02 May 2011
Weeping Icons of the Mother of God
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon Nov. 1966
Of all the many ways in which the All-Holy Mother of God reveals Her mercies to men, there is one that stands out both as being undeniable (for it is a completely objective phenomenon) and as touching the heart in a most immediate way. This is the phenomenon of weeping icons, in which images of the Mother of God produce tears that are exact replicas, on the scale of the icon, of human tears – originating in a corner of the eye and coursing the side of the face, sometimes as distinct miniature teardrops, sometimes as a flood of tears that moistens the whole face.
America too, so late to receive Holy Orthodoxy, is now the witness of this miraculous phenomenon. Three weeping icons appeared quite suddenly, one after the other, within two months in the spring of 1960 among Greek families in Long Island, New York. The striking nature of this sign has drawn considerable attention to these icons, especially among Orthodox believers, but also among those outside the Church.
It is not, perhaps, well-known that this phenomenon of weeping icons is not new, for there are records of such miraculous icons in Russian Church history as early as the 12th century. Here we will give an account of one from the 19th century, together with an interpretation of its meaning by a bishop who lived at that time. [From The Orthodox Word, Nov.-Dec. 1965].
This icon was located in the church of the Theological Academy at the Sokolsky Monastery in Romania. After the Liturgy in the seminary church on February 1, 1854, it was noticed that the icon was weeping. The rector of the seminary, Bishop Philaret Skriban, was among the witnesses of this miracle. He took the icon out of its frame, looked at it carefully, wiped the traces of the tears off with a piece cloth and replaced the icon. He then asked all to leave and he locked the church. When the rector, together with the teachers and seminarians, came to the church for Vespers several hours later, all were struck by the same miraculous flow of tears from the eyes of the Mother of God. The rector immediately served a moleben and read an Akathistos before the icon.
Soon all of Romania knew of the miracle and began streaming to the monastery to venerate the icon. News of it spread throughout Russia also. The miraculous flow of tears occurred sometimes daily, and sometimes with an interval of two, three of four days. Many were thus to see the very miracle of the icon weeping, and those who did not could see at least the traces left by the tears. Even skeptics became convinced of the miracle. A certain colonel was sent to the commanding officer of the Austrian occupation force (during the Crimean war) to investigate the rumoured miracle, and to his astonishment he witnessed the actual flow of tears.
An important testimony of the miracle was offered by Bishop Melchisedek of Romansk, one of its first witnesses. Thirty-five years after the event he spoke of how he had long pondered the question of the meaning of the tears of the Mother of God. He came to the conclusion that such weeping icons had existed also in ancient times and that such an event always foretold a severe trial for the Church of Christ and for the nation. History justified this conclusion in the case of the Romanian weeping icon. During the Crimean war the Principality of Moldavia was occupied by Austrian troops and subjected to severe trials. The Sokolsky Monastery in particular had a sad future: this formerly great religious center of Romania, serving for a hundred years as a seedbed of spiritual culture, was suppressed, the seminary moved elsewhere and the monks dispersed.
The meaning of the weeping icons of America today is not yet evident; at least one of them is still weeping after five years. What is certain is that these tears of the Mother of God speak directly to the heart of every Orthodox believer, calling all to repentance, amendment of life and return to Orthodox faith and tradition in their fullness.