LA STORIA “AFFASCINANTE E TORMENTATA” DELL’ICONA DELLA VERGINE DI KAZAN’ (2)

In molteplici occasioni, nelle diverse pagine del nostro sito, abbiamo avuto modo di occuparci dell’icona miracolosa della Madre di Dio di Kazan’, fra le immagini mariane in assoluto più venerate ed amate in Russia (per consultare i diversi contributi è possibile utilizzare il motore di ricerca interno). La prestigiosa testata web orthochristian.com ha tuttavia, di recente, dedicato un interessante approfondimento, riccamente documentato, che ripercorre la storia dell’icona sotto molteplici sfaccettature. Lo riproponiamo in due parti, di cui questa è la seconda e ultima, agli amici de “I sentieri dell’icona” nell’originale inglese. L’articolo è a firma di Sergej Milov.

Copies of the Kazan icon

 The revered copies of the Kazan icon that existed in different regions of Russia were numerous and diverse.

The icon in the volunteer army

Thus, one of the venerated copies of the Kazan icon was kept in the camp of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky’s Russian voluntary corps during the war against the Polish and Swedish invaders between 1611 and 1613. A special annual commemoration of the Kazan icon of the Theotokos was instituted for October 22 in gratitude for the deliverance of Moscow from the Polish usurpers. Initially it was celebrated only in Moscow, and in 1649 it became a nationwide festival. It was at the same time that the first church in honor of the Kazan icon was built in Kolomenskoye.

The St. Petersburg copy

In the eighteenth century, the Kazan icon was held in great esteem by both Peter I “the Great” and Catherine II the Great. Thus, it was under Peter I, in 1721, that one of the venerated copies was transferred to St. Petersburg; earlier, in 1709, on the eve of the Battle of Poltava, Tsar Peter prayed with his army in front of the Kazan icon, and they were victorious. In 1768, Catherine II adorned the cover of the original icon at Kazan with a diamond crown as a token of her reverence for the relic.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Kazan icon became one of the most revered icons inside Russia. It was cherished by the entire Orthodox population. At that time one couldn’t find a single believer who didn’t know about the original Kazan icon or its copies.

The Kazan icon in Moscow

You can find Kazan icons of the Mother of God in most churches of Moscow, first and foremost in the Kazan Cathedral in Red Square. It was restored in 1993. It holds a revered copy of the Kazan icon. A modern Kazan icon of the Theotokos can be found in the lower part of the Patriarchal Cathedral of Christ the Savior (called the Church of the Transfiguration). Parishioners of the main capital’s cathedral often pray in front of this icon. Among the numerous relics of the Church of the Holy Prophet Elias in Obydensky Lane you can find one Kazan icon of the Theotokos. It also houses a particle of the Cincture of the Blessed Virgin. The church is open daily from 7:00 AM till 10:00 PM.

The capital’s Theophany Cathedral (commonly called Elokhovo Cathedral) has a copy of the miracle-working Kazan icon which was formerly kept at the Kazan Cathedral in Red Square.

At the Church of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God on Lyshchikova Hill, visitors can venerate a copy of the Kazan icon along with the relics of the New Confessor Priest Roman Medved, who reposed in the late 1930s in Maloyaroslavets (the Kaluga region) after numerous arrests and exiles. There is a unique Kazan icon painted on glass at the Church of St. Poemen the Great in Moscow. The St. Nicholas Church at Bersenevskaya Embankment near the Kremlin is very interesting. It holds long services and maintains some Old Ritualist traditions. One of its relics is a much revered copy of the Kazan icon. Of course, this list is incomplete. Indeed it is difficult to find a parish church of Moscow which doesn’t have a copy of the Kazan icon of the Theotokos!

A description of the Kazan icon

The Kazan icon is a half-length (or head to shoulders) version of the icon of the Theotokos of the Hodegetria (“She who shows the way”) type. On it the Infant Christ sits on Mary’s arms, blessing with His right hand and holding a scroll or a book in His left hand. On the Kazan icon the Virgin Mary is depicted bust-length, in typical garments, slightly inclining her head towards the Christ Child. The Savior looks directly at us; He is depicted waist-length, with His right hand in a gesture of blessing.

On how the Kazan icon helps us

The view that each type of icon of the Theotokos helps us in specific situations differs from the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) of Sourozh used to say that a newly-painted icon becomes holy as soon as it has been blessed. Before that, any icon is just an image of Christ, His Most Holy Mother or a saint, painted on wood. Of course, Christians don’t venerate paint and wood, or any other material. The VII Oecumenical Council in 787 proclaimed the veneration of holy icons. According to its decree, “The honor paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, so he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented.”

However, some icons are considered wonderworking; that is, Christ helps people and whole nations through the prayers of believers who pray before them. So the Kazan icon was particularly venerated in Russia, and the Mother of God healed the sick and saved that country through the petitions of the faithful who prayed before it. We have recounted how prayer before the wonderworking Kazan icon saved Russia from the Polish invasion in 1613. In 1812, the Army of Napoleon, one of the most famous military commanders in the world, attacked Russia, and the prayer to the Queen of Heaven again helped the nation defeat the aggressors. As we know, Napoleon’s “La Grande Armee” numbering thousands of soldiers finally fled in defeat. The Theotokos helped the Russian people in the Great Patriotic War [part of the Second World war fought by the Nazy Germany and its allies against the USSR; 1941-1945] as well. The Mother of God is credited with helping civilians survive amidst the horrors of war, and helping soldiers crush the monstrous enemy.

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