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Homily for 7/15/12 - P6 - Akhtyrka Icon corrected version

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  • Fr David Moser
    The Akhtyrka icon of the Mother of God which we venerate today was found in the Russian province of Kharkov near the city of Akhtyrka in 1739. The rector of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 15, 2012
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      The Akhtyrka icon of the Mother of God which we venerate today was found
      in the Russian province of Kharkov near the city of Akhtyrka in 1739.
      The rector of the Dormition Church there, Fr Vassily Danilov, was a
      righteous man and fervent in faith. One day as he went out into the
      fields to try a new scythe (for cutting grain) he saw lying in the grass
      before him an icon of the Mother of God from which shone a great light.
      Forgetting all else (including his new scythe), he fell on his knees and
      began to pray, singing hymns to the Mother of God. He picked up the icon
      and brought it to his home. For the next three years, the icon remained
      in his home where it was honored and venerated. Despite Fr Vassily’s
      piety, over the years the icon was not cared for as it should have been.
      After three years, Fr Vassily, in a dream, received a command from the
      Mother of God that he should clean the icon (as it had become covered
      with dust) with water and that he should then embellish it (with a
      riza). Immediately he awoke and cleaned the icon as he had been
      directed. The next night, again in a dream, he saw himself going down to
      the river to pour out the water that he had used to clean the icon, but
      he was stopped by the Mother of God who instructed him to save this
      water and give it to those who were sick for they would be healed. At
      that time, Fr Vassily had a daughter suffering from malaria and after
      drinking of the water from the icon she was immediately healed. Others
      who were suffering from malaria were also healed as well as those who
      suffered from other illnesses. Fr Vassily took the icon from his home
      and enshrined it in the Church. As the word of these healings became
      known, the Holy Synod ordered an examination of the authenticity of
      these reports. Three times an investigation was made and each time the
      miraculous healing power of the icon was upheld. Finally, in 1751, the
      icon was proclaimed to be wonderworking by the Holy Synod . The Empress
      Elizabeth (Petrovna) had developed an interest in the icon and caused a
      stone Church to be built for the icon in the town of Akhtyrka.
      Before this official proclamation, in 1748, the Baroness Vedel came to
      pray before the icon asking for healing for herself. She had two young
      daughters who would be orphaned if she died and so she prayed ferevently
      to the Mother of God before this icon for help. That night in a dream
      she saw the Most Blessed Lady who told her that she would not be healed
      and that within a few days time she would die. The Virgin instructed the
      Baroness to distribute all of her worldly possessions to the needy in
      preparation for her death. The Baroness pled then for her daughters who
      would be orphans and without any means, but the Virgin promised her that
      she herself would care for the children. Trusting in the care of the
      Virgin, the Baroness did as she had been instructed and through her alms
      and charity built up for herself treasure in heaven in preparation for
      her death. Within 5 days she died. When the Empress heard of the death
      of the Baroness, she herself took the girls into her own household and
      raised them, arranging for favorable marriages with pious noblemen.
      At the beginning of the Bolshevik revolution, the icon was stolen and
      its whereabouts are not known, however, many copies had been made and
      were distributed throughout the whole world. One of these copies was in
      Harbin China and has been kept by the Russian Church Outside Russia as
      the protectress of the Committee of the Russian Orthodox Youth and today
      remains in Australia (where it is present at all youth conferences and
      other Church functions involving the youth of the Church).
      Many of us have had an experience similar to that of Fr Vassily when he
      discovered the icon. We go about our lives doing the best that we can,
      praying and living righteously, but suddenly we are confronted with a
      great spiritual treasure. It may not be a miraculous icon, but may
      simply be a miracle that occurs in our life, a great blessing that
      befalls us, a moment of spiritual enlightenment when we sense clearly
      the presence of God with us or see the spiritual life clearly, or some
      other great spiritual event in our lives. And in that moment we are
      inspired to pray and to worship God forgetting all else. But as the
      years go on, we continue to treasure that memory but it fades ever so
      gently into the background. We don’t “care for” the gift of God as we
      should so that it remains an inspiration to us and we begin to take for
      granted the blessings that God gives us daily.
      For Fr Vassily, the Mother of God came to him in a dream to awaken him
      out of his complacency and send him back to the icon to wash away the
      dust that had collected and to restore it again as an inspiration not
      only to him but to others. We too need to awaken from our complacency –
      look back again on your life, remember those moments of great
      illumination and blessing that God has given to you. “Dust them off”
      removing the layers of complacency and renew them to their proper place
      as encouragements and blessings in the spiritual life. Were you
      delivered from some great trial? Did you receive some great blessing? Do
      you have a parent/sibling/spouse/child/friend who has inspired you to
      draw nearer to God? Were you enlightened with some great spiritual
      insight or understanding? Were you granted to go on a pilgrimage to some
      holy place where you received a blessing? Did some holy relic or icon
      come into your home or life? Renew these memories, refresh them daily in
      your life, thanking God for his great blessings. Let these moments of
      great light, which shone in your life as the icon of the Mother of God
      did in the life of Fr Vassily, again enlighten you and refresh the grace
      of God in you.
      After washing the icon, Fr Vassily was instructed by the Virgin Mary not
      to discard the water for it was filled with the grace of God. We too
      must open our eyes and hearts and begin to see how those things around
      us that appear “ordinary” also bear the grace of God and can be used for
      the healing of the soul. Not just the memory of a great blessing, but
      all of those small acts in our lives become instruments of blessing. To
      speak a kind word, to do a favor for a friend, to forgive a wrong, the
      giving of alms, extending hospitality – all of these things and more
      serve not only to benefit oneself with the grace of God, but also
      benefit the ones to whom you offer them.
      Open your eyes, look around and see the many blessings that God gives
      you each moment. Some will be obvious and great (such as the discovery
      of the Akhtyrka icon) and inspire a great response of prayer and
      spiritual blessing. Others are ordinary parts of our lives which, when
      we look at them with spiritual eyes, also bring blessings not only to
      ourselves, but to those around us (not unlike the water with which the
      icon was washed).
      Today we have a copy of this wonderworking icon before us and we see in
      it nearly 300 years of blessings brought about by its presence. In just
      a few weeks we will be visited by another wonderworking icon of the
      Mother of God – the Myrrhstreaming Hawaii icon of the Virgin. Here again
      we will have a chance to experience the mercy and grace of God in a
      special way. Do not let these memories fade into complacency, but keep
      them alive so that day by day they might become a fountain of the grace
      of God pouring into your soul.


      -- Archpriest David Moser St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/ Website:
      http://stseraphimboise.org
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