8 (21), has since been celebrated in the Orthodox Church as a celebration of the Appearance of the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God in the city of Kazan.
The announcement of many miracles from the revealed icon was sent to the Tsar to Moscow. Soon a decree came from him: to build a convent on the site of the appearance of the icon and place a holy miracle-working image in it. Virgin Matrona became one of the nuns of the convent. Later she became the abbess of the convent and ended her holy and immaculate life there.
The small icon (22×27 cm), found by girl Matrona in the recently conquered remote area of Russia, soon became a national object of veneration, a sign of the Heavenly protection of the Mother of God, revealed to the entire Russian land and the Orthodox Church, a participant in many historical events in Russia.
Many times the Kazan icon showed the way to victory to Russian soldiers defending their native Orthodox land. The beginning of the 17th century, when Polish and Lithuanian impostors and “thievish people” were besieging the Fatherland, was called by the people the Time of Troubles. In the difficult times of 1612, when Moscow was occupied by the Polish, and strife and disorder were spreading throughout the country, the Russian Church was leaded by Patriarch Hermogen, the compiler of the service to the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. He gave his blessing to bring the miracle-working image of the Mother of God from Kazan and, being in custody, secretly sent an appeal to the Russian people to gather the militia and go to liberate Moscow. With the blessing of Patriarch Hermogen the militia led by Prince Dmitriy Pozharskiy and the citizen of Nizhniy (Lower) Novgorod Kuzma Minin, placing their trust in the Most Holy Lady, with the grace and help of the Most Holy Mother of God and Her miracle-working image, liberated Moscow on October 22 (November 4) 1612 and entered solemnly with a procession of the cross to the Kremlin, carrying the Kazan icon in front. As a sign of victory over the Polish invaders, the Kazan Cathedral was built on the Red Square. Since then the celebration in honour of the icon of the Most Holy Mother of God of Kazan was established on the day of the miraculous liberation of the Russian land. In 1812, during the invasion of our Fatherland by the French, the image of the Kazan Mother of God overshadowed the Russian soldiers. On the feast of the Kazan Icon Russian detachments led by the Cossack ataman Old Believer Matvey Ivanovich Platov and the commander Mikhail Miloradovich defeated the vanguards of the French, who, after that major defeat, began their retreat from Moscow.
We remembered only a few examples of the mercy of the Mother of God to our people, which poured out through Her the miracle-working icon of Kazan, and there were a great many other military victories, miracles and signs from Her. It is also known that when the Germans stood near Moscow in 1941, the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God was transported around the city on a plane, and the Germans failed to capture the capital due to Her intercession. Then, at the beginning of November, a severe frost unexpectedly hit, and the enemy troops were forced to stop the offensive, and upon the arrival of the new forces of the Russian militia to Moscow, the enemy began to retreat. That event marked a turning point in the history of World War II.
The Most Holy Mother of God, the Protector of the Orthodox Russian people, is glorified in Russia in many miracle-working copies from the Kazan icon. Those who experience troubles and illnesses often turn their eyes and prayers to Her, crying out: “Diligent intercessor, Mother of the Highest Lord, you pray for all to Your Son Christ our God … give all what is useful and save all Mother of God Virgin, for You are the Divine protection for Your slaves.” Today, commemorating the memory and veneration of the miracle-working Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, let us fill our hearts with gratitude to the Most Pure Lady for Her ineffable mercy. All events associated with Her miracle-working icon teach us to never lose faith in the salvation of the Fatherland, no matter what temptations and calamities the Almighty may want to expose it to.
We also need to learn the power of fervent prayers before God and the Most Blessed Virgin María for the intercession and protection of our Fatherland and the whole Orthodox people, for She «takes care to help and delivers from great troubles and evils Her virtuous and God-fearing slaves.»
Brothers and sisters! Let us try to imitate the Most Holy Virgin María in Her virtues: humility, obedience, purity, patience, devotion to the will of God, self-sacrifice and love for our neighbour. If we strive to fulfill these virtues, then the Mother of God will not deprive us of Her omnipotent intercession and will not leave us in her prayers to her Only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is worthy of all glory, honour and worship, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Amen!