The Visit of the Pochaiv Icon of the Mother of God to Canada

Archbishop Seraphim : Article
The Visit of the Pochaiv Icon
of the Mother of God to Canada
22 September - 11 October, 2009
[Published in the “Canadian Orthodox Messenger”, Winter 2009/2010]

On 22 September, 2009, the Wonder-working Icon of the Theotokos of the Monastery in Pochaiv, Ukraine, arrived in Canada, to begin a series of visits in this country – visits that would prove to make a significant impression on all of us, whether we managed to venerate this Holy Icon, or not. These visits concluded on 11 October.

After the arrival in Toronto, the Icon was driven towards Montréal, when it became clear to the drivers that there should be a pause in Kingston, Ontario, where the Mission of Saint Gregory of Nyssa is located. Quickly, an arrangement was made by telephone, and as a result, the Rector and a few other people managed to be present. They became the first parishioners in Canada to venerate this Holy Icon. This Mission has been steadfastly persevering for almost thirty years, and facing many an obstacle. The Mother of God had come to encourage them, and she did.

The next stop was in Montréal, where several thousands of people came to venerate this Wonder-working Icon. Some were physically healed ; others were refreshed spiritually. In every place the Mother of God stopped, she brought people to repentance, reconciliation, and healing of the heart. As usual, she brought us (and continues to bring us) to her Son. The next visit was in Toronto. Once again, several thousands of people queued up to venerate this Wonder-working Icon of the Theotokos. Again, there were healings, as well as renewals of the hearts and lives of those who came to her, and also to those who did not.

In her Progress across Canada, the Mother of God approached us in the warmth and joy of her compassionate Heart. She brought with her the renewal of hope, and the renewal of the desire amongst us all to be more seriously faithful. She brought reconciliation again and again, and she brought healing, as I have emphasised. She gave us an opportunity for closeness to her Holy Icon that is not possible for believers in Eastern Europe, because of such great numbers wanting to venerate the Icon there. Why would she come to us like this, with such a generous and intimate expression of love ? We, who are unworthy, cannot say, but we can express the depth of our gratitude. She arrived in Canada, and through this Icon, which has been for 450 years in the Pochaiv Monastery in Ukraine – the land of origin of most of the early founders of Orthodox life in Canada – she embraced all the children of her Son.

As the Icon visited us, were there temptations amongst us ? Of course. There could never be such a blessing without interference from the tempter. Did they succeed ? Of course not. God’s love defeats all such tricks and disturbances. If a person for some reason could not manage to participate, was such a person deprived of Grace ? No. If a person was blocked from venerating this Holy Icon because the tempter had successfully sowed seeds of skepticism, or something else negative, does that mean that because of this God will reject that person ? No. The Lord’s love is much greater than our limitations, and the Mother of God is an effective conveyor of that Grace.

Let us, who have had the privilege of such a close encounter with the Lord and the Mother of God, now live as well as we can, and as responsibly as we can (always with God’s help), in letting this same compassionate love and generosity shine from us. Let us, as the Mother of God always does, allow our Saviour to reveal Himself through us to His needy children, and let us do so with hearts full of gratitude for the gifts of such inexpressible joy and strength in Christ.