The 700 year old Orthodox Christian icon known as the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, an icon that depicts the Virgin Mary with her Son, Jesus Christ, will be on display in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 11, 2016. The event is being hosted by St Nino Orthodox Christian Church located in Stillwater, OK. Below is part one of a history of this wonderworking icon.
The foundation for the iconographic type, or composition, of the Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” are the words of Prophet Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
In the 13th century, the Kursk region, as well as the rest of Russia at the time, was subjected to terrible decimation by the Tatar invasion. The city of Kursk was completely destroyed and grew into a wild, overgrown forest, populated by wild animals. The residents of the city of Ryl’sk, 60 miles from Kursk, who had somehow been spared from a Tatar invasion, would go there to hunt. And it happened that in 1295, on the feast day of the Nativity of the Mother of God, a small troupe of hunters from Ryl’sk arrived at the Tuskor River, 18 miles from Kursk, to hunt. One of them, a pious and honorable man, seeking prey in the woods, found a small icon lying face down at the root of a tree. He had barely lifted the icon from the ground to inspect it, when a strong wellspring of pure water burst forth from the very spot where the icon lay. The icon turned out to be of the Mother of God “of the Sign” type. The hunter realized that this was no ordinary icon. He summoned his fellow hunters, and together they cut down timber and erected a small chapel where they placed the newly-found icon. The people of Ryl’sk, learning of the icon, began to visit it for veneration, and many miracles occurred as a result.
Prince Vasily Shemyak of Ryl’sk, having heard about this Icon, ordered that it be brought to his city, which was done with great ceremony: the entire city emerged to greet the miraculous Icon as it approached amidst a procession of the cross. Prince Vasily himself, however, declined to participate in the ceremony—and was struck blind. But after his earnest repentance and prayer before the Icon, he was granted sight again. In gratitude for this miracle, he built a church dedicated to the Nativity of the Mother of God in Ryl’sk, where the icon was then placed, and where every year, on that feast day, the Icon is celebrated.
But the icon did not stay in Ryl’sk for long. Three times it miraculously disappeared from Ryl’sk, and it would be found again and again at the site where the hunter found it. The people of Ryl’sk then understood that it was the will of the Mother of God that her icon should remain at the site of its discovery, and they left it there permanently.
Part 2 to be posted soon…