November 19, 2015

The 17th Century Icon of the Theotokos "Consolation in Grief and Sorrows"

The Theotokos "Consolation in Grief and Sorrows" (Feast Day - November 19)

The Icon of the Mother of God known as the “Consolation in Grief and Sorrows” Icon is a hinged or triptych icon dating to the 17th Century. According to tradition the Icon belonged to the Holy Patriarch Athanasios of Constantinople.

Saint Athanasios spent his entire life doing battle in defense of Orthodoxy, against the Turks and the Jesuits. Out of obedience, several times he took on the cross of serving as Patriarch of Constantinople. After being elected on the feast of the Annunciation to the Theotokos in 1634, he occupied the patriarchal throne for only forty days, and in 1652, for one half of one month. After the third departure, Saint Athanasios retired, living and working for Christ’s sake in Moldavia and Wallachia. In 1653 he went to Russia, where he was received with pomp by Tsar Alexei Michailovitch.

Throughout all of Saint Athanasios' travels and times of seclusion, including his time on Mount Athos, he had the Consolation in Grief and Sorrows Icon with him. Hence, 1653 may be considered the year the Icon first came to Russia.

Relics of St. Athanasios the Sitter

In 1654, Holy Hierarch Athanasios left Moscow for his homeland. In Lubno, Ukraine he fell ill, and stopped to rest in the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Mgarsk; there, he reposed on April 5, 1654. In keeping with the custom for burial of Eastern Patriarchs, he was buried in a sitting position. Eight years later, when his grave was opened, it was found that the Holy Hierarch’s body was incorrupt (“except that his right hand, which held his bishop’s staff, was missing two or three fingers”). In 1662, Holy Hierarch Athanasios was glorified as a saint, and May 2 was set as the date of his commemoration.

After Saint Athanasios' death, the Consolation in Grief and Sorrows Icon was delivered to the Vatopaidi Monastery on Mount Athos, where it remained until October 1849, when the Russian Skete of Saint Andrew came into being. Then Metropolitan Gregory, who was living in retirement at Vatopaidi, gave the Icon to the newly-organized Skete as a blessing from the Monastery. The Icon remained in the cell of the founder, Fr. Vissarion. Before his death in 1862, he blessed the brethren with the Icon and said, “May this Icon be for you [a source of] exceeding joy and consolation in grief and sorrows.”

The Icon was glorified in Russia’s Vyatsk District in 1863, at the time that Hieromonk Paissy, bringing the Consolation in Grief and Sorrows Icon of the Mother of God from Mount Athos, stopped to collect donations at Slobodskoy Village. It was then that the Theotokos deigned to glorify the icon through various miracles.

Now the Icon is in the Saint Nicholas Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Evidence of the Icon’s miracle-working power also exists in contemporary Orthodox Russia. Thus, for example, in the St. Alexis-Akatov Convent in Voronezh, there is a copy of the Athonite Icon, bearing an inscription: “This icon was painted and blessed on Holy Mount Athos in the Russian Monastery of Saint John Chrysostom, during the rectorship of Hieroschemamonk Kirill in 1905.” Shortly after some restoration work had been done on it in 1999, the Icon began to stream Myrrh. One day in July, streams of Myrrh poured from the eyes of the Most-holy Theotokos.

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