There are always people in front of the Healer icon of the Mother of God in our church. The people stand before it, make the sign of the cross, touch it with their lips and share their sorrows and misfortunes with the Holy Mistress in a long and silent whisper. Most often, they ask for the healing of someone they love and care about, petitioning the Mother of God for Her intercession.
1 October is marked as the International Day of Older People. Symbolically, this secular date coincides with the commemoration of the Icon of the Holy Virgin Healer.
It depicts an episode of the miraculous healing of a sick clergyman in Moscow. It occurred in the 17th century. A clergyman named Vikenty, whose rank is unknown, had been afflicted by severe illness. According to some accounts, his full name was Vikenty Bulvinensky, and he served as a singer at Navarninskaya Church. The nature of his disease is not known, but he was bedridden, growing weak by the day, and the hope of his recovery was fast disappearing. Sensing the approach of death, the man appealed to the Most Holy Theotokos. But rather than asking directly to be healed, as is usual for most people in these situations, he addressed the Mother of God with thanks. Every hour and minute, he repeated incessantly: Rejoice, Virgin Mary, Lord be with you! The familiar Gospel words sounded in his heart: Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a Virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The Virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to Her, Rejoice, Highly Favoured One, the Lord is with You; blessed are You among women! (Luke 1: 26 - 28).
The cleric recovered, whether by his heartfelt faith or for the glory of the Mother of God among the people. The Mother of God appeared to him himself, as he was already losing breath and preparing for his departure to the Lord. A bright glow illumined his room. A youth in white royal attire stood behind Her with a staff. It was Vikenty's Guardian Angel. He exhorted the Mother of God that he be healed, and his prayer for the pious clergyman was heard. She approached the man's bed and touched him with Her staff. Immediately, the man recovered, and the Healer disappeared from the room with the angel.
Joy, awe and steadfast faith filled the heart of the recovered cleric. Soon, he returned to his service at the church. As the tradition has it, he immediately rushed to the Kliros, like did Peter's wife's mother from the Gospel: Now when Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them (Matthew 8: 14, 15).
The icon of the Mother of God Healer was painted in commemoration of this wondrous encounter with the Heavenly Mistress. The depiction of the sick man and the Theotokos was copied from the original icon from the Tsilkan Church in Kartali, a key historical region of Georgia, painted at the time of Saint Nino in the fourth century. It depicts the mother of God standing at the bed of the sick cleric. The original image may have depicted a similar scene with one or two sick men.
The present Healer icon shows the sick cleric lying with his eyes closed and the Theotokos in a royal crown and staff coming to his rescue. In the corners are the images of the Saints Martyrs Cyricus and Julitta, Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, and the Holy Martyr Antypas, Bishop of Pergamum. Some copies of the icon have the text with the description of the miracle as narrated by Saint Dimitry of Rostov.
Troparion to the Healer Icon of the Mother of God, Tone 4:
From Your holy icon, O Lady Theotokos,/ salvation and healing is Granted abundantly to all those who come to You with love and faith / Visit also my infirmity and show mercy to my soul, O Good One, / and heal my body by Your grace.
From the Akathist read before the Healer Icon of the Mother of God:
Rejoice, Miraculous Healer of various afflictions; rejoice, Comforter in all sorrows and misfortunes, who sheds joy into our hearts.