Photo: agionoros.ru The Icon known as the “Otrada”, or ‘Consolation”, icon is in the Vatopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos, which had been established during the reign of Constantine the Great. In 395 AD, Arcadius, son of Emperor Theodosios the Great, was in a ship and during a powerful storm, fell overboard not far from the Monastery.
With considerable difficulty, the ship was able to land at Mt. Athos. After an exhausting search, Arcadius’ traveling companions saw him sleeping peacefully in shrubbery near the shore. Upon awakening, the prince related that he was miraculously saved from death by the intercession of the Mother of God. In honor of that event, the monastery was named Vatopedi, which means, “the shrub of the youth”. In remembrance of his son’s miraculous deliverance, Emperor Theodosios richly endowed the Monastery and significantly expanded it. The Altar in its Cathedral Church was established at the spot where the prince was found. Over the entrance to the church is its patronal icon, a fresco of the Mother of God, which in remembrance of the mercy shown by the Most Holy Theotokos, they named, “Otrada”, meaning, “Consolation.”
In the year 807, a band of robbers decided to loot the monastery, but the Queen of Heaven warned the brethren of their intent. During the Morning Prayer Rule, the monastery Abbot heard a voice coming from the Icon and saying, “Do not open the monastery gates today. Instead, go to the top of the walls, and tell the bandits to disperse.” Gazing at the Icon, the abbot witnessed an amazing miracle: The Pre-eternal Infant, covering His Mother’s mouth with His hand, said, “No, My Mother, don’t tell them that. Let them be punished.” However, the Mother of God, leaning Her face toward Her Son, twice repeated the same warning. The abbot, overcome with terror, told the monastic brethren about the miracle, and they were all amazed to see that the icon had changed its appearance and overall form: The Most-Holy Virgin holds back Her Son, and Her face expresses compassionate love, and Her gaze is filled with meekness and mercy, while the Divine Infant’s face has a stern, grim expression. In remembrance of their miraculous deliverance, a perpetual vigil lamp was lit before the Icon, and a large candle is also lighted before it.
Photo: agionoros.ru Soon thereafter, the fresco was taken down from the wall, placed into a silver niello frame, and transferred to an oratory chapel in the cathedral choir loft, especially arranged for this miraculous icon. Since antiquity, tonsures of those entering the monastic brotherhood have been taking place there, and a Moleben to the Mother of God is served there every day. It was there that St. Maximos the Greek was tonsured a monk. In 1518, St. Maximos moved to Russia to translate and correct the service books.
From Mt. Athos, he brought copies of the two principal treasures of the Vatopedi Monastery: the Vatopedi icon of the Mother of God, and the Ktitorissa, or Foundress, icon. It was from these two icons that the first copies were made in Russia. One of the copies became the cell icon of Holy Hierarch St. Dimitry of Rostov. (That icon is now in the Savior-St. James Monastery.) St. Dimitry never parted from that icon of the Mother of God, which he had received as a blessing; he was praying before it on the night of October 28, 1709, when he reposed at the end of his earthly labors. Resting near the Saint’s holy relics, that icon was one of the principal holy treasures of Rostov the Great. The monastery was shut down in 1929. The miraculous icon was rescued by the faithful. For the past few years, Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomna had it in his care; in 1997, he returned it to the Savior-St. James Monastery.
In the St. Petersburg Novodevichy Monastery of the Resurrection of Christ there is a church dedicated to the Vatopedi Icon of the Mother of God. In 1852, the famous Elder Seraphim, author of Letters From the Holy Mountain, sent a copy of the Vatopedi “Otrada” icon from Mt. Athos as a blessing to the monastery. In 1925, the monastery was disbanded, the nuns arrested, and the Vatopedi Church turned into apartments. The Vatopedi icon disappeared in the 1980s. At the Holy Resurrection Monastery, reopened in 1997, there is now a revered “Otrada” Icon of the Mother of God, which in 2003 was painted on Holy Mt. Athos at the request of the Monastery.