May 5, 2018

Synaxis of the Icon of the Mother of God the Inexhaustible Chalice

Icon of the Inexhaustible Cup (Feast Day - May 5)

The Inexhaustible Chalice Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was revealed in Russia in 1878. A retired soldier from Tula had spent his pension on alcohol, ruining his health. Though he was no longer able to walk, he continued to drink.

One night a holy Elder appeared to him in a dream and told him to go to the Vladychny Convent of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple in Serpukhov. “Have a Molieben served before her Icon the Inexhaustible Chalice." Since he had no money and could not walk, the man paid no attention to the dream. Then the Elder appeared a second and third time, speaking to him with increasing severity.

Crawling on all fours, the man reached the next village and stayed in the home of an old woman. She rubbed his legs, and he began to feel better. The next day, he resumed his journey with two canes, then with one, until he arrived at the monastery.

He described his dreams to the nuns, but none of them had ever heard of the Inexhaustible Chalice Icon. Then a nun remembered an icon that hung in the convent passageway from the Church of Saint George which portrayed a chalice. On the back of the icon was an inscription, “The Inexhaustible Chaice.” Remarkably, when the man came up to the shrine of Saint Varlaam, he at once recognized in him the holy elder who had appeared to him in the vision and commanded to go to the Mother of God for healing from alcoholism. After the Molieben, the peasant returned home restored to health, and cured of his alcoholism.

News of the miracle spread, and many alcoholics and their families came to pray before the Icon. Many of them came back to thank the Mother of God for answering their prayers. Every Sunday in the Serpukhov-Vyotsk Monastery a Molieben with an Akathist is served before the Icon for those who are addicted to alcohol.

After the October Revolution, the original Inexhaustible Chalice icon was moved to Saint Nicholas Cathedral. During the years 1919-1928 eight copies were painted. After the cathedral was closed in 1929, most of its icons were burned and the fate of the wonderworking Icon and the eight copies is unknown.

About the Icon

The Icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice depicts the Theotokos with hands raised in the orans position, similar to icons of Our Lady of the Sign. The Christ Child is shown standing in a chalice with both hands raised in blessing.

The Icon is a variant of the icon of the Mother of God of Nicaea, also known as “Your Womb Becomes the Holy Table.” The difference between the two is that the Nicaean icon shows the Theotokos with her head inclined to one side, sometimes with eyes downcast, whereas She is depicted in the Inexhaustible Chalice icon with her head straight and looking at the viewer.

Veneration of the Icon following Collapse of Communism

In 1991, the men's Vysotsky Monastery in Serpukhov, founded in 1374 by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, was reopened under the direction of Archimandrite Joseph Balabanov (now Bishop of Birobidzhan and Kuldursk). In 1992, the iconographer Alexander Sokolov painted a new copy of the icon in the Byzantine style. In 1993 it was installed in the Vysotsky Monastery, where it is now venerated as wonderworking, particularly in healing from addiction. This icon has become renowned throughout all of Russia and throughout the Orthodox world. The Vysotsky Monastery has since become the major shrine of the Icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice.

In the 1995, the women's Vladychny Convent, site of the original manifestation of the Inexhaustible Cup, was reopened. In 1996, a copy painted in the "academic" style based on newspaper photographs, was enshrined. (It has since been determined that the original icon was of the Byzantine style based on a description written about the icon at that time.) This icon too has become miraculous.

In an interview, Abbess Alexia of the Vladychny Convent states an icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice, presumed to be the miraculous original of 1878, has been found in a private art collection. It is uncertain whether the icon can be redeemed.

The icon has been painted in many styles and several copies throughout Russia are regarded as miraculous.

In 1997, in recognition of its veneration, its commemoration was entered into the official liturgical calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church with the blessing of His Holiness, the late Patriarch Alexy II. The feast day is listed as May 5, the date of the repose of Saint Varlaam. The Vladychny Convent continues to celebrate the feast day of the Inexhaustible Chalice on November 27 O.S./ December 10 N.S., the feast day of Our Lady of the Sign.

An akathist and molieben to the Inexhaustible Chalice have been composed in Russian and English.

People suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, and other dependencies continue to appeal to God for help and healing through the icon of the Inexhaustible Chalice.

The Icon in Recovery Programs

After the Icon was glorified as being miraculous in 1878, the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Serpakhov organized the St. Alexander Nevsky Brotherhood of Sobriety.

Since the early 1990s, sixty drug rehabilitation centers in Russia are run by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Pokrov-Tervenichesky Convent has a skete dedicated to the Inexhaustible Chalice, where men and women suffering from addictions go through a recovery program.

The Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup was formed "to provide and establish a network of intercessory prayer and support among its members in order to combat the many destructive forces of addictions."

Kontakion in Plagal of the Second Tone
We have no other help, we have no other hope, but you, O Lady. Help us, for in you we hope, and of you we boast, for we are your servants. Let us not be put to shame.