Sergey Eremin, Harbin
English translation by Katherine Ilachinski
The Chinese Orthodox Church – July 2014
In Harbin, the unexpected happened, but very happy and providential event – for the first time the Port Arthur Icon of the Mother of God “The Triumph of the Holy Virgin” visited the first Russian-Chinese EXPO – 2014. This occurrence is the most important for our two countries and for the city of Harbin mundane events, as she gave us a sign from above that the Peace and Friendship between Russia and China are under her care in heaven.
The history of this holy image for us begins in mid-December of 1903, when the Virgin, with a cloth on which was depicted the face of our Savior Jesus Christ, appeared to one old Russian sailor, veteran of defense of Sevastopol. She told the sailor that very soon Russia will experience a hard ordeal – a terrible war in the East. Many Russian people will suffer. But to defeat the enemy – it is necessary to paint her icon (exactly the same, as appeared to the old warrior) and take her to a distant castle, where there will be the most difficult fights. And then Russia will win!
Soon the Russian-Japanese war began, and Port Arthur was in the blockade. The icon was painted in Kiev, but due to the negligence of senior military officials, who did not believe in the power of the image, and actually have shown their lack of faith in the Savior, the icon did not reach her destination. Port Arthur fell! And on our country has fallen the Lord’s punishment for not believing in him – two revolutions and the subsequent many years of atheism.
The original of the icon, kept in the Cathedral of the Dormition in Vladivostok, after the Civil War in the Far East was lost. Many thought that it was lost forever … But all is the “will of God” – and in year 2000, in Jerusalem the icon “Triumph of the Blessed Virgin” was miraculously found in one of the antique shops, by pilgrims-monks: Fathers Sergei and Innocent. Returning to Vladivostok, the icon was restored, got a wonderful frame, as well as for her was specially built temple of Our Lady of Port Arthur. She is revered by Vladivostok diocese as the local Orthodox shrine. And the guardian of the God-protected city of Vladivostok and the Far East.
There were people of faith, who wished to fulfill the commandment of the Holy Virgin. They painted a new edition of the icon “measure for measure” with the existing model, and having obtained the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Russia, went in procession to Dalian, China. First the icon “Triumph of the Blessed Virgin” arrived in Lüshun (formerly known as Port Arthur) on Victory Day – May 9, 2003. Then it was a closed military base in China and the only day when the cemetery could be attended by foreigners (the city itself was closed permanently) was Victory Day; the pilgrims, of course, did not know about this. So, in fact, after hundred years the commandment given to us by the Blessed Virgin Mary was fulfilled…
Seven years later, in August 2010, the pilgrims have traveled to the Harbin-Shenyang-Lüshun with two identical icons. One of them was left in the care of Sergei Nikolaevich Podberezko, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Shenyang. By whose efforts and holy prayers of Archpriest Dionisy (Pozdnyaev) of Hong Kong, this image of Our Lady has found a permanent place of residence in the chapel of St. Prince Vladimir at Port Arthur Russian military cemetery at the end of 2010.
Presently the fifth, the procession took place with the blessing of Metropolitan Veniamin of Vladivostok and Primorsk (as well as the previous four), under the leadership of Fr. Andrew (Savostitskogo) of Optina and accompanied by the brothers Gregory and Dionysius. The icon visited Port Arthur Cemetery on June 28, 2014. The next day, on Sunday 29th of June, she visited the Holy Protection Church in Harbin, where a brief thanksgiving prayer was held and all Orthodox venerated the holy icon.
In the afternoon, the Russian delegation of Harbin First EXPO headed by the minister of regional development of Russia Igor Slyunyayev came to pray in the church. Together with members of the Russian delegation the icon of the Virgin visited the St Sophia Cathedral – dear for many people of Harbin and the most important building in the city of Harbin. “Sofiika” – as it is affectionately called even today – this is the real symbol of Harbin, saying in Western language – brand. But for the Orthodox it is still the Temple of God. I want to recall that the modern look was returned to this magnificent temple on the 100th anniversary of Harbin. The ordinary people of Harbin collected donations to this good cause in 1997-98. Around the city, special collectors went with small boxes for money – they accumulated, as many as 10 million yuan. And gilt crosses and domes of “Saint Sophia” shone again, and a large church bell rang a hundred times again on the centenary of the city!
And the next morning, during the opening ceremony, the icon of “The Triumph of the Blessed Virgin” welcomed and blessed by her grace all members of the Russian sector of the First Harbin EXPO 2014! Five meters from the icon prearranged contracts were signed. Visitors to the Exhibition exchanged brochures, business cards. New contacts were arranged, old friends and partners met. Here and there you see the joyful faces of people, who shake hands with Russian and Chinese businessmen. Hopefully, all signed contracts will be successfully implemented, and all originated business contacts will bear fruit in the future. But when they see the icon, Russian Orthodox cross themselves and venerate the image, and the Chinese Expo visitors photograph her.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited Harbin a year ago. He blessed Harbin and said he would pray for it. And by his holy prayers the city on the Songhua visited icon “Triumph of the Blessed Virgin”, who is the protectress of Far Eastern borders of our motherland – Russia and the guarantor of friendship and good neighborliness with our main strategic partner – China. She prays before her Son Jesus Christ, for the prosperity of our two countries.
Let Friendship strengthen between our countries! The stronger it will be – the more peaceful will be life on our planet Earth. Remember that now the Queen of Heaven has blessed by her appearance the Peace and Friendship between our two countries during this difficult period for Russia!
Holy Mother of God remember in your prayers the faithful servants of God, who worthily served you – Igor, Gennady, Constantine, Alexander, Andrew, Dionysius, Gregory and all their ilk.