NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Wonders of the Theotokos of Iveron

Rejoice, inexhaustible wellspring of grace;
Rejoice, thou who in boundless purity didst
serve the Infinite One!

This ministry has already posted a few times concerning its positive impressions of the "Hawaiian" myrrh-streaming icon of the "Theotokos" ("God-bearer") of Iveron... but then it recently dawned on this author that I didn't really know the entire backstory of the original icon.  I only knew the streaming icon here is a copy of a streaming icon from Montreal, Canada, which in turn, was a contemporary rendition of an ancient icon of the Holy Virgin and Christ Child currently kept in an Orthodox Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece.  I decided to do research and what a spiritual treasure trove I discovered!

According to online accounts, the original Iveron Icon was said to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, like a number of highly venerated miracle-working icons of the Madonna and Child (e.g. Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Czestochowa).  Because of its sacred provenance, this icon, too, was considered miraculous in nature.  Somehow, in the mid-800s, it ended up in the home-chapel of a devout widow who lived in Nicaea.  At the time the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus launched an iconoclasm (war against images) - a purge of religious images, including icons in the Eastern Church - because of a misguided belief that all were "graven".

The original wonder-working
Theotokos of Iveron Icon.

As a result of the emperor's edict, soldiers showed up at the widow's home to confiscate her icon.  One brazen soldier actually slashed at the Virgin's chin with a sword after which, to the horror of all present, blood dripped from the gash inflicted.  The soldiers immediately repented and left the home without destroying the image.

The widow then offered heartfelt prayers of reparation before her treasured icon and received a divine revelation to set it adrift in the nearby ocean to save it from further desecration.  The following morning the woman and her son obediently did as commanded and laid the wooden image upon the waves of the sea, where it set itself upright and began to mysteriously sail towards the West.

The Theotokos Icon is commended to the sea
by the pious widow of Nicaea.

Some time later, the monks of Mt. Athos in eastern Greece, were struck by the sight of a pillar of fire, approaching from the horizon, that rose from the sea into the sky.  The fiery column eventually reached the Grecian shoreline where the awaiting monks discovered the floating painting at the base of the luminary phenomenon.  Their attempts to retrieve the icon failed, though, as it drifted out of reach whenever it was approached.

In the meantime, a humble and holy monk named, Gabriel (St. Gabriel of Iveron in the Orthodox Tradition), from the Georgian Monastery of Iveron (one of several Eastern Orthodox monasteries on Mt. Athos) experienced an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who directed him to fetch her sacred image from the sea.  Gabriel, without hesitation, went down to the shore and, walking upon the waves, as though on land, easily retrieved the painting.

The Montreal streaming Iveron
Icon with its custodian, the late
Bro. Jose Munoz.

The image was initially installed in a chapel within the Iveron Monastery but it disappeared only to be found hanging near the monastery's gate.  Repeated tries to move the icon only resulted in it inexplicably returning to the gate.  Our Lady reappeared to Gabriel and spoke the following words to him:

“Announce to the brothers that from this day
they should not carry me away.  For what I desire
is not to be protected by you; rather I will
overshadow you, both in this life and in the age
to come.  As long as you see my icon in the
monastery, the grace and mercy of my Son
shall never be lacking!”

As a result of this revelation, a new chapel was constructed at the gate where the icon was successfully enshrined, and where it remains to this very day.  Since then, the wonder-working image was affectionately nicknamed the "Portaitissa" (the "Portress"), as well as called the Theotokos of Iveron, after the monastery in which it's kept and venerated.

The monk, Gabriel of Iveron, miraculously
retrieved the icon from the sea by walking
on its surface.

Throughout the centuries copies have been painted of the original icon, which are amongst the most popular Orthodox representations of the Holy Mother and Child.  The rustic images show the Virgin as both the Theotokos and as the "Hodegetria" ("She who points the way") since she gestures with her right hand towards her Divine Son sitting beside her. 

Contemporary renditions of the Iveron Icon are more stylized, compared to the original, and show the Holy Mother in red robes, which are traditional in Eastern iconography.  The color denotes her sanctity and sorrows as the Mother of our Savior; the child Jesus seated on her left arm holds a scroll, which from this writer's understanding symbolizes wisdom and prophecy.

Hawaii's Iveron Icon, a 
slightly smaller
version of the Montreal icon, which went
missing in 1997 after the mysterious death
in Greece of Bro. Jose Munoz.

In closing, this ministry was pleasantly surprised to learn Hawaii's streaming icon is just one of several links in a chain of miracles started centuries ago by Our Lady; a blessing not just for her Orthodox children, but also a unifying bridge between the Eastern and Western (Catholic) Churches whose members all call her "Mother"; a hypothesis supported by the many graces and healings reportedly effected by the Iveron Icon and its fragrant myrrh that have transcended denominations.

For more information about the Hawaiian myrrh-streaming icon, and/or to support its worldwide healing mission, please click here.

Rejoice, thou who sheddest tears over us
from thine icons; Rejoice, thou who givest
us tears of repentance!  Rejoice, thou who
 healest us with the medicine of
bitter sorrow...

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