The exact origin of the “Consolation in Afflictions and Sorrows” Icon of the Mother of God is unknown, but the lettering on the Icon indicates that it is very ancient. There is a tradition that the Icon belonged to the holy Patriarch Athanasios III of Constantinople (May 2). This Icon accompanied him in all his travels, and so he brought the Icon to Russia with him in the year 1653. After the repose of Saint Athanasios in 1654, the Icon was brought to the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos, remaining there until October 11,1849, when the Russian Skete of Saint Andrew was founded.
Metropolitan Gregory, who was living alone at Vatopedi, gave the Icon to the newly-founded Skete as a blessing from his monastery. The Icon was kept in the cell of Hieroschema-monk Bessarion (Vavilov), the founder of the Skete. Father Bessarion blessed the brotherhood with the Icon saying, “May this icon bring you joy, and console you in afflictions and sorrows.”
The glorification of the Icon took place in Russia, in 1863, when Hieromonk Paisios arrived in the town of Sloboda (Vyatka Province) from Mount Athos, bringing with him the “Consolation in Afflictions and Sorrows” Icon of the Mother of God. This image was decorated with rich silver and a gilded riza. Father Paisios placed the Icon in the women’s Monastery of the Nativity of the Lord, in the church of the Nativity.
When Father Paisios was about to return to the Holy Mountain, the eighteen-year-old son of a local priest, Father Vladimir Nevolin, who had been unable to speak for six years, was healed by the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Following a Moleben, he touched her lips and began to speak. After this, people began to make pilgrimages to the Icon, and many suffering pilgrims received healing and comfort in their sorrows from the holy Icon in those days.
The holy Icon was transferred to the women’s Monastery of the Transfiguration in the city of Vyatka with great reverence. At Slobodsky, an exact list of the Icon’s miracles was compiled by the same eighteen-year old young man who had been healed. The spiritual uplifting of the inhabitants of Vyatka was so great that on the eve of a Great Cross procession, the “Vyatka Provincial Gazette” compared the religious fervor to that when the holy Icon from Mount Athos first arrived.
When Father Paisios was leaving for Mount Athos, he left the list of the Icon’s miracles at the Monastery of the Transfiguration. At Vyatka, on June 26, 1871, the foundation of a church in honor of the “Consolation in Afflictions and Sorrows” Icon was laid. It was built over a period of eleven years.
On August 31, 1882, on the Feast of the Placing of the Honorable Belt of the Most Holy Theotokos, Archbishop Appolos consecrated the church, and every Saturday an Akathist was read before the Icon. Every two years, in remembrance of the holy Icon’s stay in the Vyatka region and the miraculous healings which took place, solemn processions were held throughout the entire diocese.
On November 19, 1866 at Sloboda’s Monastery of the Nativity of the Lord, a gilded riza was added to the “Consolation in Afflictions and Sorrows” Icon of the Mother of God from Mount Athos; and in remembrance of the Icon’s first healing (of the young man who could not speak), a particularly solemn service took place in the monastery. That day was established as the Feast Day of the wonderworking Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos.
On March 27, 1890, an exact copy of the Icon was delivered to Russia and placed in the Annunciation Cathedral at St. Petersburg, the representation church of Saint Andrew’s Skete on Mount Athos. Day and night, crowds of people came to venerate the wonderworking Icon. By the grace of God, this icon of the Mother of God was also glorified by numerous miracles.
Now the Icon is at the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas in St. Petersburg, and a list of miracles is with the holy Icons in the suburban Cathedral of Saint Katherine. In 1999, the altar of one of the churches of the former Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the town of Sloboda was consecrated in honor of the wonderworking Icon.
In the Aleksievo-Akatov women’s monastery in Voronezh, there is also a list of the Athos shrine, which says: “This icon was painted and blessed on the Holy Mountain in the Russian Monastery of Saint John Chrysostom under the rector Hieroschema-monk Cyril in 1905.” The Icon was restored in 1999.
The “Consolation in Afflictions and Sorrows” Icon is in the form of a triptych. In addition to the Most Holy Theotokos, the following saints are depicted: The Great Martyrs George and Demetrios of Thessaloniki on horseback; Saint John the Forerunner and Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, the monastic saints Anthony, Euthymios, Onuphrios the Great and Sava the Sanctified; Saints Spyridon of Trimythontos and Nicholas the Wonderworker. The Icon is adorned with several rizas, one of which is gold.
Although the Feast Day of the Icon is on November 19, it does not have its own Service; so the Troparion, Kontakion, and Akathist for the Assuage my Sorrows Icon (January 25 and October 9) are also used for this Icon.