Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 12, 2009
Miracles abound around Mother of God icon
Ukraine agreed to share icon with appreciative Canadians
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Since its arrival in Canada Sept. 22, people have been saying that the flow of miracles from the Pochaev icon of the Mother of God has been perpetual.
The famous icon arrived in Edmonton Oct. 5. An airport security guard approached Father Alexander Pihach, an Orthodox priest from St. Herman of Alaska Sobor, and asked him to pray for healing.
"This is not what happens at the Edmonton International Airport," said Pihach. "Well, I told him the icon is coming, which he didn't have a clue about. He got to venerate the icon at the airport. Is he healed? I don't know. But he is restored, and something positive definitely happened to him."
In his 25 years of priesthood, no one had approached Pihach quite like that before. People had asked him to pray for them, but never in such a direct manner.
The incident was especially interesting given his assignment of bringing to Edmonton the Pochaev icon, to which has been attributed numerous wonders such as curing grave diseases, deliverance from sudden death, captivity and penalty, and showing the right way to those who err.
"The security guard was not Orthodox or Catholic, which is even more interesting. He is a Christian, and I would assume evangelical," he said.
Not even the people of Ukraine would ever get this same opportunity, said Pihach, because the icon is kept permanently in the Pochaev Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos in southwest Ukraine.
At an Orthodox parish in Ottawa, a woman was unable to attend church because she suffers from terrible asthma, and her breathing is affected.
"On Wednesday she prayed in front of the icon, and she lasted through a whole liturgy on Thursday. She was at church again on Sunday, and she has been restored," said Pihach.
He also spoke of a deacon from his own parish having marital problems. He went before this icon and prayed, and his marriage was restored.
With newfound freedom in Ukraine, the icon can now visit Canada - impossible until a few years ago.
"Their attitude (in Ukraine) is that it's all decadent here and the West is not spiritual. So the shocking report home is that we had 10,000 people come out in Toronto because they were expecting 1,000. The report from Vancouver was 5,000 people. Reporting back to Ukraine, they are quite surprised by the numbers coming through. There's more faith here than they thought there would be," said Pihach.
In the spirit of ecumenism and Christian brotherhood, the Orthodox invited Roman Catholics and Catholics of the Ukrainian Eparchy to share in this special visit. Hundreds of Catholics took advantage of the chance of a lifetime, to see and venerate the famous icon, from Oct. 5-7 at St. Herman's. A Divine Liturgy and public prayer services were held there.
For Rebecca Fagnan, "It's such a wonderful experience, very uplifting. It's an opportunity for great spiritual fulfillment."
As a Roman Catholic, she said that the visit is special because the Mother of God is so meaningful to people of all Christian faiths.
"I came here to venerate the icon with a show of respect, humility. It's a tremendous blessing. I'll treat it as I would in the presence of someone amazing," said Fagnan, who intended on praying before the icon for private matters involving her family.
The image on the icon, written in tempera in the Byzantine style, measures 13 inches by 10.5 inches. It depicts the Mother of God tenderly inclining her head toward Jesus, whom she holds in her right hand. With the other hand, she covers his feet with a napkin. On both sides and on the lower part of the icon are miniature images of seven saints.
VIRGIN MARY'S DIVINE LOVE
Matthew Francis, hosting an information session about the icon at St. Herman's, said the Virgin Mary was the first Christian, the woman who agreed to bear divine love into the world. "Any image of the Mother of God is a revelation of Christ incarnate," said Francis.
Only through love, prayer and the intercession of the Mother of God, will there be a true unity of churches, he said.
"I think by coming to Canada this icon will actually be a very powerful agent of healing, not only for us Orthodox, not only for the Catholic Church, but for all Christians and, beyond that, for everybody else," said Francis.
The icon was in Canada from Sept. 22 until Oct. 11, visiting Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Montreal, Winnipeg and Regina.
Letter to the Editor - 10/26/09
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