VORONEZH: September 16, 2013
A Delegation of the Russian Church Abroad Brings the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” to the Diocese of Voronezh
With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, one of the holiest relics of the Russian diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign,” was brought to Voronezh from Munich. The icon is accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Mrk of Berlin and Germany.
Despite the late hour—the greeting was took place at 11:00 pm on September 14, 2013—Annunciation Cathedral in Voronezh was filled beyond capacity by worshipers who came to venerate one of the most ancient miracle-working icons of the Most-Pure Mother of God. By Divine Providence, this icon had become the Hodigitria, or Protectress, of Russian refugees in their years of exile in the 20 th century.
Deans, parish rectors and clergymen of the Voronezh region gathered to meet the great holy icon in the city’s main church. Because of a flight delay, the worshipers waited in anticipation for over two hours; no one left, in fact, more and more people kept arriving, piously praying during an akathist and reading of canons. When news came that the icon arrived at Voronezh’s airport, the entire cathedral began singing “Rejoice, Virgin Mother of God.” The singing continued until the icon finally entered the cathedral.
His Eminence Metropolitan Sergy of Voronezh and Borisoglebsk, accompanied by Archbishop Mark, brought the miracle-working icon into Annunciation Cathedral and blessed the gathered worshipers. A moleben was then performed to the Queen of Heaven, after which Metropolitan Sergy intoned an endearing and heartfelt prayer to the Most-Holy Mother of God.
The next day, September 15, the 12 th Sunday of Pentecost, a hierarchal Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the cathedral, at which Metropolitan Sergy officiated along with Archbishop Mark, the cathedral’s clergymen and the delegate clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Thousands of residents of Voronezh hastened to venerate the icon throughout the night. Despite the pouring rain of the first half of the next day and the autumn chill, people patiently waited in line to kiss the Most-Holy image of the Queen of Heaven and pray for her help in their need, their sicknesses, sorrows and joys…
After the dismissal, Vladyka Sergy led a moleben before the icon, after which all the worshipers sand “My Most-Blessed Queen.” Metropolitan Sergy then addressed Vladyka Mark and the worshipers.
Later that day, Vladyka Mark, accompanied by Metropolitan Sergy, met with the teachers and students of Voronezh Theological School.
Vladyka Mark first discussed the life of the Church abroad, the particularities of pastoral service in other countries. Touched upon in the conversation were monastic life and the teaching of foundations of Orthodoxy in schools. Vladyka Mark talked about missionary work, diocesan publications, and the problem of interrelations with those of other confessions. The hierarch answered questions in great detail with much substance. A wide scope of topics was covered: the relationship between Church and state, the mission of the Church in the world, the veneration of the New Martyrs, the work of contemporary theologians, and a great deal else. The friendly meeting continued for over two hours, after which Vladyka Mark wished the seminarians success in their studies, and offered his archpastoral blessings.
At the end of the meeting, the seminary’s rector, Hegumen Innokenty (Nikoforov), thanked Vladyka Mark and Metropolitan Sergy for the meeting and interesting discussion, and gave Vladyka Mark an icon of the saints of Voronezh painted by its graduates. Vladyka Mark offered his thanks to Metropolitan Sergy for the invitation and meeting with the seminarians.
The ancient icon of the Mother of God spent over 24 hours, from 1 am on September 15 until 8 am on September 16, at Annunciation Cathedral. A constant stream of worshipers venerated the icon, many of whom were entire families, with little children in their arms. The line stretched for hundreds of meters.
Divine services were continually held, performed by clergymen from all the city’s churches, many bringing their own parish choirs to sing. The pilgrims always joined in the singing as they waited in line.
On the morning of September 16, Metropolitan Sergy once again came to perform one last moleben. His Eminence was joined by Vladyka Mark, Vicar Bishop Andrei of Ostrogod, the cathedral clergymen and visiting clerics.
After the dismissal and singing of the laudation to the icon of the Mother of God, Vladyka Sergy read a sermon, in which he said, in part:
“The moment has come for us to bid farewell to the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, which we have been given the opportunity to venerate in recent days, before which we lifted up our prayers. We thank our Heavenly Queen for her great mercies, which she deigned to pour upon the Russian land for many years and which she is now offering us, the people of Voronezh. We thank the Queen of Heaven that she visited with us and heard our prayers and our pleas. We believe that by the prayers of the Most-Blessed Mother, the Lord will help us in our troubles and sorrows. We hope that She remains with us in our moments of happiness and helps us achieve what is most important on this earth—to obtain the fruits of the Holy Spirit, helping us live a sinless life and attain the Kingdom of Heaven.” Metropolitan Sergy then addressed Archbishop Mark: “Once again I thank you, Your Eminence, dear Vladyka Mark, and your fellow travelers, for your love, which we felt with all our hearts, for the Eucharistic prayers we performed together, for meeting with our people and our seminarians, to whom you devoted several hours yesterday. You frequently accompany this icon of the Mother of God on its travels throughout Europe, you often bring it to Russia. May God grant that the Lord and the Mother of God always be with you and preserve you, Vladyka, in good health and for many blessed years. May the Lord save you !”
Everyone in the cathedral, including those who had not yet been able to venerate the icon, then fell to their knees as the Queen of Heaven was carried out over their heads…