Dear brothers and sisters, today we have gathered here to honor Her who is more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, the Mother of our earthly race, the Most Holy Theotokos and her Vladimir icon.
As we know, according to tradition, the icon of the Vladimir Mother of God was painted on the table at which the Lord Himself and the twelve apostles took food. And when she saw this image painted by the apostle Luke, the Mother of God said, “From henceforth all generation shall call me blessed, and the grace of Him Who was born of me shall be with this icon.
This icon came to Russia in a miraculous way in the twelfth century to Great Prince Yuri Vladimirovich Dolgoruky in Kiev, and was kept there in the Devichy Monastery. And when he decided to move from Kiev to another, new capital city, he chose Suzdal, but an extraordinary miracle occurred. On the Klyasma River near Vladimir, the icon stopped by itself. They were carrying it, and it rose up and hung in the air. No one could move it from that spot. After this manifestation the prince decided to leave the icon there, making it the capital city of Rus’. He also saw a vision. The Mother of God appeared to him and commanded that her icon remain in Vladimir. They built a stone church, the prince placed the icon in it, adorned it with gold, silver, and precious stones with pearls. And from then on, the icon came to be called the “Vladimir” icon. Prince Andrei himself and his troops witnessed innumerable miracles from this icon.
So, we read the Lives of the Saints, listen to sermons, but do we really believe what the priests say? When you talk to the young people, they say, “Well, I don’t believe it.” At the same time you hear how dissatisfied they are about this or that. Some pass through this period that we call youth without committing these revolutionary sins; they don’t have those problems of “coming of age”. But others for some reason do, along with various revolutionary thoughts, “coming of age”, and discord with parents. Where does this come from? It is because their parents did not instill in their children reverence for the Lord, for the Mother of God, or honor of parents given them by God as people who care for their salvation. And this is the root of everything that is happening around us, all of this dissatisfaction, these rebellions. And who rebelled? Teenagers, well fed, well dressed. And why are you rebelling? It’s not enough for you?
Not long ago I read a Life of our Tsar Nicholas II, and I saw a shocking resemblance to our own time, just like a parallel. The holy Tsar Nicholas did everything for Russia; from an agricultural country he created great sovereign nation. The people were fed and clothed, even educated, and yet they up and betrayed him. Now just look, people have two cars per family, summer homes, apartments, take trips abroad, but for some reason they are dissatisfied. And you think, why is this? Then you look at history—that’s already happened. As it turns out, the people already were well fed, satisfied, and happy. But they up and betrayed. Therefore you are amazed at God’s great Providence, because He takes care of us, and doesn’t let us get rich materially, only spiritually. So, unfortunately, material wealth does not give a person any kind of tranquility, quiet, rest, or peace of soul. Because when there is no wealth there is no worry about wealth; when there is wealth there is enormous care about that wealth, so that no one would take it away. And there is no hope in God that He Himself can do anything. That is, we think we got it all ourselves, it all came to us. And we live with that thought. And where does all this come from? From not honoring our elders, not honoring God, the Mother of God, and our parents. This is the root.
The Most Holy Theotokos has done so much good when people have turned to her before the holy Vladimir icon. Moscow was saved. A self-proclaimed tsar entered Moscow, seized the Kremlin, attacked our holy Patriarch Job, and demand that he bless them. What did he do? He took his Panagia [an icon of the Mother of God worn around the neck of a bishop] and right in front of them, placed it before the icon of the Theotokos and said, “Here, before Your icon, I was vouchsafed the rank of bishop, and I have presserved the integrity of the faith for nineteen years. Now I see the church in danger, the triumph of deceit and heresy. O Mother of God, save Orthodoxy!”
Has anything changed since then? No. Our holy patriarch, bishops, and priests continue to pray about this same thing. Are there fewer heresies these days? Is there any smaller assortment of preachers? Do we have fewer enemies? We have only friends? No, no. We have more and more enemies, because the enemy of mankind does not sleep. And his servants don’t sleep either. They continue to attack us and put pressure on us. We’ve opened so many windows to Europe, Asia, and everywhere, but unfortunately, nothing good is pouring in from those places. Only God’s grace is pouring in from all corners of the world, because the Russian land is preserving Orthodoxy. And there is an inexhaustible sea of miracles and grace here, because the Mother of God loves the Russian land, as do St. Nicholas and all the saints and God-pleasers. They love us for our patience and longsuffering. Here lie the relics of St. Raphael Sheichenko, who spent twenty-five years in the camps. Our Optina Monastery has existed for twenty-nine years, churches are being built, it’s blessed, we pray, and everything is open, all are welcome. But this man lived twenty-five years in the camps, was humiliated daily, insulted, yet he preserved love. Only someone who grew up in this longsuffering land could have such love. Even our beautiful sky is blue because the Mother of God herself illumines it with her azure light.
At the moment of death, for all people all the functions of the body and soul lose all connection with this life. Only eternal life remains. But this did not happen to the Mother of God at her repose. Only for very short time did her consciousness flicker out and her breathing stopped. But then she was immediately renewed, transformed, and her new life began in eternity. That is, her angelic life began, but the connection with our earthly life did not break. Truly is it said in the troparion [of the Dormition]: Thou didst not abandon the world.” We Orthodox Christians believe that the Most Holy Theotokos is here now, praying with us to her Son for us sinners. She constantly prays for us before God, saving us by her intercessions not only from earthly problems, but from eternal death. She is the fervent Intercessor of the Christian race.
Let us love and honor with all our hearts her as the Intercessor for all the sinful and humble, as she intercedes for us before her divine Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory, honor, and worship unto the ages of ages. Amen.