Tikhvin Dormition Monastery
Remarks to His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia
upon the Return of the Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God to the Tikhvin Dormition Monastery
Just over two weeks ago, after traveling from Chicago to Riga, the wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God arrived in Moscow and was entrusted to Your Holiness and to the Russian Orthodox Church so that it might be restored to the Tikhvin Dormition Monastery. Throughout its several days in Moscow, this holy icon was venerated by thousands—literally hundreds of thousands—of Orthodox Christian faithful. As children drawing near to their loving mother, the faithful came before this icon to offer their hopes and prayers to the Mother of God, seeking her motherly intercession, blessing, comfort, and consolation.
From Moscow, this Holy Icon traveled to Saint Petersburg where, again, hundreds of thousands of faithful came to pray in its presence, seeking the prayers and protection of the Queen of Heaven.
Today, this wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God has now been returned to its home, to this monastery dedicated to her Holy Dormition, where for several centuries it received the loving veneration of the faithful. As in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, thousands upon thousands of faithful have gathered here today. They have come here in pilgrimage in order to welcome the Mother of God and to pray before and venerate her holy wonderworking icon.
Some sixty-three years have passed since this Icon left Tikhvin and began its own pilgrimage, a pilgrimage that took it first to Pskov, then to Riga, on to Liepaja, through Poland, Czechoslovakia, and then to Germany. Eventually, guarded and cared for by the ever-memorable Bishop JOHN (Garklavs), the icon made its way to New York City and then to Chicago. During his lifetime, Bishop and then Archbishop JOHN took the icon with him on his archpastoral visits whenever this was possible. Throughout its many years in North America, we were blessed by this Icon’s presence among us. However, we know that this Icon’s rightful place is here, in Tikhvin, within this Monastery Church. We know that this Icon has now returned home. And we pray that all of us who have been chosen instruments in its return will continue to be blessed with the motherly intercession of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
As we consider these many years during which the Icon has been away from its historic home in Tikhvin, we reflect upon that first pilgrimage made by the Mother of God as recounted to us in the Gospel of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke. In the first chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel, immediately after the Archangel Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen to bring the Son of God into the world, “... Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39). As she traveled through those hills and along the dusty roads of Galilee and Judah, the Theotokos carried within herself the very Word of God made flesh. In that “first pilgrimage” she made known God’s salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. The Evangelist tells us that as the Theotokos entered Zachariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth, the babe within Elizabeth’s womb leaped as she was filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed to the Most Holy Virgin, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).
On this most joyous day, the Mother of God is welcomed to this holy monastery, her home for many centuries. And, as was Elizabeth, we are filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit as we proclaim to the Most Holy Theotokos: “Blessed are you among women.”
May the joy and spiritual consolation which has been felt by those who have prayed before this venerable and wonderworking Icon throughout the centuries become our joy and our consolation, uniting us all—saint and sinner alike—in love for the Queen of Heaven.
May the Most Holy Mother of God, through her wonderworking icon of Tikhvin, console us, guide us,and bring our prayers before the One Whom she bore in her womb, so that He may forever abide in our hearts and our lives and one day welcome us into the joy of His Heavenly Kingdom.
Most Holy Theotokos, save us!