Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, almost immediately after his return from a pilgrimage trip to Russia with the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, traveled to the diocesan clergy conference at St. Mary of Egypt Church in Atlanta, GA.
Addressing the conference’s participants, His Grace called on the clergy and faithful to approach the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora “not as something we can take for granted,” but to turn their gaze toward Russia: seeing how the people greet the holy icon, how they pray, how they strive to touch the icon even for a minute, lifting up their prayers to the Most Holy Theotokos.
Bishop Nicholas noted that no other icon travels the world as often as the Kursk Root Icon, and reminded listeners that, after leaving from Odessa in 1920, the wonderworking icon returned to a different Russia for the first time in 89 years in 2009, visiting Moscow and Kursk, and traveling in procession to the restored Kursk Root Hermitage. Since that time, she has returned to Russia every September.
Bishop Nicholas spoke about the most recent visit of clergy with the icon to Kursk and the Republic of Mordovia, where 180,000 and 215,000 of the faithful venerated the holy icon, respectively.
“Every day was like Pascha for me personally and for the clergy accompanying the icon,” said His Grace. “For us, it was a great joy to have the Kursk Root Icon with us. We have grown accustomed to this icon, numb to the fact that she is almost always with us. Instead, we much rejoice, treasuring every moment, every minute that we have to be with her. People in Russia come to the holy icon for several seconds, and the icon is there under class and in a kiot, but they nevertheless rejoice in every second of her presence and of their prayer by her side. Meanwhile, we do not always value her. We ought to give this thought.”
Bishop Nicholas spoke about how joyous and importance it is for diasporan clergy to visit Russia, to pray and interact with Russian clergy. “But it is just as important for Russians to meet with us. The faithful in Russia are always overjoyed to speak with us. Wherever we may travel, people are always interested to know how we serve in America, in what language, what our traditions are. And I answer that we are the same as them, although perhaps we have preserved more traditions.”
During his last visit to Kursk and Mordovia, His Grace could not help but notice how many young people are praying in church in Russia, how many youth came to venerate the Kursk Root Icon.
“During my last visit, I saw many young parents in the churches, with just about every second person coming up to the icon holding children. And this instills hope – the youth are coming to church itself, and bringing their families to Orthodoxy.”
Bishop Nicholas explained that the greatest miracle is that the Kursk Root Icon is with us, that the Mother of God blesses our pilgrimages, humbly guards us, and helps us to travel easily between dioceses and monasteries in every corner of the world.
Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese