2 November 2006, 00:00

ICON OF OUR LADY OF KAZAN

By Lyubov Tsarevskaya On November 4th Orthodox believers cherish the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most respected icons in Russia. The icon was discovered in the town of Kazan 25 years after Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) conquered the hostile Tartar state of Kazan.

By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

On November 4th Orthodox believers cherish the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, one of the most respected icons in Russia.



The icon was discovered in the town of Kazan 25 years after Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) conquered the hostile Tartar state of Kazan. Christianity was gradually taking root in the Islamic town of Kazan and, probably, to further consolidate the Orthodox faith God revealed a miracle-working icon of the Virgin.



Once there was a fire in Kazan and half of the town was destroyed. A house of a strelets (a regular soldier of a special regiment in the 16-17 centuries) burnt to the ground. When the man decided to build a new house, his 9-year-old daughter, Matrona saw the Virgin in a dream. The Virgin demanded that the town authorities and the clergy dig out Her icon in the place She indicated. The girl told the dream to her mother, but she did not pay much attention to her daughter’s words. The dream repeated, however. Only when the Virgin appeared in Matrona’s dream for the third time the mother and the child went to the clergy and told them about it. Then the mother and the daughter began digging in the place indicated by the Virgin and found an icon wrapped in a sleeve of some old clothing. The icon was absolutely undamaged, without a single dark spot. People rushed to the icon, they prayed and kissed it reverently. Prayer services were conducted and finally the icon was placed in the Annunciation Cathedral. On that very day two blind men were miraculously cured. As became known later, the icon was a replica of the miracle-working icon of the Virgin traditionally attributed to St. Luke and kept in Constantinople. Following the order of the Tsar, a church and a convent in the honour of Our Lady of Kazan were built in the site where the icon had been found. Matrona, the girl who saw the Virgin in her child’s dreams, was the first to be initiated into the convent.



Prior to 1612 the icon of Our Lady of Kazan was among the locally cherished icons, a holiday in its honour was established on the day it revealed itself, July 21st.



In the early 17th century Russia went through the time of trouble. Secular state power was rather weak. As a result, Moscow was seized by Polish invaders. The Patriarch of All Russia Hermogen, who was then in prison, appealed to the nation calling for unity in the struggle against the invaders. He also gave instructions that the icon of Our Lady of Kazan should be brought to Moscow. On the eve of the decisive battle a prayer service was conducted before the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Kazan. After fierce battles the Polish invaders were driven out of the capital. To mark the event the Russian Tsar Mikhail Romanov established the second holiday in the honour of the icon of Our Lady of Kazan — on November 4th. Later the Kazan Cathedral was built on Red Square. Destroyed in the Soviet time, it was restored in the 1990s.



From that time on the icon of Our Lady of Kazan saved Russia more than once, for instance, in 1941-1945, during World War Two against Nazi Germany. The Virgin appeared to the Metropolitan of the Antioch Church, Ilya, who prayed wholeheartedly for Russia, and instructed him to tell the Russians that the icon of Our Lady of Kazan should be carried by a religious procession round the besieged city of Leningrad (now St.Petersburg). Then, the Virgin said, a prayer service should be conducted before the icon in Moscow. The Virgin said that the icon should stay with the Russian troops in Stalingrad and later move with them to the Russian border.



Leningrad did not surrender. Miraculously, Moscow was also saved. During the Battle of Stalingrad the icon was with Russians on the right bank of the Volga and the Nazi troops failed to cross the river. The Battle of Stalingrad began with a prayer service before the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, and only then the troops received the order to attack. The icon of the Virgin of Kazan was in most important sectors of the front and in places where the troops were getting ready for an offensive. It was like in old times when heeding to prayers the Virgin instilled awe in enemies and drove them away. Even atheists told stories of the Virgin’s help to the Russian troops.



During the storm of Koenigsberg in 1944, the Soviet troops were in a situation which can be described as critical. Suddenly, soldiers saw that their commander arrived with priests and an icon. Many made jokes: “Just wait, they will help us!” The commander silenced the jokers. He ordered everybody to line up and take off their uniform caps. When the priests finished prayer service they moved to the frontline carrying the icon. Bewildered soldiers watched them going straight under intense fire of the Nazis. Suddenly the Nazis stopped shooting. And the Russian troops were ordered to attack on the ground and from the sea. Nazis died in the thousands. Nazi prisoners reminisced that they saw the Virgin in the sky before the Russians began to storm, the whole of the Nazi army could watch Her and their weapons would not fire.



Today Orthodox Church also turns to the Virgin in any difficulty. They say: “Our Lady and intercessor, pray to God for us!”

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