History the Miracle-Working Icon of the Mother Of God Tikhvinskaya

 

According to ancient tradition, this icon of the Mother of God was painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist during the earthly life of the Virgin Mary.

He then sent the icon along with the Gospel to Theophilus, the ruler of Antioch.  Later, in V century the icon came to Constantinople where it was placed in the famous Blachernae Church that served as the sanctuary for the whole Byzantium, the first Orthodox Empire.

 

In 1383, seventy years prior to the fall of Constantinople, the icon disappeared from that city. It was miraculously, “over the air” transferred to Russia and appeared to fishermen on lake Ladoga, near the Baltic Sea. The attention of the fishermen was drawn by a bright light in the sky. First, they were alarmed, until they perceived an Icon in the center of the light, which they followed until it disappeared.

 

 Later, the icon was seen near the town of Tikhvin. Here too, the icon was surrounded by a bright light. People gathered there on the banks of Tikhvinka river where during a devoted communal prayer the icon descended to earth.  Immediately the construction of a chapel to shelter the icon got underway at the place: that same day they cut the timber and managed to mount the first three levels of logs of the church walls. However, in the morning people found neither the icon nor the started walls – not event chips from the woodworking.

The icon was discovered on the opposite side of the river along with the building in progress and the prepared timber. Thus, the icon itself eventually chose its future home.

As the feast the Dormition approached and the new church was ready to be dedicated, one of the servitors of the shrine, George by name, was sent to invite the neighboring clergy and people to the festival.  As he returned from his errand, Geroge was granted a vision of the Mother of God and St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. This event is referred to in the fifth Icos of the Akathist.

Seven years later this church burned to the ground, but the Icon was found unharmed in the ruins.  Another church was built, ant it too burned. The icon miraculously survived without damage. At the behest of the Grand Duke Vasili Ioannovich, a third church was constructed, this time of stone.
In 1560 a holy monastery was founded on the banks of the Tikhvinka River in honor of the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God.

During the “Time of Troubles” in the 17th century, the Swedes occupied the whole area around Novgorod. In an effort to drive out the invaders, the Grand Duke Michael attacked them and trove the Swedish troops to the banks of the Tikhvin river. The Swedish military governor counterattacked and the local people took refuge inside the monastery. They prayed to the Mother of God for protection, and then carried her icon around the walls of the monastery.  When the enemy began to attack, the holy image of the Mother of God performed a miracle: the entire Swedish squad saw countless numbers of Russian troops surrounding them from all sides. The Swedish soldiers were frightened and fled in a state of complete disarray. 
The citizens of Tikhvin attributed their deliverance to the intercession of the Mother of God and soon the fame of the icon spread throughout Russia.

From that time the icon stayed at Tikhvin until the Bolshevik Revolution, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Countless healings and other miracles took place in the presence of this icon.
This image of the Mother of God came to be one of the most revered in all of Russia.

In the middle of 1920s, the Tikhvin monastery was ravaged by Bolsheviks and was closed.  During World War II, the city of Tikhvin was occupied by Hitler’s army. The icon was transferred by Nazis to the areas controlled by them (the city of Pskov, and then Riga, Latvia).  However, the fascist troops were not able to take the miracle-working image with them during their withdrawals from the occupied lands.

Archbishop of Riga John Garklavs (†1982) took possession of the icon for safekeeping.   From there, through the hardships of war, refugee camps, and at risk for both his own life and the safety on the holy icon, Archbishop John brought the icon to the U.S.A.

Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago's Holy Trinity Cathedral.  During all the years of the forced exile, Archbishop John hoped for the return of the icon back home as soon as the country would be free of the persecutors of the Christian Faith; that was indeed, what he instructed in his will.

Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John's adopted son, became the careful guardian of this venerated sacred image for 55 years. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, followed by the restoration of the Tikhvin Monastery, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home. Finally, in 2004 the icon of the Mother of God Tikhvin was returned to the Tikhvin Men’s Monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, a humble guardian of the icon, was a young man during the wartime, and it was he who carried the icon himself literally through the fire on his shoulders.  He offers constant prayer and support for St. Mark Orthodox Christian Church, here in Bradenton.  He arrived to the Sarasota – Bradenton area on Wednesday, May 12 with Tatiana Peters from Riga with the beautiful hand-written  replica of the icon of the Mother of God Tikhvinskaya – a precious gift for our newly built church.  The icon was written by the hand of Father Alexander Shabelnik, pastor of the Church of Transfiguration in Riga, in the same church where many years ago Fr. Sergei Garklavs was an honored Psalm Reader.

Father John Chudik, pastor of the St. Mark Orthodox Christian church, said that the arrival of this icon to our church is not only a great spiritual event for us, but also a great responsibility for the entire community; therefore, we will continue working for our church and for the community to deserve this honor. Services will be scheduled to receive the icon and to pray before it.