The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
On September 8th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Meeting of the Our Lady of Vladimir Icon.
This wonderworking icon is one of the most venerated in Russia and, according to tradition, dates from the dawn of Christianity. It was painted by Apostle Luke on the board of the table where Christ dined with Theotokos. Seeing the portrait, the Mother of God said: “From now on, all generations will bless Me. The grace of the One born of Me and Mine be with this icon.”
Transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople, the icon was then sent to the Russian Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy as a gift. It was first housed in the nunnery of Vyshgorod, the appanage city of Andrey Bogolyubsky.
The Prince, while travelling through the Zalessk Land, had a vision. The Theotokos commanded to leave Her image in Vladimir. The image has been called the “Vladimirskaya” icon since then.
One of the most significant miracles in Russian history, still celebrated by the Orthodox Church, happened on September 8. The hordes of Tamerlan, one of the most fearful conquerors ever, approached Moscow. The forces the Russians could scrape together were nowhere close to his, neither in quantity nor in skills.
There was nothing left but to appeal to God’s help. It took 10 days to carry the image of the Mother of God from Vladimir to Moscow. On September 8, when the Moscovites were greeting the icon, the armies of Tamerlan backed up and retreated from the Russian lands for no apparent reason.
Moscow was saved.
According to the legend, Tamerlan had a dream of the radiant Virgin with saints in shining garments and sworded angels. The dream interpreters explained that he saw the protectress of that (Russian) land and there was no way to subdue Her. The khan ordered retreat then.
The divine intervention of the Theotokos against the seemingly unstoppable foe decided the bloodless Russian victory. This miraculous deliverance from the imminent threat on September 8th, 1395, celebrated by the Russian Orthodox Church ever since, glorifies the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God!
Another grave threat loomed over Moscow in 1480. Khan Akhmat of the Golden Horde led his armies into Russia. Russian and Tatar forces met on the Ugra River. The Tartars did not advance, waiting for the river to freeze over. Suddenly Prince John commanded his army to retreat. The enemy believed the Russians were luring them into an ambush, so they fled as well. Moscow was spared destruction by God's Providence. Since that time the "Standing on the Ugra" has been commemorated on 6 July (23 June Old Style) as a feast and symbol of our trust in the intercession of the Mother of God.
A fragment of the diorama "The Great Stand on the Ugra River". Pavel Ryzhenko
Finally, the third feast falls on 3 June (21 May). On that day in 1521, Khan Makhmet-Girei led a march on Moscow. According to tradition, a nun had a vision of Moscow's sainted hierarchs leaving the city with the Vladimir icon. The Venerable Sergius of Radonezh and Varlaam of Khutyn met them at the gate to ask them to forgive the people and not leave the city. The saints prayed together and returned. Blessed Basil also had a similar vision, declaring that God's Mother would eventually spare Moscow from destruction.
The revolutionary years were not the only time the icon came under attack. During the Napoleonic war, Her sacred image travelled across Russia and avoided sacrilege and desecration at the hands of the unbelievers. It was not returned to the Dormition Church until after the Russian victory. A copy of the Vladimir icon stands in honour In the Church of Christ the Saviour, built in 1883 in celebration of the victory over the French Interestingly, the Battle of Borodino, one of the most decisive events in that war, occurred on 26 August, the feast day of the Vladimir icon.
The Vladimir icon of the Mother of God was always with the people during Russia's most desperate moments. Time and again, the people invoked the name of the Mother of God, as they begged Her, as their own mother, for protection, help, and the power and strength of the spirit to return to the path of repentance. Invariably, as they looked into the sad, somewhat withdrawn but also incredibly loving eyes of the Mother of God, they found new strength in their faith and heard her warm and reassuring message of God's love, "Fear not. I am always with you".
Vladimir icon of the Mother of God at St. Nicholas Church (St. Elisabeth Convent, Minsk)
This treasured icon is maintained in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and accessible to everyone. The copy of this holy image is one of the most popular among icons that sanctify our homes. Our Convent’s icon studios use different techniques to paint the Vladimir Icon of Theotokos.
Looking at the Vladimir Icon of Theotokos, we see such peaceful beauty, humility and love that many of us think this is the true appearance of Virgin Mary! We also have a description of the Virgin Mary from Dionysius the Areopagite, one of the early saints who saw the Virgin Mary. He left us a description of her.
When he learned that the Mother of Christ lived in Jerusalem, he travelled there to meet Her. From this meeting he said:
"Her appearance, Her features, Her whole appearance testify that She is indeed Mother of God."
According to Tradition, that from the compiler of Church history Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century), the Mother of God “was of average stature, or as others suggest, slightly more than average; Her hair golden in appearance; Her eyes bright with pupils like shiny olives; Her eyebrows strong in character and moderately dark, Her nose pronounced and Her mouth vibrant bespeaking sweet speech; Her face was neither round nor angular, but somewhat oblong; the palm of Her hands and fingers were longish…
In conversation with others She preserved decorum, neither becoming silly nor agitated, and indeed especially never angry; without artifice, and direct, She was not overly concerned about Herself, and far from pampering Herself, She was distinctly full of humility. Regarding the clothing which She wore, She was satisfied to have natural colours, which even now is evidenced by Her holy head-covering. Suffice it to say, a special grace attended all Her actions.”
If something is burdening your soul, present your difficulties before the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos and remember the words of St Joseph of Volokalamsk: “Never was it known that anyone who sought thy protection was ever left unaided.”
We invite you to step back in time into the Russian Middle Ages and experience the miracles of divine intervention.
"The Protectress" is an animated film produced by Baltic Television Company. Uncover its captivating story based on the tradition of the Vladimir Icon’s miraculous intercession for the Russian land.
Every Thursday and Friday we have a prayer service to the Mother of God. We invite you to send us your prayer requests for the health of your loved ones. To do this, simply follow the link and select the desired option: https://obitel-minsk.org/prayer-request.