This icon reflected in its very outline the profound, childlike faith in the Mother of God of the Optina Elder Ambrose, one of the Russian people’s great righteous ones of the nineteenth century, who was aflame, as were most Russian ascetics, with extraordinary zeal for the Queen of Heaven.
Elder Ambrose did not let a single feast of the Theotokos pass without performing a vigil in his cell before her icon. In 1890, Abbess Hilaria, the superior of the Bolkhov Convent, sent to the great Elder an icon of a completely new depiction of the Mother of God. The Mistress of the world is depicted seated on clouds. Her hands are raised in a blessing motion.
Below is a mown field, and in it, amid flowers and grass, sheaves of rye are lying and standing. The depiction of the Mother of God on this icon was borrowed from the “All Saints” icon found in the Bolkhov Convent, while the area below with the sheaves was depicted according to Elder Ambrose’s idea and purpose. He gave to this new icon the significant name, “Enhancer of the Grain Harvest”, indicating by this, that the Mother of God is the Helper of people in their labors in getting their daily bread.
The Elder himself also prayed before this icon; he also taught his spiritual daughters the nuns of the KazanAmbrose women’s community to pray before it. This community, which was founded by the Elder at the village of Shamordino, in the province of Kaluga, was where he spent the last year of his life and where he died. In this last year, the Elder, after ordering prints from this icon, gave and sent them out to his many venerators among the laity.
For the singing of the Akathist before this icon, the Elder composed a special refrain to the general Akathist to the Theotokos not long before his death.
Here are its words: “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee! Grant also unto us, the unworthy, the dew of thy grace, and reveal thy lovingkindness!” And the Akathist with this refrain was read and sung often by the sisters in the cell of the enfeebled Elder. Venerable Ambrose proposed to perform the celebration of the icon, “Enhancer of the Grain Harvest”, on the 15th of October, according to the Old Style.
On this very day, Venerable Ambrose, who had reposed on 10 October 1892, was lowered into the grave. And as if already from the grave, by the coincidence of this day of his burial with the day of the celebration established by him, he indicated to his spiritual children to whom he had left them.
His confessor asked the Elder: “Here you are dying, Batiushka; to whom do you leave your Convent?”
He answered him with characteristic hope: “I am leaving the Convent to the Queen of Heaven.”
And not in vain: Having about 500 sisters at the time of the Elder’s death, the Shamordino community, being renamed a convent after that, soon began to number up to 800 sisters.
The first mercy that was poured out from this icon was the fact that, even though the year 1891 in Russia was lean in general, and localities around the Kaluga Diocese were struck by crop failure, grain thrived within the boundaries of Kaluga and in the fields of Shamordino. Rye then went up terribly in price. But the Elder, during his lifetime, had managed to store so much of it, that for that whole year and the next there was no shortage of grain in the Convent with all its numerous sisters.
In the summer of 1892, already after the death of the Elder, an icon of “The Enhancer of the Grain Harvest”, painted by the elder’s close novice, Ivan Theodorovich Cherepanov, was sent to the young Piatnitsky women’s community in the province of Voronezh. There was drought there, and famine threatened.
A Moleben was served before the icon, “The Enhancer”. Soon rain fell, and the fields of the convent and its environs recovered.
The Icon pictured above can be purchased from Uncut Mountain Supply:
SOURCE: St John DC
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