Sermon by Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov on the day of the “Chirskaya” Icon of the Mother of God, July 29, 2021


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Today we remember the Chirskaya Icon of the Mother of God, through which Orthodox Christians 601 years ago were shown her intercession in the days of an epidemic. Tears streamed from the eyes of the Mother of God on her icon.

The Most Holy Theotokos showed her love and compassion for the sick, who were tormented on their bed of pain, and her sorrow for people. The Mother of God showed her mercy through this icon not only during the epidemic. People came to this icon, feeling her motherly mercy. They turned to her with all different sorrows and requests.

Because of our sins there are such all-out attacks as epidemics. When does it happen? When “the love of many waxes cold” (cf. Mt. 24:12), as the Lord Himself said. Mercy, sympathy for people, each person’s personal responsibility for the pain, grief, health, and life of their neighbor become scarce. Love thy neighbor as thyself (Mk. 12:31)—without the fulfillment of this commandment of His, the Lord will never accept any love for Him.

The Lord will never accept love for God if there is no true love for man. Healing from eternal death comes from love of God and love of neighbor; only this heals fallen human nature.

There is no other path given to us for pleasing Christ.


Just as in the distant year of 1420, the Lord today has also allowed an epidemic. We priests, when we go to hospitals and the so-called “Red Zone” [the COVID ward], we see debilitated, frightened, often mentally unstable people lying in the ICU. It is terrible to see dying people! But it is even more terrible when people lose their minds before your eyes—a person who is tied to this world by only an oxygen mask madly trying to rip that mask from his face. He has lost his mind; he’s not himself. He is so weak that he cannot even take a few steps, but he screams, “I’m going home!” In those moments you understand what a serious illness the enemy of mankind has sent to mankind.

The majority of you now standing in church are wearing masks not so that you won’t get sick yourselves, but so that you won’t infect the person standing next to you. We might not know that we are transmitting infection.

In Moscow there is a church that particularly reminds us of what we are talking about today—about the mercy of the Mother of God. This church is dedicated to the icon of the Mother of God, “Joy of All who Sorrow”. Our Chirskaya Icon can also be called the “Joy of All Who Sorrow”.

In this Moscow church on Ordynka street, something happened,1 which many people in Moscow know about, and to which both the parishioners and priests of the church testify. One woman came to church in terrible grief. She said that her mother, who because of her advanced age did not go out of her home, asked her to get her vaccinated. But this woman, her daughter, categorically refused, considering vaccination unacceptable according to some conviction of hers. No matter how much her mother asked, the daughter, thinking that she was saving her mother, was unbending. Soon that woman got infected with COVID somewhere. She had a light form of the illness. But she infected her mother, who was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The mother called and begged her daughter to come, but of course they would not allow the woman to come into the infection hospital. Her mother died. That woman also infected her neighbor, who also died. The woman came to the church and asked the priest how she should live with herself after this.

I thank you all with all my heart for caring about one another. This mercy, this fulfillment of obedience to the Lord and His Most Pure Mother in deed, and not your own lives with what is often superstitious thinking and, as the holy fathers say, “opinions”. Love is not a sentimental feeling; it is a reasonable and great godly act.

The Mother of God gives us the sign of her icon—the tears that stream from the Chirskaya Icon of the Mother of God—that she is with us in our troubles and sorrows. In the fifteenth century the epidemic subsided after some time. Peoples’ hearts softened, because when the Lord sees frighteningly hardened human hearts, He departs from cruel mankind and allows catastrophes to befall it. Let us also always be merciful to one another, not according to our own corrupt reasoning, but as the Gospels and the Holy Church teaches us!

Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Pskov and Porkhov
Translation by Nun Cornelia (Rees)
Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, the village of Palkino, Pskov Province

Pskov Caves Monastery



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