The Socola Icon of the Mother of God was in the church of the Transfiguration in the Orthodox Theological Seminary at the Socola Monastery in Romania. In February 1854, it became famous for the remarkable miracle of shedding tears.
After the Divine Liturgy on February 1, 1854, a frightened member of the clerical staff went to Hieromonk Isaiah, the ecclesiarch, and said that he had seen tears on the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Several of those serving ran to the church. There they all witnessed tears running down from the eyes of the Mother of God. Bishop Philaret Skriban, the rector of the seminary, removed the Icon of the Mother of God from its frame, and carefully examined it. Believing that it may have been sprinkled with holy water for the Feast of Saint Tryphon, the bishop wiped away the tears with a towel, and put the Icon back in its place. Then, after ordering everyone to leave the church, he looked all around the church, and then locked it.
Several hours later, the seminary professors and students went into the church with the rector for Vespers, and all were amazed to see the same miraculous flow of tears from the eyes of the Theotokos depicted on the Icon. Immediately, Bishop Philaret served a Moleben and Akathist to the Mother of God. Soon, all of Romania learned of this miraculous event, and people from all parts of the country began to arrive at the Socola Monastery to venerate the newly-revealed Weeping Icon of the Theotokos. The tears sometimes flowed every day; and sometimes they appeared two, three, or four days apart. As a result, many people were able to see the actual miracle of weeping first hand, and bear witness to it. Those who did not see the actual miracle were convinced that a genuine miracle had taken place because they observed traces of the dried tears on the surface of the Icon.
During the Crimean War (1854-1856), the Principality of Moldavia was occupied by Austrian troops. General Paar, the commanding officer of the Austrian army, heard about the Socola Icon and ordered a staff officer to investigate the reported miracle and to give a report of his results. The Colonel went to the monastery and examined the Icon, which was not weeping at the time. Finding nothing unusual, he returned the Icon to its frame. Taking a lighted candle, he looked carefully at the face of the Virgin. Suddenly, two small shining tears formed in the eyes of the Mother of God, and the tears began to flow. The officer recoiled in terror, and exclaimed, “It is weeping! This is a great miracle! Fathers, pray unto God!”
The Colonel reported what had transpired to his commanding officer. His description of the miraculous flow of tears from the Icon is of unquestionable importance, for he had come to Socola Monastery with no faith that such a miracle was possible. When he left, however, he was convinced that it was an indisputable fact. His was not the only evidence that a true miracle had taken place. There were many other eyewitness accounts, including accounts by individuals whose sincerity there would be no reason to question.
Reports of the weeping Socola Icon also spread to Russia, and some people believe that the weeping icon mentioned in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace“ (Book 5, Ch. 11) may have been based on this Icon.
The account provided by Bishop Melchizedek Ştefănescu of Romania deserves particular attention. He was one of the first to witness this miracle, when he was a professor in the seminary at Socola Monastery. Reminiscing 35 years later about seeing tears flow from the eyes of the Mother of God, the Elder recalled how he had speculated about the reason for its tears. He knew that in times past there had also been such Icons, which wept from time to time, and that such events always presaged difficult trials for Christ’s Church and for the homeland.
History supported the Elder’s conclusion. Soon after the miraculous appearance of the tears, the Moldavian Principalities were subjected to severe trials. Socola Monastery also suffered great hardship. It was as important to Romanians as St. Sergius Lavra is to the Russian people.
Romania’s great religious and educational center was destroyed. The seminary was moved to Iași, and the local instructors and monastics were dispersed. Thus, where the glorious historical seminary had stood, serving for almost a century as a center of religious education, there remained only a small elementary school. When the Seminary moved from Socola to Iași in 1886, the icon was transferred to the new Metropolitan Cathedral in Iași.
The name Socola probably came from a Slavic source, from the word socola, or “hawk” (perhaps because there were many hawks near the monastery).