Chełm, Poland, September 22, 2022
Chełm Icon of the Mother of God. Photo: Wikipedia For the Orthodox Church of Poland, the feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos is a double celebration, combined with the commemoration of the wonderworking Chełm Icon of the Mother of God.
In honor of the occasion, His Eminence Archbishop Abel of Lublin and Chełm extended an invitation to His Eminence Metropolitan Nikodim of Zhytomyr of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The services for the double-feast were celebrated at the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Chełm, reports the Zhytomyr Diocese of the UOC.
The hierarchs concelebrated the All-Night Vigil on Tuesday evening, and the Divine Liturgy on Wednesday morning, with Met. Nikodim offering a homily following the reading of the Gospel.
Special prayers for peace in Ukraine were also offered during the service.
Ukrainian hierarchs have also recently concelebrated with hierarchs and clergy of other Local Churches in Slovakia, Serbia, and America.
The Chełm Icon is one of the oldest icons of the Mother of God, painted by, according to tradition, by St. Luke the Evangelist.
Like many other icons, it was gifted by the Greeks to St. Vladimir after his Baptism and his marriage to Princess Anna Porphyrogenita. At the turn of the 11th century, the icon was placed in the newly built Cathedral of the Mother of God in Chełm.
In 1240-1241, the Tatars invaded the land of Chełm. The defenders, unable to repel the enemy by force, turned to the Mother of God in prayer, carried her Chełm Icon to the city wall and set it up against the Tatar troops. The mountain on which the city was located seemed to the Tatars to be high and impregnable.
Fear seized them, and they withdrew. Only one of the subsequent Tatar attacks on Chełm in 1261 brought great destruction to the city. On the left shoulder of the Mother of God on the icon there appeared a wound inflicted by a saber, and on her right hand a mark from an arrow. Tradition has it that the impious ones who did this went blind, and their faces were forever twisted into a grimace.
For many years the icon was under the ruins of the city, after which it was found and returned to the church. In 1596, it passed into the hands of the Uniates. During the Khmelnytsky uprising it briefly returned to the Orthodox, but King John Casimir took it back. In 1875, the icon returned to the Orthodox for good, but in 1915, during the war, it was taken to the depths of Russia, never to be heard of again.
The Icon of the Mother of God currently located in the Church of St. John Theologian in Chełm is a copy of the original from mid-19th century. It’s placed in the iconostasis above the icon of the Last Supper and lowered to the analoy during molebens.