Thousands venerate wonderworking Icon during Annual Pilgrimage

The unseasonably cool and rainy weather that gripped much of the east coast over Memorial Day weekend did little to dampen the spirit of thousands of Orthodox Christian faithful who gathered at Saint Tikhon Monastery here May 23-26, 2003 to venerate the wonderworking icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God.

The ancient icon, which was brought to the United States in 1949 by Bishop John of Riga, Latvia, who later was named Archbishop of Chicago, arrived at Saint Tikhon Monastery on Friday afternoon, May 23, marking its first stop on the icon’s year-long return journey to the monastery in Tikhvin, Russia, where it had been venerated since the 14th century. [A detailed history of the Tikhvin icon may be found in the Feasts and Saints section of the Orthodox Church in America web site.]

Joining His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, in opening the 99th annual pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon’s by welcoming the icon at the monastery entrance were His Beatitude Metropolitan Theodosius, retired; His Grace, Bishop Job of Chicago and the Midwest; His Grace, Bishop Nikolai of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska; His Grace, Bishop Nikon of Baltimore; and numerous clergy and laity. Later the same day, a procession with the icon made its way around the monastery church, after which the Akathist Hymn in honor of the icon was sung.

On Saturday, May 24, Metropolitan Herman and visiting hierarchs celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the monastery church, after which a Service of Thanksgiving was celebrated before the icon. The icon was also present for the 61st annual commencement of Saint Tikhon Seminary and the All-Night Vigil which followed. On Sunday, May 25, Metropolitan Herman, together with His Grace, Bishop Mercurius of Zaraisk, who oversees parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States and Metropolitan Theodosius, Bishops Job, Nikolai and Nikon, concelebrated the Divine Liturgy, a Service of Thanksgiving before the icon, and the All-Night Vigil service in the monastery church.

As weather conditions improved on Monday, May 26, thousands of faithful gathered at the monastery for the pilgrim’s procession with the Tikhvin icon and filled the monastery pavillion beyond capacity for the hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Concelebrating with Metropolitan Herman and Metropolitan Theodosius, Bishops Job, Mercurius, Nikolai and Nikon were His Eminence, Archbishop Kyrill of Pittsburgh, His Eminence, Archbishop Peter of New York and New Jersey, His Grace, Bishop Irineu of Dearborn Heights, Auxiliary Bishop of the Romanian Episcopate, His Grace, Bishop Dimitrios of Xanthos, Auxiliary to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and His Grace, Bishop Antoun, Auxiliary to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Dozens of clergy were also present for the festive Liturgy, after which a Memorial for the repose of all deceased primates, hierarchs, clergy, laity and members of the armed forces who lost their lives in battle was celebrated.

Later on Monday afternoon, a Service of Thanksgiving was celebrated before the icon, after which the sick, infirm and all pilgrims were anointed.

Throughout the four-day pilgrimage, it was not uncommon to find the faithful waiting in lines for up to an hour to venerate the Tikhvin icon, which had only been offered for public veneration on rare occasions since the retirement of Archbishop John in the late 1970s and his repose in the early 1980s. After Archbishop John’s death, his adopted son, the Very Rev. Sergei Garklavs, retired dean of Chicago’s historic Holy Trinity Cathedral, became the icon’s guardian.

“It was always the wish of Archbishop John that, when conditions in Russia warranted, the icon should be returned to its original home,” according to the Very Rev. John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director. “The fall of communism in the early 1990s offered a first sign of hope that the icon would eventually be returned to Tikhvin, near Novgorod in northern Russia, where it first miraculously appeared in 1383.”

The icon is slated to be formally received at the Tikhvin monastery in late June 2004, in conjunction with the celebration of the icon’s feastday.

After the pilgrimage, the icon was taken to Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY, where Archbishop John’s grandson, the Very Rev. Alexander Garklavs, is rector. The icon will be available for veneration on Wednesday evenings throughout June, when special services will be celebrated in its honor, and during Saturday evening Vigils and Sunday morning Divine Liturgies. The icon’s feast day will also be celebrated with a Vigil on the evening of June 25 and Divine Liturgy the following morning. Further information may be obtained by calling Father Garklavs at 516/483-3649.