Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Icon of the Mother of God the "Multiplier of Wheat"

The Icon of the Mother of God, the "Multiplier of Wheat", was painted at the blessing of the Elder Ambrose (October 10) of the Visitation Optina wilderness monastery. St Ambrose, a great Russian ascetic of the nineteenth century, was ardent with a childlike faith towards the Mother of God. In particular, he revered all the Feastdays of the Mother of God, and on these days he redoubled his prayer. With the icon, "Multiplier of Wheat," St Ambrose blessed the Shamordino women's monastery established in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, which he had founded not far from the Optina monastery.

On this icon, the Mother of God is depicted sitting upon the clouds, and Her hands are extended in blessing. Beneath her is a compressed field, and on it amidst the grass and flowers stand and lay sheaves of rye. Elder Ambrose himself decreed the day of celebration, October 15, and called the icon "Multiplier of Wheat", indicating by this, that the Most Holy Theotokos "is a Helper for people in their labors for the acquiring of their daily bread."

Before his blessed repose, St Ambrose ordered many copies of this icon and sent them to his spiritual children. For the Akathist to this icon, the Elder composed a particular response, "Hail, Full of Grace, the Lord is with You! Grant unto us unworthy ones the dew of Your grace and the showing forth of Your mercy!"

St Ambrose's burial took place on October 15, the Feastday of the icon (he reposed on October 10). The first miracle from the holy icon was witnessed in 1891, when throughout Russia there was a famine because of crop failure. In the Kaluga district and on the fields of the Shamordino monastery, however, grain was produced. In 1892, already after the death of St Ambrose, his attendant John Cherepanov sent a copy of the icon to the Pyatnitsa women's monastery in Voronezh district. In this locale there was a threat of drought and famine, but soon after a Molieben was celebrated before the icon "The Multiplier of Wheat", rain fell and ended the drought.

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