On 23 May, we commemorate the finding of the Kiev-Bratsk (or "Brotherhood") icon of the Mother of God, which happened in 1654 in Vyshgorod, presently in Ukraine.
The icon is of the Eleusa (or Tenderness) type and was painted in the Byzantine style. It shows the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus on her arm while He embraces His mother. In contrast to all prior depictions of the Theotokos of the Tenderness type, the Mother of God in the Brotherhood icon is shown holding Jesus' hand in Hers.
This icon is a veritable historical treasure. Many miracles of Her intercession for the Christian faithful have been attributed to it over centuries, and it has long taken a significant place in religious and civic life. It was maintained in the city's main church, of Boris and Gleb. People came to venerate it before starting an important life or business undertaking, getting married, or going to court. Poets and musicians have written masterpieces in its honour. It has served as a symbol of the Theotokos' protection of the townspeople and, more broadly, of all pious Christians. It has brought solace and spiritual fortitude to those who have turned to Her in prayer.
When the Tartars and the Poles, who were allies, stormed the city in 1662, the icon worked its first miracle. The attackers stole all the gems and icons from the church. But the icon itself was spared. Several devout Christians risked their lives to protect it. They took the icon, but they could not hide it, so they floated it on the Dnieper, trusting in God's will. The Lord heard their prayer and sent the icon sailing downstream, keeping it from submerging.
As the icon was floating down to Kiev, it worked another miracle along the way. The Tartars were trying to cross the Dnieper north of Kiev when a storm struck, killing all save one. That lone Tartar managed to survive by clinging to the Mother of God Icon. He shouted out for help when the icon halted at Kiev's Bratsky Monastery. The monastery despatched a boat to rescue both the icon and the Tartar. God preserved the life of the Tatar, who later converted to Jesus Christ and took baptism.
The Kiev's Bratsky Monastery was closed in 1919, in the drive to shut down churches during Bolshevik rule. The Kiev-Bratsky Icon of the Mother of God, which ranked among the monastery's major treasures, was thought to have been lost until the 2000s, when archivists uncovered fresh records describing the most priceless icons of the Kiev-Bratsky monastery, including a thorough description of the Brotherhood Icon of the Mother of God. According to the documentation, the icon had been stored in the National Arts Museum of Ukraine's vaults since 1948. The second finding of the Brotherhood Icon is now seen as evidence of the Icon's miracle-working powers.
Believers most frequently turn to the Theotokos to make requests and ask for blessings because She is thought to be closer to God than any other saint. They ask for defence from enemies, support in overcoming challenges and grievances in life, success in marriage, the well-being of their families, and good fortune in work or business. This icon is particularly revered among Christian missionaries who pray for the people among whom they preach so that they may see the truth of Christ.
The hymns of the feast today call us to kneel before the Theotokos and her miracle-working Icon of Tenderness in tearful prayer for Her tremendous kindness. We beg that Her protection never stop, and that will always be strong and steadfast in our trust in Her and our Saviour.
The third Sunday after Pascha is a very special feast day in the Orthodox Church. On this day, we commemorate those brave women that were with Christ after His death and were the first ones to receive the joyous news about His resurrection.
The miraculous Pochaev Icon is one of the most renowned relics in the Christian world. It holds a special place of veneration in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, as well as in Eastern Poland, Slovakia, Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria.
In our lives on this earth, the lobby of Heaven, are we not like these invalids at the pool? Are we not waiting like them for some Angel of God to perform a miracle that will make us see, hear and live?
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