1. july 2020
The feast of the icon: 21st of July and 4th of November
The description of the icon:
The Kazan Icon is one of the most mysterious and most respected icons in Russia. Each of her discoveries or disappearances was accompanied by a number of legends. It is associated with miracles from hearing personal pleas, through healing from serious illnesses to winning wars. We will not find a single sign on it that would break away from Eastern iconographic dogmas, but at the same time the visitor must stop and spend time looking at it, because it is something special and attracts the attention of the believer with its inner strength. It corresponds to the canon, but nevertheless it is exceptional and, so to speak, inimitable. Although it shows the Mother of God only by her shoulders, which makes it impossible to see her hands, it is a prototype of the Mother of God Hodegetria, the so-called "Pointer or Presenter." This means that to the one who looks at her image, she presents her Son as "the way to salvation." She draws our attention to the words of Christ in the Gospel of John: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14: 6).
The baby Jesus is depicted by his waist (sometimes even the greater part of the figure). The golden robe proves his unity with God the Father, which means that He has an equal share in heavenly glory and power. After all, Jesus in the writings of Saint John the apostle says as follows: “If you know me, you will also know my Father. You already know him and have seen him” (John 14: 7). The blue tunic is a reference to his human part, because through Mary he came to earth and became human. The same colour shade dominates the lower part of Mother of God's robe. However, Mary's upper burgundy cloak, lined with gold, appears more pronounced to the observer. It is a testimony to her royalty as she became the mother of God, the bride of the Holy Spirit. The three stars, on her forehead and shoulders, are a sign of her immaculate virginity before the conception of Christ, at His birth and after childbirth. However, the colour red often also predicts martyrdom or suffering. It is a manifestation of the pain of the Mother of God, which she has accepted in her unique role. Her affliction was already foretold by the prophet Simeon at the sacrifice of the Lord in the temple: "…so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2:35).
The evidence that the iconographer painted the Mother of God and the Saviour is evident in the inscriptions. The letters in the upper corners of the central image of МР and ΘУ are abbreviated Mater Theos, "Mother of God." IC XC above the halo of Christ means "Jesus Christos" and the initials in His cross-shaped aureole Ѡ - O - N (the first of which we do not see, it is covered by Mary's veil because she is facing her Son). These are abbreviations of the words "I Am, Who I Am" (Exodus 3:14). By this name Yahweh introduced himself to Moses from the burning bush on Mount Horeb.
The history of the icon itself is especially unusual. It is said that it came to Russia from Constantinople in as early as the 13th century, but mysteriously disappeared two hundred years later. It was found again only after the great fire of the city of Kazan. At that time, Mary visited a young girl named Matrona several times in a dream and asked her to save her holy icon from the ashes. Ten-year-old Matrona did not attach importance to the apparitions at first, but as they kept recurring, she complied with the requests of the unknown lady from the visions. The girl and her mother finally managed to find the icon and pull it out of the ashes near the Kazan fortress. Subsequently, the icon was transferred to the nearby Church of Saint Nicholas and later to the Cathedral of the Annunciation in the Moscow Kremlin.
Since the miracles following the intercession of the Mother on the icon continued to accumulate, a cloister with a girls' monastery was founded in her honor in Yaroslavl. However, the day when she began to consider herself the protector of the entire Russian nation came a little later. The year was 1612 and the war between Poland and Russia had lasted for a long time. At that time, the Muscovites turned to God's Mother for help and the capital was saved. At her intercession in 1812, Russian troops also defeated the French.
In this icon we can see that the monk also wrote in the frame twelve other key events that are related to the Kazan icon of the Mother of God itself.
The first small icon – kleyma – (in the upper left corner) shows the initial apparition of the Mother of God to the girl Matrona. Right next to it (in the second kleyma from the left) we can see young Matrona, who explains a strange vision to her mother. The third painting contains another apparition of Mary, who appeared to the girl at noon surrounded by fiery rays. The fourth scene (in the upper right corner) is a depiction of Mother and Daughter. Both mention unexplained events to the local duke.
In the second row, on the left, women bring a message from God's mother to the archbishop. On the right (6th kleyma) the mother of the girl digs in the marked place, trying to find the lost icon. In the third row on the left, the girl finds a rare likeness of the Mother of God in the ashes of burned buildings. On the right side (8th kleyma) we see the procession led by the bishop coming to the place of the apparition.
In the bottom row, miracles are described at the intercession of the Mother of God of Kazan. In the first kleyma (in the lower left year), the healing of a blind young man takes place. In the second image, Mary frees the woman from the pain of her legs. The third painting depicts the rescue of a woman possessed by an evil spirit, and in the fourth kleyma, the Mother of God relieves from the disease the wife of an unknown farmer.
The whole scene is written on a gold background, which highlights the praise of the Mother of God and Christ, but also emphasizes the importance of the events that the holy icon has done. It is written in bold colours and rich in various stories, presented to the viewer. Their goal is to interrupt the believer and encourage him to think. The facial expression of the Mother with the child is serious, downright sad. Mary's beautiful face does not look at her son. He doesn't even look at those gathered during the service. Where are her eyes actually directed? She is not watching the crowd, but the individual. She does not look at the temple visitor humanly or superficially, she looks into his heart, because it is the most important part of man. The Saviour, with the face of an adult man predestining infinite wisdom, blesses with two fingers. They are a sign of his dual nature - human and divine. He looks a man straight in the eye and calls him to follow the path that He is. He calls in the words of the Gospel of Mark: "Whoever wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
The spiritual heritage:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus' mother was also there. When the wine ran out, his mother said to Jesus, "They have no wine." Jesus answered and said unto her, What have I to do with thee, woman? My hour is not yet come. His mother said to the attendants, "Do whatever he tells you!" Then, at the intercession of his Mother, Jesus performed the first miracle, and his disciples believed in him (John 2: 1.3-5.11). Similarly, for several centuries, Mary addressed the young Matrona, who willingly listened to God's voice, so that through this icon Christ could continue to heal the sick in spirit and body and help the wandering to find their way to the kingdom of heaven.