Remarks to His Holiness, Patriarch Aleksy II of Moscow and All Russia upon the Arrival of the Wonder

Christ the Savior Cathedral
Moscow, Russia

Your Holiness:

It was through the faith and obedience to the Will of God of the Virgin Mary that Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ “was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” Because of her central role in the history of our salvation, the Holy Church has honored the Mother of God with the pious and devout veneration of her image in countless icons. Many of these icons of the Mother of God have been revealed as miracle-working. Among these, the Tikhvin Icon of the Holy Theotokos, returned this day to the Russian Land , occupies a preeminent place.

According to tradition, this venerable and wonderworking icon of the Theotokos was written in the Holy City of Jerusalem by Saint Luke the Evangelist. From Jerusalem it was taken to Constantinople in the Fifth Century where it was enshrined in the capital city in the Church of Blachernae . There it became the visible sign of the protection of the Mother of God over the city’s inhabitants.

By God’s design, the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God appeared in Russia in 1381, in a shining vision over the waters of Lake Ladoga . Although the Icon appeared in various locations, it eventually came to rest near the Tikhvinka River where a temple and eventually a monastery were built and dedicated to the Dormition of the Holy Theotokos.

The presence of the wonderworking icon of the Theotokos at the Monastery of the Dormition in Tikhvin came to be seen by the Russian people as a sign of the Mother of God’s maternal protection and intercession. Over the course of the centuries, the Tikhvin Monastery became the site of pilgrimage to which all classes of people came to pray and where countless miracles occurred as the Mother of God interceded for her faithful children.

We all know that the tragic aftermath of the 1917 Revolution brought devastating changes to the Russian Church as well as to the Tikhvin Monastery. The Monastery was closed in 1924 and in 1941 it became a casualty of the German occupation. The monastery was vandalized and numerous treasures were confiscated. The Wonderworking Tikhvin Icon was taken to Pskov and then began its sojourn in Latvia and its subsequent travels through Poland , Czechoslovakia , and Germany . During this time, the Wonderworking Icon was cared for by Bishop John (Garklavs) of blessed memory.

Taking the Tikhvin Icon with him, Bishop John eventually traveled to America where he was received as a hierarch of the North American Russian Orthodox Church, residing first in New York City . When he was elected Archbishop of Chicago and Minneapolis , the Icon was taken from New York to make its new abode at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago . In the following years, as Archbishop John traveled throughout the United States and Canada, he frequently took the Icon with him, bringing much spiritual joy and hope to countless numbers of Orthodox faithful. As for hundreds of years in Russia , the Mother of God continued to intercede for her faithful children through her wonderworking Tikhvin Icon, now on the North American Continent.

Before Archbishop John reposed in the Lord in 1982, he entrusted the care of the Icon to his adopted son, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs and to his grandson, Archpriest Alexander Garklavs. He instructed them to continue to care for the Icon until such time as the godless regime in Russia would fall and the Monastery of the Holy Dormition in Tikhvin could be restored. Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and by the sufferings of the Holy New Martyrs of Russia, these events have now come to pass.

And so, with gratitude to God and trusting in the unceasing intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Holy Synod, Hierarchs, Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America and Archpriest Sergei Garklavs and his Family, greatly rejoice with Your Holiness, and the Holy Synod, the Hierarchs, Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church. With you we bear witness to God’s Mercy and to the Heavenly Intercession of the Mother of God as—on this joyful day—the Tikhvin Icon is now returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, may the Orthodox Churches of Russia and America continue to bear faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Truth of the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us!