The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
On September 8th, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.
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 Vyshhorod, 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!
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 colors, 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.”
The Troparion of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God
Today the most glorious city of Moscow rejoices radiantly, / for it receives your wonderworking Icon as a ray of the sun, O Lady. / Now, having recourse to it, we pray to you and cry: / O most wondrous Lady Theotokos, / pray to Christ our God, Who was incarnate of you, / that this city and all cities and countries be kept safe from all the assaults of the enemy, / and that our souls may be saved, for He is merciful.
PS - You can entrust the prayers for you and your loved ones to Sisters of St. Elisabeth Convent. Click on this link to send us your prayer requests on the feast of Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.
We celebrate two Patron Saint days this month, the Holy Royal Martyrs on July 17 and the Convent’s Heavenly intercessor - Saint Elisabeth the New Martyr on July 18.