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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God

The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God (Feast Day - May 7)

The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1470 in the vicinity of Zhirovits on the Grodnensk frontier. In the forest, belonging to the Orthodox Lithuanian dignitary Alexander Solton, shepherds beheld an extraordinarily bright light, while peering through the branches of a pear tree that stood over a brook at the foot of a hill. The shepherds came closer and saw a radiant icon of the Mother of God on the tree. With reverence, the shepherds took the icon to Alexander Solton. Alexander Solton did not pay any attention to the report of the shepherds, but he took the icon and placed it in a chest.

On the following day Solton had guests, and he wanted to show them what had been found. To his amazement, he did not find the icon in the chest, although he had seen it shortly before this. After a certain time the shepherds again found the icon in the same place, and again they brought it to Alexander Solton. This time, however, he received the icon with great reverence and vowed to build a church in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos at the place of the icon's discovery. Around the wooden church a settlement soon gathered and a parish was formed.

Around the year 1520 the church was completely burned, despite the efforts of the inhabitants to extinguish the blaze and save the icon. Everyone thought that the icon had been destroyed. However, some peasant children returning from school beheld a miraculous vision. The Virgin, extraordinarily beautiful and radiant, sat upon a stone at the burned church, and in Her hands was the icon which everyone believed had been destroyed. The children did not dare approach Her, but they hastened to tell their relatives and acquaintances about the vision.

Everyone accepted the story about the vision as a divine revelation and they went to the hill with the priest.The Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God, totally unharmed by the fire, stood on a stone with a burning candle before it. For awhile they placed the icon in the priest's house, and the stone was fenced in. When they built a stone church, they placed the wonderworking icon there. A men's monastery later grew up around the church. Its brethren headed the struggle for Orthodoxy against the Unia and Latinism.

In 1609, the monastery was seized by the Uniates and remained in their hands until 1839. During this time the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God was venerated by both Uniates and Catholics. In 1839, the monastery was returned to the Orthodox and became the first place where Orthodox services were restored on the West Russian frontier.

During the First World War, they brought the Zhirovits Icon of the Mother of God to Moscow, and at the beginning of the 1920s it was returned to the monastery. At present it is in the Dormition cathedral of the Zhirovits monastery, Minsk diocese, and it is deeply revered for its grace-filled help. The icon was carved in stone and measured 43x56 cm.


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