The first Sunday after Pentecost celebrates, among other things, the Softener of Evil Hearts Icon (Умягчение злых сердец)of the Mother of God.
It is undeniable that the image of Mary here is sentimental, painted in soft tones with her eyes dewed with tears. The influence of the icon is probably from the west, and post-Renaissance Roman Catholic art, where such sentimental renderings of religious subjects are common. That the original image would have it’s source “outside” the Orthodox Church, would be a cause for concern for some Orthodox Christians. Nevertheless, in recent times God has chosen this very image to manifest signs of grace, miracles, and healing.
The myrrh-streaming icon is not ancient, but contemporary, made by the iconographers of Sofrino factory, who specialize in producing paper-mounted icons. The icon was owned by a pious lady named Margarita Vorobyev, who lived in an apartment in Moscow.
The transformation of the icon happened during the glorification (i.e. recognition of her sainthood by a formal council of bishops) of blessed Matrona of Moscow, on May 2 1999, after the icon had previously placed on righteous Matrona’s holy relics. Before the detonation of houses in Moscow, dark circles started to appear beneath the eyes of Mary in the icon, and the the smell of incense began to be felt in the room where the icon was kept. On August 12, 2000, on the day when the submarine “Kursk” sank killing all the crewmen, small amounts of blood started to flow from the icon.
The Myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God Softener of evil hearts has since streamed myrrh and blood regularly, in particular reacting to many of the sorrows that have occurred around the world, including the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the Beslan school massacre. Myrrh streams from the face of the Mother of God so abundantly that it is gathered by the litre. The blood which flows from the icon, often immediately prior to a particular tragedy, has been shown in tests to be human blood.
Those who come to venerate the icon are met by her in different ways (see: Our Relationship with Icons). Some are healed by the icon (including from cancer), others consoled by it, whilst others are not able even to approach it: those who secretly hide some unspeakable evil within them are often held back from the icon as if by a superhuman force.
A wooden chapel was built to house the icon, though it spends much of its time traveling around Russia and elsewhere: including the United States, Australia, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Greece and other European countries. It is the Mother of God who herself chooses where the icon will visit: more than once it has become impossible to take the image to a preplanned destination, after continual and mounting obstacles were placed before those entrusted to look after the icon.
Soften our evil hearts, O Mother of God,
And quench the attacks of those who hate us
And loose all straitness of our soul.
For looking on thy holy icon
We are filled with compunction by thy suffering and loving-kindness for us
And we kiss thy wounds;
We are filled with horror for the darts with which we wound thee.
Let us not, O Mother of Compassion,
According to the cruelty of our hearts, perish from the cruelty of heart of those near us,
For thou art in truth the Softener of Evil Hearts.
Above Prayer taken from the Akathist to the Mother of God, Softener of Evil Hearts
Gallery of images of the Softener of Evil Hearts Myrrh-Streaming Icon (article in Russian)