Photo: – June 2017

A priest was awarded on Tuesday by the brotherhood of the Svyatogorsk Lavra for his role in protecting the miraculous Svyatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God during last summer’s All-Ukrainian cross procession, reports the site of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Archpriest Sergei Taran’s recognition came during the presentation of a new publication chronicling the procession that was held for peace, love, and prayer in Ukraine in July, 2016. Metropolitan Arseny of Svyatogorsk gave an exact copy of the Svyatogorsk icon to the cleric of the Boryspil diocese at the event in the Sts. Anthony and Theodosius Church of the Kiev Caves Lavra.

In his speech, Met. Arseny recalled how during the procession, radicals tried to prevent the thousands of participants as they walked near Boryspil, and even began throwing various items at the wonderworking Svyatogorsk Icon of the Mother of God. Zealous for the holy things of the Lord, Fr. Sergei removed his vestments and used them to cover and protect the icon.

“When the procession reached such a volatile region, we were worried, but there was such enthusiasm that that we were as if soaring on wings for the first two days. People stood on their knees in front of the icon of the Mother of God with tears in their eyes in every village and city,” Met. Arseny recalled. “A small group of people were gathered to protest before Boryspil… You can toss rocks and eggs at me, insult me with all kinds of words, because I am a sinner and deserve it. But what is the Mother of God guilty of?!”

“How is it possible to throw anything at her? It’s crazy. We had no words when we saw it. We saw how Batiushka, walking near the icon, removed his phelonion and covered the icon with it. It was his best phelonion… I later said to him on the phone, ‘Batiushka, may God grant that as you covered the Mother of God with your robe, so the Mother of God will cover you during your earthly life and at the Dread Judgment with her pure omophorion.’”

The metropolitan then explained that it was decided to have an exact copy of the icon painted especially for Fr. Sergei, that he might have it with him in the church where he serves. The Svyatogorsk brotherhood also decided to give the archpriest a new set of vestments on the occasion, that he might “feel the protection of the Queen of Heaven when he vests himself,” said Met. Anthony, the deputy abbot of the Svyatogorsk Lavra.

Met. Arseny also noted the virtue displayed by the canonical Orthodox faithful during the procession. While schismatics and radicals showed aggression and hatred, the faithful showed a great love—the love of enemies. The bishop recalled the Lord’s words, that His disciples are known by their love. “May God grant them repentance, that they would come to themselves,” he finished, speaking of those who attacked the precious icon.