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On Friday, June 26, His Eminence Archbishop Paul celebrated the feast of the Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God at Holy Trinity Cathedral here. His Eminence was joined by Priest Alexander Koranda, Cathedral Dean, Priest Jonathan Lincoln, Associate of St. Joseph Church in Wheaton, IL, Protodeacon Thomas Keith, and faithful from around Chicagoland.

The Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God is of great importance to the Diocese of the Midwest and the Orthodox Church in America as the original miraculous icon was in the care of the Archbishop John of Chicago and Minneapolis, of blessed memory, for five decades during the time of communism in Russia. Archbishop Paul preached about the need to draw near to the Mother of God for our protection and clarity of mind during the time of the pandemic.

Archbishop John of Chicago with the icon at Vancouver’s Holy Resurrection Sobor in 1966.

According to ancient tradition, the Tikhvin icon of the Mother of God is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist.  In the fifth century, the icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.  In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod in northern Russia witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amidst a radiant light.  Shortly thereafter, the icon appeared in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin.  A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God was built on the site.  In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church.  Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide, with copies of the original adorning countless churches throughout Russia and beyond.

During World War II the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Faithful venerate the Tikhvin Mother of God during the 99th annual Memorial Day Pilgrimage at the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk.

Archbishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. The visit of the icon, in some places, even inspired festivals to be founded to commemorate the visit.

After Archbishop John’s retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday, 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.

The icon began its year-long journey to Russia at the 99th annual Pilgrimage to The Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk in 2003.

In 2016 an exact reproduction of the icon was enshrined in Holy Trinity Cathedral, a gift of His Grace Bishop Mstislav of Tikhvin, and the Russian Church. 

View a photo gallery of the Tikhvin Mother of God

Watch a short video on the return of the icon