A New Copy of the Montreal Iveron Icon

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In March, Fr. Victor and his Matushka visited the Optina Hermitage, where they once again spoke with the monks of the holy monastery. As one can see from the following account, their latest pilgrimage to Optina was a special one.

Late in the evening, on March 3, we arrived in the village of Nizhnie Pryski, at the monastic community founded by the late Schema-archimandrite Makary (Bolotov). With a severe case of bronchitis I had developed in Moscow, I had almost cancelled my trip… We came here to pray at Fr. Makary's grave and to speak with the nuns who are pursuing their spiritual struggle here. Matushka and I were accompanied by other clergy of the Church Abroad: Archpriest Stefan Pawlenko (California) Priest Vladimir Boikov (Australia) and Protodeacon Nikolai Triantifilidis (California). The nuns greeted us quite warmly - with the chanting of prayers, and with bread and salt.

The next morning, we and the priests served a panikhida for Fr. Makary. After breakfast and a warm conversation with the nuns, during which three young nuns sang a series of touching religious songs, we departed for Optina Hermitage, which is located several kilometers from Fr. Makary's residence.

Upon arrival at the monastery, we venerated the relics of the Elders, visited the bookstore, and then, accompanied by Fr. Tikhon, director of the scete, walked along the picturesque footpath beyond the monastery walls, to the scete in which the Optina Elders had dwelt. There, we were first escorted into the small church of St. John the Baptist. One hour later, Hegumen Michael, an inhabitant of the scete, came to perform his obedience, the reading of the Psalter. After greeting us quite hospitably, he told us that an exact copy of the Montreal Iveron Icon of the Mother of God had been written on one of the two icon boards which had belonged to murdered brother Joseph and which was later given to the iconographers of Optina. We should note that brother Joseph's memory is greatly revered in Optina. The monks of Optina consider Joseph one of their own, for Joseph had been secretly tonsured with the name Amvrossy, in honor of the Venerable Elder Amvrossy of Optina. The first of several icons of brother Joseph written at Optina had once been given to us as a gift. Fr. Michael further related to us that in his cell, the icon written on brother Joseph's board had already been streaming myrrh for three months. After providing a detailed account of the miracle of myrrh-streaming, Fr. Michael brought the icon itself out of his cell so that we might venerate it. With feelings of joy and tenderness, we prayed before the icon, thanked kind Fr. Michael, and warmly bade him farewell. Fr. Michael took the icon with him to the scete church and prepared to read the Psalter, while we, together with Fr. Tikhon, Nun Antonia from the women's monastery in Bryansk, and a local pilgrim, went to see Venerable Amvrossy's cottage.

The cottage, or "hovel" as the Venerable One referred to his dwelling, is near the Southern border of the scete, and has been restored to its original appearance. In Elder Amvrossy's cell, we prayed, and listened to Fr. Tikhon's interesting stories about the Optina Elders who had lived in this cottage and in the other dwellings of the scete. Then we set out to go have tea and fellowship with the brethren in the iconography studio, where a group of monks and novices awaited us. However, we spent a few more minutes on the footpath, sharing with Fr. Tikhon our impressions of what we had seen at the scete. It was then that a certain worker or pilgrim hurriedly approached, and said to us "Fr. Michael urgently requests that Fr. Victor and his Matushka come to the church." In considerable confusion, we returned to the scete. Coming toward us, Fr. Michael carried the myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God, which he had shown us an hour earlier in the church of St. John the Forerunner. On coming up face to face, Fr. Michael signed me crosswise with the icon, and gave it to me. He said, "While reading the Psalter, I got the sensation that the icon must return with you to Washington!" After making a prostration, he quickly walked off toward the scete. I was at a loss for words, and did not know what to think - a feeling shared by the rest of the pilgrims in our group. Matushka videotaped the transfer of the icon with the camera with which minutes earlier she had used to tape scenes of Elder Amvrossy's cell. Frs. Stefan and Vladimir also recorded separate accounts of their impressions of that miraculous day. Their eyewitness accounts will be printed in future issues of our Bulletin.

From the scete, we carried the icon of the Iveron Mother of God into the monastery, and in its presence spent several hours in serious and spiritually beneficial conversation with the monks of Optina.

After our return to Washington, I twice related to the parish what had happened in Optina, and gave everyone an opportunity to venerate the Icon. Currently, the Icon is not streaming myrrh; however, many tracks made by the streams of myrrh are visible on its surface, and the sweet aroma of miraculous myrrh is present.

The lower border of the icon bears the inscription: "This icon was written on a board [belonging to] Martyr Joseph Munoz-Cortes."

The Icon is kept next to the reliquaries along the wall of the left kliros of our cathedral.

Glory to God for all things!

Archpriest Victor Potapov, 2002

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  • Washington, D.C., 20011

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