Sermon for the Feast of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God | Russian Oldbeliever Church

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Sermon for the Feast of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God

The Most Holy Mother of God combines in Herself many virtues and gifts of grace. She has greatness and piety, honour and power of Archangels and Angels, She is shown love and reverence by all the saints who have shone from the beginning of time, She is endowed with the great gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Sermon for the Feast of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God

The greatness of the Most Holy Mother of God is incomprehensible for the human mind. “We see eloquent orators like dumb fish about you, O Mother of God,” that is the best rhetoricians and sages close their mouths and remain like dumb fish when it is necessary to glorify the miracles of the Most Holy Mother of God. Likewise, I do not have sufficient strength to glorify the One who became the Mother of God and now sits on the Royal Heavenly Throne next to Her Divine Son “clothed in vesture wrought with gold, and arrayed in divers colours” (Ps.45:9, Septuagint). And, since She has become the Mother of the Word, we will resort to Her mercy and we will ask Her to grant Her gifts of grace and adequate words for Her proper glorification.

The Lord, in His ineffable mercy and unceasing grace, revealed in Russia many miracle-working icons of the Most Pure Virgin, which strengthened the faith of the Russian people in the intercession and help of the Mother of God. The great multitude of miracle-working icons of the Most Holy Mother of God and the miracles that are performed from them are the evidence of Her innumerable benefactions to the entire human race. Many people, believing in the  help of the grace from the Mother of God come to these icons and receive Her priceless gifts.

The image of the Tikhvin Mother of God was glorified with special reverence and miracles. It depicts the Most Holy Virgin holding her Only Begotten Son on her left hand, while Her right hand is addressed to the Divine Infant, expressing the prayer of the Most Holy Mother of God for the human race. The Christ Child holds a scroll in His left hand, and blesses the Mother’s prayer with His right hand. A characteristic feature of the Tikhvin icon is the image of the heel of the Infant’s left foot facing those who are praying. This icon is called Hodegetria, that is, “the One Guiding on the Way”, directing the path of Christians to the Kingdom of Heaven.

According to tradition, the icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God was painted by Apostle and Evangelist Luke. During the earthly life of the Mother of God many Christians wished to see and hear Her, to receive blessing and instruction from Her, but many of them did not have such an opportunity and were very grieved about this. A skilled physician and artist, Apostle Luke heard about this pious desire of Christians and, in order to satisfy it, painted on a board the face of the Mother of God María with the Pre-eternal Child in her arms. One of these icons, blessed by the Mother of God Herself, was sent to Antioch, and then, in the 5th century, was transferred to Constantinople and placed in the Blachernae Church. Here it stayed until the onset of the Iconoclastic frenzy in the eighth century. After the end of the persecution of holy icons, it was again returned to that church.

At the end of the 14th  century, not long before the union with the Catholics and the fall of Constantinople, the Blachernae Icon of the Mother of God disappeared, hid away from Constantinople and, during the reign of the Grand Prince Dmitriy Donskoy, in 1383, appeared in Great Novgorod land near the town of Tikhvin. This tradition is based on the following story. At the time when the miracle-working icon appeared near the town of Tikhvin, the Novgorod merchants, being in Constantinople, were received by the Patriarch. In the conversation the Patriarch asked: “Are there any rumours in Russia about the miracle-working icon of the Mother of God, who had been in Constantinople and disappeared into no one knows where?” The merchants told him about the appearance of the Tikhvin icon, and the Patriarch said that it must be their icon. According to him, the icon disappeared several times and reappeared in its place in the Blachernae church, “and now, for our pride and unrighteousness, it has abandoned us completely,” concluded the Patriarch.

In the ancient chronicles there is the following description of the appearance of the Tikhvin miracle-working icon in the Russian land. Once on Lake Ladoga fishermen saw in the rays of wonderful light. The icon, carried by an invisible force through the air over the waters, as it continued its travel, stopped at five places until it chose a place for itself near the town of Tikhvin. At the place where the holy icon finally stopped, a wooden church was subsequently built in the name of the Dormition of the Mother of God, which was repeatedly burned, but the miracle-working icon remained unharmed.

Among the memorable signs from this icon there are the events which took place during the Time of Troubles in Russia at the beginning of the 17th century. In 1613, when the Swedes captured Novgorod, the Tikhvin Monastery was repeatedly attacked by the conquerors, but under the protection of the Lady the inhabitants of the monastery withstood those heavy attacks. During one of the sieges by the Swedes the Most Holy Virgin appeared to a certain pious woman named Mária, who received sight through the prayer before the Tikhvin icon, and said: “Announce to everyone in the monastery: let them take My icon and walk around the monastery on the walls, and will see the mercy of God.” The miracle-working icon was carried around the monastery on the walls with prayer singing and calling out to the Heavenly Intercessor for help, Who sent the miracle of the deliverance from the enemy. The Swedes were suddenly seized with such fear, that, not being persecuted by anyone, they fled from the walls of the monastery in disarray, striking each other. The captured Swedes then said that they saw a large army, marching out of the monastery and rushing to attack them.

In memory of the miraculous deliverance of the Tikhvin monastery from enemies through the help of the Heavenly Intercessor the Holy Church established the feast in honour of the miraculous Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God on June 26 (July 9) throughout all Russia. The most glorious Tikhvin miracle-working icon, which “like the brightest sun shone in the air,” more than once defended its monastery and the entire Russian land from enemies and adversaries and showed many miracles and signs.

Until 1941 the miracle-working icon was in the Tikhvin monastery, but during the German occupation it was taken out of Russia and stayed in America in the city of Chicago. On June 9, 2004, the Tikhvin icon was returned to the Russian soil and regained its place in the Assumption Monastery in the town of Tikhvin, where it is now. The orthodox Christians express their reverent love for the Mother of God by venerating Her holy icons, building churches in Her honour, glorifying Her in church feasts and chants in memory of Her countless blessings. From the inexhaustible source of miracle-working icons revealed in the Russian land, the Heavenly Intercessor Herself bestows abundant and healing benefits upon faithful Christians, exudes endless grace and joy, relieves from all troubles and misfortunes. Great mercy has been granted to us, sinners, in the intercession of the Mother of our God for us!

Brothers and sisters! Let us pray to the Most Holy Lady: “Do not take away your merciful intercession from us, raise us up from the depths of sin and enlighten our heart’s eyes to the sight of the saving path to eternal life.”

We pray to You, O Mother of God, may Your miracle-working Tikhvin icon deliver “ all Christian cities and countries from all attacks of the enemy, and save all those who worship Thy Most Pure image with faith, O Virgin Who did not taste marriage.”

Glory to our God, now and ever and unto the ages of ages! Amen.