The feast day of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God reminds us that we should not despair even in the worst of our sorrows or lose trust in the willingness of our Lord and our Mother in Heaven to come to intercede for us. Yet messages of their intervention are often faint, and we must be careful not to miss them in the depth of our despair.
The discovery of the Kazan Icon brings us back to one of the darkest moments in Russian history. The city of Kazan had been struck by a devastating fire that left thousands homeless and destitute. For the rest of Russia, it was a time of troubles with much lawlessness and rebellion. The invading Polish armies had reached Moscow. The great famine of the early 1600s was looming ahead. Hope had all but disappeared.
It was at that point of great despair that the Divine intervention happened. The Kazan Icon of the Mother of God lay among the debris of a burned-down house. It became a rallying point for the people of Kazan and all of Russia. It raised the spirit of the people to fight off the Polish invasion, restore peace in the country, and settle the political disputes over the succession of the Russian throne. For decades and centuries ahead, the icon continued to help many generations of Russians who turned to the Holy Theotokos for her help in battling the invading armies and the temptations, misfortunes and trials coming from the enemy within.
Yet none of this would have happened without the courage and strong faith of a small nine-year-old girl named Matrona from one of the thousands of Kazan’s families affected by the fire. The Mother of God chose as her as the messenger of her intercession. She appeared to her in her dream. She instructed the girl to look for the icon of the Theotokos under the ashes of the destroyed family house. But people were in so much despair that no one was willing to believe her. Even her mother was sceptical. The Orthodox priests of the city chose to disregard her words, thinking that she was deluded. We owe the icon’s discovery to the unquestioning and steadfast faith of a little girl who acted on the words of the Theotokos.
She found the icon wrapped in an old cloth. It looked bright and beautiful as if it was new. The priest who questioned her dream repented his disbelief and became the metropolitan of Kazan. Later, he made a procession with the icon and blessed the Russian troops to fight against the Polish invaders. Eventually, he wrote a chronicle to tell this story to the generations to come.
If there is one thing that we can learn from it today, it might be this. The Lord never abandons us even in the worst of our sorrows. The Mother of God hears our prayers and will intercede on our behalf. Yet messages of the divine intercession may be faint. The gravity of our sorrows and the depth of our despair can easily keep us from hearing it. Let us pray that we have the strength never to lose faith in the presence of the Lord and that we keep our eyes and ears open even to the faintest voices of their messengers.
September 27 is a significant event in the life of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. The Feast of the Worldwide Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, one of the Twelve Great Feasts, is celebrated on this very day.