Orthodox River


December 10 2020 - November 27 2020

Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God, named the “Sign” (“Znamenie”). The Sign-Znamenie of the Mother of God at Novgorod the Great in the Year 1170.

GreatMartyr James the Persian (+ 421). Monk Palladios (VI-VII). Sainted Iakov (James), Bishop of Rostov (+ 1392). Uncovering of Relics of Holy Nobleborn Novgorod Prince Vsevolod, in Holy Baptism named Gavriil (Gabriel), Pskov Wonderworker (1192).

Seventeen MonkMartyrs in India (IV). Monk Romanos (V). Monk Pinuphrias (IV). Monk Nathanael (+ c. 375). Monk Diodor of Yur’evsk (+ 1633). Martyress Thekla. Martyr Eubolos.

Znamenie-Sign Icons of the Mother of God: Kursk (1295), Abalatsk (1637), Tsarskotsel’sk, Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk (1879), Vologda (1571), Moscow, Vladimir, Zlatoustovsk (Chrysostom), Solovetsk.

The Icon of the Mother of God, named the “Sign” (“Znamenie”), images the MostHoly Mother of God seated and with prayerfully uplifted hands; at Her bosom, against the background of a circular shield (or sphere) –in blessing is the Divine Infant – the Saviour-Emmanuel. Suchlike depiction of the Mother of God is regarded as among the very first of Her iconographic images. In the mausoleum of Saint Agnes at Rome is a depiction of the Mother of God with hands outstretched in prayer with the Infant-Christ sitting upon Her knees. This depiction is ascribed to the IV Century. Moreover, there is known an ancient Byzantine image of the Mother of God “Nikopea” from the VI Century, where the MostHoly Mother of God is depicted sitting upon a throne and holding with both hands before Her an oval shield with the image of the Saviour-Emmanuel. Icons of the Mother of God, known under the name “Znamenie-Sign”, appeared in Rus’ during the XI-XII Centuries, and were called such after a miraculous “Sign” from the Novgorod Icon, which occurred in the year 1170.

In that year the allied forces of Russian appanage princes, headed by a son of the Suzdal’ prince Andrei Bogoliubsky, marched to beneathe the very walls of Great Novgorod. For the Novgorod people the only hope remaining was in the help of God. Day and night they prayed, beseeching the Lord not to forsake them. On the third night the Novgorod bishop Ilia heard a wondrous voice, commanding to be taken out from the church of the Saviour–Transfiguration on Il’ina street the image of the MostHoly Mother of God, and to carry it about on the city walls. When they carried about the icon – the enemy let loose at the church procession an hail of arrows, and one of them pierced the iconographic countenance of the Mother of God. From Her eyes trickled tears, and the icon turned its face towards the city. After such a Divine Sign there suddenly fell upon the enemy an inexpressible terror, they began to strike at one another, and taking encouragement from the Lord the Novgorodians fearlessly gave battle and gained the victory.

In remembrance of the miraculous intercession of the Queen of Heaven, archbishop Ilia thereupon established a feastday in honour of the Znamenie-Sign of the Mother of God, which down through the present all the Russian Church celebrates. The Athos priestmonk Pakhomios the Logothete, present at the festal celebration to the Icon in Russia, wrote two canons for this feast. On certain of the Novgorod Icons of the Znamenie-Sign, besides the Mother of God with the Praeternal Divine-Infant, there were depicted the miraculous occurrences of the year 1170. For 186 years afterwards, the wonderworking icon remained situated in the selfsame Saviour-Transfiguration church on Il’ina street. But in 1356 there was constructed for it in Novgorod a temple in honour of the Znamenie-Sign of the MostHoly Mother of God, serving as cathedral for the Znamenie-Sign monastery.

Numerous copies of the Znamenie-Sign Icon are known of throughout all Russia. Many of them subsequently also were glorified by miracles in their local churches, and were then named for the place of the appearance of the miracle. Suchlike copies of the Znamenie-Sign Icon are the icons of Dionysievo-Glushitsk, Abalatsk, Kursk, the Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk and others.

The Holy GreatMartyr James the Persian (the Hewn-Apart) was born in the IV Century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the spouses raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scripture. James occupied an high position at the court of the Persian emperor Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor’s beneficence, became afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so together with the emperor he offered sacrifice to idols. Learning of this, the mother and wife of James in deep distress wrote him a letter, in which they scolded him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realised the gravity of his sin, and setting before himself the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began loudly to weep and implore the Lord for forgiveness. His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported about this to the emperor. Under interrogation and taking courage in spirit, Saint James bravely confessed his faith in the One True God. No amount of urgings by the emperor could shake him into renouncing Christ. The emperor then gave orders to deliver the saint over to a death by martyrdom. They placed the martyr on a chopping-block and they alternately cut off his fingers and his toes, and then his hands and his feet. During the prolonged torture Saint James incessantly offered up prayer of thanks to the Lord, that He had granted him the possibility through the terrible torments to be redeemed of the sins committed. Flowing with blood the martyr was then beheaded.

Sainted Iakov (James), Bishop of Rostov, according to a local tradition, received monastic tonsure at Kopyrsk monastery on the River Ukhtoma, 80 kilometers from Rostov. For a long time he was hegumen of this monastery, and in the year 1385 he was made Bishop of Rostov when Pimen was Metropolitan and Dimitrii Donskoy was GreatPrince.

In defending a woman condemned to execution, the saint, following on the example of the Saviour, bid cast at her the first stone, whomsoever considered themself without sin, and he then sent forth the woman to repentance. The prince and the Rostov boyar-nobles, disgruntled over the bishop’s judgement, threw Saint Iakov out of Rostov. Leaving the city, the saint proceeded on to Lake Nero, spread on the water his hierarch’s mantle, and having signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, he sailed off on it as though on a boat, guided by the grace of God. Having gone off one and an half versts from the city, Saint Iakov emerged on shore at the place of his future monastery. The prince and the people, repenting their actions, besought forgiveness of the saint. The gentle bishop forgave them, but he did not return back again.

On the shore of Lake Nero he made himself a cell and built a small church in honour of the Zachatie-Conception by Righteous Anna of the MostHoly Mother of God, marking the beginning of the Zachat’evsk Iakovlevsk monastery. Saint Iakov died there on 27 November 1392.

The opinion has circulated, that Saint Iakov contended against the Iconoclast heresy of a certain fellow named Markian, who appeared in Rostov towards the end of the XIV Century. The more ancient of the vitae of the saint make no mention of this, and even the great hagiographer Sainted Dimitri of Rostov was unaware of it. More recent hagiographers were wont to take into account the service to Saint Iakov of Rostov. But the service itself, preserved in copies from the XVI-XVII Centuries, was compiled by way of borrowings from the service on 6 February to Saint Bukolos (+ c. 100), who struggled against the I Century heretic Marcian, and from the service to Saint Stephen of Surozh (VIII, Comm. 15 December), who contended against the emperor Constantine Kopronymos (741-775).

The Holy Monk Romanos was born in the city of Rosa and asceticised in the outskirts of Antioch, acquiring the graced gifts of perspicacity and healing. Through his prayer, the Lord granted many a childless woman the joy of motherhood. Saint Romanos was strict at fasting, and beneathe his hairshirt he wore heavy chains. The saint spent many years as an hermit, without lighting up a fire. Having attained to old age, he in peace expired to the Lord (V).

The Kursk Znamenie-Sign Icon of the Mother of God – the account about it is located under 8 September.

The Abalatsk Znamenie-sign Icon of the Mother of God was written by a proto-deacon of the Tobol’sk cathedral, Matfei, in honour of Sophia the Wisdom of God, in the fulfilling of a vow by a paralytic peasant Evphymii towards the rebuilding anew at the Abalatsk monastery the church of the Znamenie-Sign of the Mother of God. This church was built in 1637 after the recurrent miraculous appearances of the Znamenie Mother of God, accompanied by Saint Nicholas and the Nun Mary of Egypt, appearing to the pious widow Maria. With the writing of the temple’s Znamenie-Sign Icon, the paralytic Evphymii was completely healed. And during the time of the solemn transfer of the icon to the Abalatsk temple many healings occurred.

In general appearance the Abalatsk Icon is similar with that of the Novgorod Znamenie Icon, but with this distinction, that on the Abalatsk Icon Saint Nicholas and the Nun Mary of Egypt stand before the MostHoly Mother of God. Many a wonderworking copy of the Abalatsk Icon is known of, reverently venerated throughout all Siberia.

The Tsarskosel’sk Znamenie-Sign Icon of the Mother of God – an ancient wonderworking image, was brought by way of a present to tsar Alexei Mikhailovich by one of the Eastern Patriarchs, supposedly by Saint Athanasias of Constantinople. Tsar Peter I transferred the icon together with other sacred items from Moscow to his new capital city. In the year 1747 the Znamensk church was built for the icon at Tsarskoe Selo. Before it were made molieben prayers during the time of national catastrophes, for example, during the time of plague in 1771, and of cholera in 1831. Through the intercession of the Mother of God, the terrible epidemics almost did not touch Tsarskoe Selo. Prayer before the Znamenie-Sign Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God, named the Tsarskosel’sk, helped likewise during conflagrations and shipwrecks.

On the icon, Cherubim shade the head of the Mother of God. During the more recent times on the icon is depiction of the Apostle Peter, Saint Zachariah, Alexis the Man of God, and Righteous Saint Elizabeth.

The Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk Znamenie-Sign Icon of the Mother of God was written in the year 1879 by the nuns of the Seraphimo-Ponetaevsk women’s monastery, situated not far from Arzamasa, near the village of Ponetaevka. The monastery was named after the Monk Seraphim of Sarov by the founderess of the monastery – a sister of the Diveevsk community.

Six years after its writing, the icon became for its numerous miracles and became the chief holy item of the monastery. During the time of Divine-services the sisters praying discerned distinct changes in the countenance of the Mother of God: Her All-Pure face became bright and literally alive. Numerous pilgrims thronged to the icon, and many were healed from blindness and crippling. In all about 70 instances of healing were taken note of.

© 1999 by translator Fr. S. Janos