Historic icon to visit Lockhart church


By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

A legendary piece of history is coming to Lockhart next week, and people from all around the area are expected to visit and pray before the icon.

The Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God Sign, found in Russia during the 13th century. It eventually made its way to New York following World War II. It is currently on tour of Texas and will make its way from Houston to San Antonio and will stop over in Lockhart Sept. 28-29 before heading to Austin.

The Kursk Root Icon will be at Saint Andrew the First-called Orthodox Church at 205B S. Main St. next to the Dr. Eugene Clark Library. The entrance is in the back of the church.

A brief history of the Kursk Root Icon:

On Sept. 8, 1295, during the Tartar invasion of Russia, the devastated province of Kursk had become void of people. Residents of a neighboring city, Rylsk, would visit the former area of Kursk to hunt wild game. One of those hunters, while traveling along the river Skal, noticed an icon on the ground next to the root of a tree. The hunter picked it up and found that it was an icon of the Sign, such as was enshrined and venerated in the city of Novgorod. At this time, the icon’s first miracle was worked, for no sooner had the hunter picked up the sacred image than there immediately gushed forth with great force an abundant spring of pure water.

The hunter built a small wooden chapel and placed the icon inside. The residents of Rylsk began to visit the place of the manifestation of this holy object and the icon was glorified by miracles all the more. Prince Vasily Shemyaka of Rylsk ordered that the icon be brought to the city of Rylsk. People would go before the icon of the Mother of God; but Shemyaka declined to attend the festivities and for this reason was punished with blindness. The prince, however, repented and straightway received healing. Moved by this miracle, Shemyaka constructed a church in the city of Rylsk in honor of the Nativity of the All-Holy Theotokos, and there the miraculous icon was enshrined on Sept. 8, the day of its manifestation, appointed as the annual feast date.

But the icon vanished in a miraculous manner and returned to the place of its original appearance. The residents of Rylsk continually brought it back, but each time it returned to its former place. Then, understanding that the Mother of God was well pleased to dwell in the place of the manifestation of her image, they eventually left it there in peace. Innumerable pilgrimages streamed to the site and services of supplication were celebrated there by a priest named Bogoliub who dwelt at the site of the wooden chapel and struggled there in asceticism.

In 1383, the province of Kursk was subjected to a new invasion of Tartars. They decided to set fire to the chapel, but it refused to burn, even though they piled fuel all around it, and so the superstitious barbarians fell upon the priest Bogoliub, accusing him of sorcery. The pious priest denounced their foolishness and pointed out the icon of the Mother of God to them. The malicious Tartars laid hold of the holy icon and cut it in two, casting the pieces to either side.

The chapeI then caught fire and the priest Bogoliub was carried off a prisoner.

In his captivity, the God-loving elder kept the Faith, placing his hope on the all-holy Mother of God, and his hope did not fail him. The priest was eventually rescued from captivity, and Bogoliub returned to the former site of the chapel. He found the pieces of the miraculous icon which the Tartars had cast away. He picked them up and straightway they grew together, although the signs of the split remained. Learning of this miracle, the residents of Rylsk gave glory to God and to His all-pure Mother. Again, they attempted to transfer the holy icon to their city, but once more the miraculous image returned to its former place. A new chapel was then built on the original site of the icon’s appearance and here it remained for about 200 years.

The city of Kursk was revived in the year 1597 at the command of Theodore Ivanovich of Moscow. This pious Tsar, who had heard of the miracles of the icon, expressed his desire to behold it, and in Moscow, the icon was greeted with great solemnity. The Tsaritsa, Irene Theodorovna, adorned the holy icon with a precious riza. At the command of the Tsar, the icon was set in a silver-gilt frame upon which were depicted the Lord of Hosts and prophets holding scrolls in their hands. The icon was subsequently returned, and, with the close cooperation of the Tsar, a monastery was founded on the site of the chapel. It was called the Kursk Root Herrnitage in honor of the manifestation of the icon at the root of the tree.

In March of 1898 a group of anarchists, desiring to undermine the faith of the people in the wonderworking power of the icon, decided to destroy the icon. They placed a time bomb in the Cathedral of the Sign, and at 2 a.m. a horrendous explosion rent the air and all the walls of the monastery were shaken. The frightened monastic brethren rushed immediately to the cathedral, where they beheld a scene of horrible devastation. The force of the blast had shattered the gilded canopy above the icon. The heavy marble base, constructed of several massive steps, had been jolted out of position and split into several pieces. A huge metal candlestick which stood before the icon and been blown to the opposite side of the cathedral. A door of cast iron located near the icon had been torn from its hinges and cast outside, where it smashed against a wall and caused a deep crack. All the windows in the cathedral and even those in the dome above were shattered. Amid the general devastation, the holy icon remained intact and even the glass within the frame remained whole. Thinking to destroy the icon, the anarchists had, on the contrary, become the cause of its greater glorification.

During the Bolshevik revolution, the icon was removed from the Cathedral of the Sign on April 12, 1918. Search was made for the icon but without result. The holy object was discovered under the following circumstances: Not far from the monastery there lived a poor girl and her mother who for three days had not had anything to eat. At that time Kursk was controlled by the Bolshevik regime. On May 3, the girl, a seamstress, went off to the marketplace in search of bread. Returning home at about one o’clock in the morning, she passed by a well which, according to tradition, had been dug by St. Theodosius of the Caves. There, on the edge of the well, she beheld a package wrapped in a sack, and when she opened it, in the package she found the sacred icon, which apparently had been left there by those who had stolen it.

The icon was eventually moved to Belgrade, but during World War II, when Belgrade was subjected to bombardment and other tribulations associated with the war, the miraculous icon became a rampart of hope for all that approached it with sincere prayer.

During the turmoil of the 17th century, the icon was removed from Yugoslavia in the autumn of 1944. From ruined Vienna, the icon was borne to the tranquil city of Carlsbad to which the Synod of Bishops had been evacuated. With the approach of the Bolsheviks, it was again transferred to Munich in the spring of 1945. The holy icon proved to be an unending consolation to many thousands of people who were experiencing all the trials and tribulations of the latter years of World War II. From Munich the icon was borne to Switzerland, France, Belgium, England, Austria, and many cities and camps in Germany itself. Subsequently, the icon was transferred to the New World where it had its permanent residence first in the New Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, N.Y., and then in the Synod’s Cathedral Church of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City, the residence of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.

At present, by decree of the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, a festival is held in honor of the icon at the New Kursk Hermitage in Mahopac, N.Y., on the Sunday nearest the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and in the Synod’s Cathedral of the Mother of God of the Sign in New York City Nov. 27-Dec. 10.

The schedule of the Kursk Root Icon at the First-called Orthodox Church in Lockhart:

Thursday, Sept 28

3 p.m. — Doors open

4 p.m. — Prayers of praise and supplication

6:30 p.m. — Vespers (evening prayers)

8 p.m. — Visitation concludes

Friday, Sept. 29

9 a.m. — Doors open

10 a.m. — Prayers of praise and supplication

2 p.m. — Prayers of praise and supplication

6:30 p.m. — Vespers (evening prayers)

8 p.m. — Visitation concludes

“People will likely come from outside of the area as they couldn’t make the times elsewhere. We will draw from Caldwell County and beyond.,” said First-called Orthodox Church Sub Deacon Paul Farley. “We have 60 to 70 members with 30 to 40 attending on any given Sunday.”

First-called Orthodox Church’s Father is Ignatius (Ryan) Lozano.

“People can come and go,” Farley said. “We will pray before it, and prayers will be well received.”


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