Weeping Icons in Ukraine and Russia

Weeping icons of the Mother of God (left) and St Anne (right)

Over the past couple of days, a number of websites have been linking to an article I posted a couple of years ago, quoting Fr Seraphim Rose’s words on why icons of the Mother of God weep. The reason for this is because of uncorroborated stories appearing in a Polish paper reporting dozens of icons weeping in both Russia and Ukraine.

Many of these websites are rather “apocalyptic” in tone and are regarding these miracles as a portent of how the Crimean crisis may escalate into full-scale war (simultaneously fulfilling so-called prophecies of Fatima). It’s worth noting that the icons have not begun weeping in the past few days, or even this year, but in fact began to weep in September last year (as described here). Therefore, the weeping icons preceded the protests in Kiev and the current situation, and may have warned about what has now happened, rather than anything worse to come.

However, amid the article linked to by so many websites recently are the most important words regarding this and every situation:

What is certain is [the] tears of the Mother of God speak directly to the heart of every Orthodox believer, calling all to repentance, amendment of life and return to Orthodox faith and tradition in their fullness.

As we are beginning the rigors of the Lenten fast, let us take the tears of the Mother of God as a reminder to repent ourselves, praying also that fellow Christians in Russia, Ukraine and worldwide may act wisely and in the fear of God.

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Why does John the Baptist have wings in Orthodox icons?

St John the Baptist "Angel of the Desert" (17th Century, Russian)

St John the Baptist, Angel of the Desert (17th Century, Russian)

August 29th is the day that commemorates the Beheading of John the Baptist. Why is this Saint, almost uniquely, shown in many icons with wings?
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Happy Feast of the Transfiguration 2013

Transfiguration, Kirillo-Belozersk Monastery, Russia (1497)

August 6/19 is the feast of the Transfiguration. Below are links to two articles about the Transfiguration icon. The articles also contain links to sermons and other resources related to the feast.

Transfiguration Icon | The Event and the Process

Who’s in the Transfiguration Icon?

You were transfigured on the Mount, Christ God revealing Your glory to Your disciples, insofar as they could comprehend.
Illuminate us sinners also with Your everlasting light, through the intercessions of the Theotokos.
O Giver of light, glory to You.

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The snakes that venerate icons

Icon of Panagia Fidousa (Virgin of the Snakes)

Icon of Panagia Fidousa (Virgin of the Snakes)

In a tiny Greek village in the south of Kefallonia, a miracle occurs every year after the feast of the Transfiguration (Aug 6). Around the bell-tower of the chapel at Markopoulo, small venomous snakes appear. These snakes crawl around the church, and upon the icons of the Mother of God in an act of apparent veneration. The snakes remain in the confines of the chapel, docile throughout, until the feast of the Dormition (Aug 15), when they disperse and become almost impossible to find on the island. This is a strange miracle, especially given the association of the serpent with Satan, so what is the significance?
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Irene Chrysovalantou | Quick guide

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou (Ειρήνη Χρυσοβαλάντου)

Saint Irene Chrysovalantou (Ειρήνη Χρυσοβαλάντου)

July 28th is the feast day of our venerable mother Irene of Chrysovalantou. This popular saint was born in Cappadocia during the 9th-century, and gave up the chance of royal marriage to join the Chrysovalantou convent eventually becoming its abbess. She can be recognized in icons by the the presence of some, or all, or the following:

  • The clothing, and sometimes staff, of an abbess (see icon above).
  • Three apples from Paradise, given to St. Irene by a sailor after being instructed by an apparition of St John the Apostle. The apples gave off a divinely sweet aroma, and were shared among the sisters of the convent.
  • Bowing cypress trees, which recall a miracle observed three times by one of the nuns, who saw St Irene levitating during prayer whilst two cypress trees bent down before the abbess. The nun tied scarves to the bowed tips of the trees to prove to the other sisters the miracle had occurred. The scarves are usually shown tied to the trees, and the nun may also be shown spying on the Saint.
  • An angel holding a scroll. This is the guardian angel of St Irene, who appeared to her after she prayed to foreknow the trials of her nun. The angel greeted her saying: “Hail, handmaiden of God, the Lord has sent me that more might be saved through your guidance. I am to remain at your side and disclose the events of the future.”
  • An open scroll held by St Irene, written upon which is some of the preserved teachings and admonishments of the Saint.
  • The Chrysovalantou convent may be shown in the background, especially if the bowing cypress tress are also shown.
  • The inscription of her name: Οσία Ειρήνη Χρυσοβαλάντου (Greek); Saint (or Blessed) Irene Chrysovalantou (English); Святая (Св) Ирина Каппадокийская (Cyrillic); Sfanta (Sf) Irina Hrisovalant (Romanian)
Venerable Irene of Chrysovalantou

Venerable Irene of Chrysovalantou

Brief hagiography of Irene Chrysovolantou

More detailed biography from Mystagogy

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All Saints Icon | The Great Cloud of Witnesses

After Pentecost, remembering the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Church celebrates the Sunday of All Saints. This is fitting, as the Saints are the result of the Holy Spirit being given to the Apostles, the fruits of that “grain of wheat, which fell into the earth and died” (John 12:24).

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The Holy Spirit as a dove in iconography

Fresco of the Throne of Preparation (Bucovina)

A previous post on the Throne of Preparation showed the widespread (in time and location) practice of depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove. The Holy Spirit did descend “as a dove” at the Baptism of Christ, and so naturally we can see a dove representing the Holy Spirit in icons of this event. Yet there is some opposition to the widespread practice of using the dove to symbolize the Holy Spirit in other images, such as on the Throne of Preparation and icons of Pentecost (e.g.: here).

It is true that icons properly deal with what has been divinely revealed, rather than human imagining of divine things in terms of symbols and signs. However, the use of the dove as an easily recognizable symbol of the Holy Spirit’s presence persists in Orthodox iconography, and is based on numerous sources outside of the baptism of Christ.
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