A Day That Starts with the Theotokos

Chimeevo Kazan Icon of the Mother of God Chimeevo Kazan Icon of the Mother of God   

Over the course of five years, I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Kazan-Chimeevo Monastery an average of about once a month. The monastery, located in the village of Chimeevo, Belozersk DIstruct, Kurgan Province, is known all around for the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God, which the people call Chimeevo.

We were living in Tyumen then, and the distance of 125 miles didn’t seem so great, and buses were constantly departing from the Znamenny Church.

“Where are you Orthodox going this time?” a passerby would ask.

“To Chimeevo! To our Mother!” we would answer in chorus.

“Make a prostration for me, a sinner…”

There weren’t so many pilgrims in those days; usually everyone could fit into one minibus. We didn’t have the usual lines to the icon, to the Church store, or to the holy spring. You could stand before the face of the Most Pure One for a long time, with no one rushing you. As you’d walk away, you’d feel you’d drunk deeply of living water, and you’d return home a new person. Understandably, I started going there pretty often. The guide, the driver, or the group would change, and they’d talk about different things each time. The Queen of Heaven helped many, and I’m certain she still does. There were countless thank-you notes; I myself wrote about some of the miracles I witnessed: This person’s heart was softened; another’s vision got better .

But here’s one story I clearly recall. I’ll start with the backstory.

In pre-revolutionary times, there was a rich merchant living in Chimeevo, the owner of a large enterprise—a glass factory, it seems. And he had a habit of going to the church every morning to get the blessing of the Theotokos, because he had firmly internalized one rule: A day that starts with the Theotokos won’t be wasted. It will certainly be filled with beneficial things. And the merchant’s business went quite well, and his enterprise flourished.

Things were also starting to change for me. I passed the traffic cop test on my second try, I bought an old compact car, and I could go to Chimeevo any time. I remember one of these trips in detail. I was driving along the empty Tyumen-Kurgan Highway, and suddenly I heard a voice inside: “Slow down!” I gradually started slowing down to 60, 50, 40, 30… And when the car was just about stopped, the front wheel flew off. It’s terrible to imagine what could have happened had it flown off at full speed.

Holy Kazan-Chimeevo Monastery Holy Kazan-Chimeevo Monastery     

In 2008-2009, I started going even more often. A difficult decision to move had matured. The Mother of God strengthened, counseled, and blessed me. It’s not for nothing that we say to her in one of her akathists that she is our source of joy and inspiration. In 2009, we moved to Moscow with a copy of the Chimeevo Icon of the Mother of God.

It’s probably not worth it to write about all the problems. I had to part with many valuable things. Some were lost during the many moves, and others broke. But the icon accompanied me everywhere, like a lamp. Many people gave me invaluable support at first—some in deed and others with advice. I knew, I believed that the Mother of God wouldn’t abandon me in trouble. Then somewhere in 2013-2014, I met Schema-Archimandrite Iliy (Nozdrin); or rather, I had met him a little earlier, when he was still a hieromonk. But that was brief. But in 2013 and in 2014, he and I had opportunities to talk about various topics for a long time in his cell in Peredelkino. In one of these talks, he asked me to bring him some of my stories. I chose the shortest ones, respecting his time. I told him: “But what’s the use? No one wants to print or publish them anyway.” “You just continue to write,” he advised, “perhaps someone will publish them. Address spiritual topics.” Somehow it worked out by itself, and I soon had books coming out. But, alas, I couldn’t always write, because of pathological laziness, fleeting worries, self-pity, self-justifications… There’s a long list.

During one of these meetings, I gave Elder Iliy my copy of the Chimeevo Icon. I was very grateful to her for her intercession and encounters with good people. You talk with her, you remain silent, you look at the image, and a new understanding of words and deeds appears. The complex becomes simple and understandable.

Some time passed, and terrible news came—the church where the icon was housed burned down. I was looking at the photos with anxiety and watching the clips of the burnt icon. It was seriously damaged. I recall the words of the Gospel of John: And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. I remember the road to Chimeevo, the pilgrimage worries, and the face of the Most Pure One, who has inspired so many.1

Olga Izhenyakova
Translation by Jesse Dominick



1 The fire occurred in July 2019. It was initially assumed the icon was destroyed with the church, though it was later found badly damaged but intact. The icon was quickly restored and returned to the monastery.—Trans.

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