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The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, the "Inexhaustible Chalice"

The Inexhaustible Chalice, a Wellspring of Divine Grace

The Inexhaustible Chalice

Behold the Cup of Life, overflowing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the sacred icon of our Lady.
Taste and behold the immense mercy of the Protectress. For She, possessing immense power by Her own will acts as the Sovereign of all.
(Sticheron, Tone 2)

The Most Holy Theotokos, Heavenly Mother of humankind, is an impenetrable wall against evil, a tireless seeker of the lost, and a beacon of joy for all who grieve. She stands steadfastly beside the sin-laden soul lost in the grip of earthly passions. Second only to God in Her concern for our salvation, She patiently guides us from the darkness and leads us to Christ. She directs us to the inexhaustible wellspring of Life, replenishing our dwindling strength and lifting us from our falls. When we squander the divine gifts bestowed upon us, succumbing to vanity, She offers Her unfailing support in our moments of weakness. And when the soul, ravaged by internal storms, lacks the fortitude to resist evil’s pull and teeters on the brink of destruction, the Queen of Heaven extends a helping hand. What seems impossible for a sinner to accomplish alone — the renunciation of sin’s grip — becomes possible through Her intervention. Countless grateful souls have found solace and liberation at the venerated icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, the “Inexhaustible Chalice.” As the Akathist hymn proclaims, the Inexhaustible Chalice is a vessel overflowing with joy, an unending source of comfort, healing, life, and countless spiritual blessings and gifts:

“For by Your intercession, O Mother of God, grace is given to all who are in sorrow, the destitute, widows, and the elderly, especially those suffering from the passion of drunkenness; and these do not depart in vain from Your unfailing cup of divine gifts but receiving healing abundantly, O All-Good One, gratefully cry out to God: Alleluia!”
(Kontakion 11 of the Akathist before the icon of the Mother of God “Inexhaustible Cup”)

The icon “Inexhaustible Chalice” brings salvific hope, and offers healing from the pernicious grip of drunkenness. Through Her boundless mercy, the Mother of God intercedes for all sinners, recognizing the plight of those entangled in the clutches of alcoholism. Many of these individuals yearn desperately for liberation from this vice, yet find themselves overpowered. Through the holy icon “Inexhaustible Chalice,” the Most Pure One reminds us that She is an inexhaustible wellspring of grace and spiritual joy. She pours forth heavenly sweetness from Her never-depleting Cup into hearts tormented by sin. Having tasted this divine essence, they come to despise the destructive allure of their passion and embark on a path of abstinence and spiritual clarity.

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The icon’s metal cover, or its Riza, testifies to this transformative power. Each gemstone and each pearl embodies someone’s pain, a shed tear, and a surge of gratitude for deliverance from the deadly grip of addiction.

The prototype for this icon draws inspiration from the ancient Byzantine image “Your Womb Became a Holy Table”. Thematic similarities are also evident with the icon of Our Lady of the Sign, albeit with the Christ Child depicted standing within the Chalice. This Chalice signifies Holy Communion.

The icon of the Mother of God “The Sign,” 11th century, St. Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod.

The icon of the Mother of God “The Sign,” 11th century, St. Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod.

This Cup is inexhaustible because the Lamb is “always eaten yet never consumed”. The Most Holy Theotokos with her pure hands raised intercedes that this sacrifice may be accepted on the Heavenly Altar for the sinful human race. And there is no surer way to gain the love and favour of the Mother of God than through partaking in the Holy Sacraments of Christ.

The icon “Your Womb Became a Holy Table”

The icon “Your Womb Became a Holy Table”

The “Inexhaustible Chalice” icon, discovered in Russia in 1878, held a place of honour within the Serpukhov Vladychny Monastery until 1919. After the monastery’s closure, it was placed in the White Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Serpukhov’s Kaluzhskaya Street. Sadly, the icon’s whereabouts after this point remains unknown.

Feast Day Celebration at Vysotsky Monastery

Feast Day Celebration at Vysotsky Monastery

With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II, the church-wide commemoration of the “Inexhaustible Chalice” icon was designated to coincide, from the 20th century, with the repose of Saint Varlaam of Serpukhov on 5 May, recognising that the icon had been discovered through the intercession of this saint. Marking the renewal of the icon’s veneration, its exact copy was painted in 1993 at the Vysotsky Monastery, just two years after its reopening.

Copy of the Icon “InexhaustCopy of the Icon “Inexhaustible Chalice” from Vladychny Conventible Chalice” from Vladychny Convent

Copy of the Icon “Inexhaustible Chalice” from Vladychny Convent

In 1995 a precise copy was painted from an old photograph at Vladychny Convent less than one year after it was reopened. This reproduction retained the original’s proportions and academic artistic style in its entirety.

“We magnify you, O Theotokos, who has revealed to us Your wondrous image ‘Inexhaustible Chalice,’ from which divine water of life ceaselessly flows for those who love You and pray to You, and those who partake thereof are delivered from deadly thirst.”
(Sedalen after the Polyeleos)

This article was compiled by the obitel.minsk.ru team

Photo credit: the Internet

Source materials:

1. “Rejoicing in You: Miraculous Icons of the Mother of God” (Moscow, 2004) — Compiled by N. Dmitrieva., 2004.
2. “Akathists to the Most Holy Theotokos in Various Needs” (St. Petersburg: Satis, 2008).
3. “Icon of the Mother of God ‘Inexhaustible Cup’” (Patriarchia.ru, 18.05.2022).

May 18, 2024
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