August 28, 2009
A Miracle in Washington D.C.
August 27, 2009
Washington D.C.: "Hawaiian" Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God visits St. John the Baptist Cathedral
By the Grace of God on August 22 & 23, 2009 the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was blessed by the presence of a new great Sacred Image – the “Hawaiian” Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Theotokos. This icon is a copy of the Montreal Iveron Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God which for 15 years was safeguarded by Brother Jose (Joseph) Munos-Cortes. Brother Jose suffered a martyric death in 1997 in Athens, Greece and his remains were found to be incorrupt during his burial 15 days later in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.
The “Hawaiian” Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Theotokos is much smaller than the original Iveron icon. Made in Russia the Hawaiian icon is a 7” x 9” paper reproduction laminated on a board one inch thick. Fr. Anatole Levin, the rector of the ROCOR mission in Honolulu purchased this icon in a church bookstore in Toronto, Canada a few years ago and gave it as a gift to his parishioner Reader Nectarios Yangson.
In the fall of 2007 Nectarios’ Icon began to copiously stream myrrh. A more detailed account of this miracle can be found on the site of the ROCOR in Honolulu http://orthodoxhawaii.org/icons.html
On August 22, 2009 the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington DC, piously awaited the arrival of the Icon in time for the English Vigil service. However the flight from New York was delayed due to inclement weather, allowing time for the church to be filled up with the faithful from other parishes in Washington and the environs, all of whom were waiting patiently to see and pray before the icon.
Many faithful went to confession desiring to meet the Most Holy Image of the Mother of God with a cleaned conscience. The Holy Icon finally arrived during the reading of the Six Psalms during the Slavonic Vigil. Many of those who attended the English Vigil remained for the Slavonic service in order to get a chance to venerate the Icon and be anointed with its Holy Myrrh, which poured forth from many spots on the Icon throughout the service.
After the service Matushka and I spent hours conversing with Nectarios, inquiring about the Miracle, his life, about Orthodoxy in Hawaii and answered many of his questions about Brother Jose Munos-Cortes, with whom Nectarios was not acquainted personally, but whose memory he deeply honors. Nectarios is convinced that the new Iveron Icon is in some mysterious way associated with Brother Jose and his selfless service to the Mother of God and his guardianship of the Montreal Icon.
On Sunday, August 23rd the Icon was present at both liturgies in an overflowing church. At each liturgy we communed the faithful from two chalices, as is our usual practice, but on this day the number of communicants had swollen to fill the entire Church, it was reminiscent of Holy Pascha.
At the early English Liturgy, Fr. John Johnson in his homily outlined the foundations Orthodox veneration of the Theotokos. At the Slavonic liturgy Fr. Victor Potapov reminded the faithful the words of the martyred Br. Jose Munos-Cortes who always said that the “greatest miracle of the Myrrh-Streaming Icon is not so much the manifestation of the physical myrrh, so much as the grace that it gives people to change their lives for the better.”
After both Liturgies commemorative molebens were served and all those present were anointed with the Holy Myrrh and given a piece of cotton dipped in the heavenly oil.
Many of the faithful did not want to leave the church; others came to our cathedral after Divine services in their own parishes in order to glorify the Theotokos in their native languages, including a group of local Georgians who read the Akathist in the Georgian language. Despite the fact that we were behind schedule Fr. Alexander Resnikoff was able to take the Icon to visit a number of gravely ill parishioners in Maryland.
At 5:00 PM the faithful gathered at our Iveron Icon Chapel in Rock Creek Cemetery. Here we served a moleben and Akathist to the Mother of God in three languages: English, Slavonic and Greek. The prayer service ended with a solemn procession with the icon around the perimeter of the large Orthodox section of the cemetery.
After prayers at the cemetery Fr. John Johnson took the icon to Virginia to bring comfort to a number of seriously ill parishioners. On Monday, August 24 the new myrrh-streaming icon and its custodian Reader Nectarios Yangston departed for Hawaii via California.
A Miracle at a Distance
On Sunday, August 23rd, after the English liturgy, it occurred to me that there might not be enough myrrh-soaked cotton to distribute to the large number of people gathered in church. I called my Matushka and asked her to bring more cotton to put into the icon kiot to soak up the myrrh pouring from the icon. Matushka remembered that in our attic we had a large role of cotton which belonged to Brother Jose which he never had a chance to use. When she arrived in church, Matushka and Nectarios went into the ponomarka (the room at the side of the altar) to cut off a portion of the dry cotton with the intent of exchanging it with the soaked cotton. They put the new cotton on a silver tray and were about to approach the Icon in the center of the church. At this time the epistle was being read. They stopped on the right kliros to await the end of the Scriptural readings before continuing with their task. The tray with the dry cotton was placed on a small table on the right kliros. When the reading concluded they looked at the cotton which they were preparing to take to the icon and were awe stricken to see that the cotton was filled with Holy Myrrh!
Nectarios and Matushka looked at each other with pious amazement. They came back into the ponomarka and asked an acolyte to call me so that I too could witness to this wondrous sign which was wrought during the Divine Liturgy. In truth, the Mother of God reminded us in a very real and dramatic way that during the Eucharist She, the Heavenly Hosts and the entire Church Triumphant come together in prayer with us, members of the Church Militant to offer the Bloodless Sacrifice.
This large piece of cotton which filled with myrrh at a distance from the Miraculous Icon is now kept in our cathedral as sacred relic. In truth, Great art Thou o Lord, and marvelous art Thy works and there is no word which suffices to hymn Thy wonders!
I was told of at least three healings in our parish which occurred after anointing with the Holy Myrrh from the “Hawaiian” Icon of the Theotokos. The names of all three persons who received these healings are known to me.
Acute eye pain that an elderly Serbian woman was experiencing for days went away after she was anointed with the myrrh. Another woman, a Georgian, was instantly relieved of a toothache.
A member of our Parish Council was experiencing acute pain as a result of kidney stones. The pain was so great that he had to miss the Sunday Divine Liturgy and was ready to call an ambulance. After church his wife brought him some myrrh-soaked cotton from the Icon and anointed him. The pain immediately subsided.
A New Riza for the Icon Parishioner Irina Pradhan-DelCastillo is presently working on the embellishment of our iconostasis with silver basma and produced in the same style a silver frame for the reliquary of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco (the founder of our community in Washington, DC). Irina was asked by Reader Nectarios and a group of believers to make a silver riza for the Hawaiian Icon. As a personal gift to the Mother of God, Irina obliged and made a beautiful silver riza from the silver material, supplied by our cathedral and covered it with pearls and a number of semi-precious stones. She made the riza in Mexico, where she spends part of the year with her Mexican husband. When she heard that the Hawaiian Icon was coming to Washington DC she sent the riza to our Cathedral via UPS hoping that it would arrive in time to put it on the Icon. Unfortunately the riza arrived after Nectarios had left for home. The new riza will be blessed in our Cathedral on the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God and will be sent to Hawaii next week. *** Parishioners of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and other Orthodox Christians in Washington will remember the grace-filled days of August 22 and 23 for a long, long time. Glory and thanks be to God for all things! May the Holy Theotokos protect the servant of God Nectarios from all harm and grant him many years.