Minsk, August 29, 2023
The Belarusian Orthodox Church had a double feast on Saturday, celebrating the Minsk Icon of the Mother of God and the 850th anniversary of the repose of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk—Belarus’ most beloved saint.
Before the service began, the gathered hierarchs, clergy, and faithful welcomed the participants of the All-Belarusian procession, who had walked 155 miles in 9 days, passing through four dioceses and 18 churches. Together with the pilgrims, a portion of the relics of St. George the Victorious arrived in Minsk, where they will remain until August 31, reports the Belarusian Orthodox Church.
Venerable Euphrosyne was a 12th-century princess who chose the angelic life of monasticism, having loved prayer from her childhood. She founded the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery in Seltso, and through her efforts, a cathedral was built in 1161 that survives to this day. She peacefully reposed in the Lord while on pilgrimage in the Holy Land in 1173.
The Belarusian Church has been celebrating her anniversary throughout the year, and the Holy Synod issued an epistle in honor of her anniversary in June.
The Divine Liturgy on Saturday, celebrated at the walls of the Holy Spirit Cathedral, was led by His Eminence Metropolitan Vikenty of Tashkent and Uzbekistan, together with His Eminence Metropolitan Benjamin of Minsk and 12 other hierarchs of the Belarusian Church and a host of clergy.
The service was broadcast live on the YouTube channel of the Belarusian Church:
At the end of the service, Met. Benjamin of Minsk congratulated those present with the feasts and offered a primatial word. Met. Vikenty of Uzbekistan also greeted the faithful.
The Minsk Icon of the Mother of God, painted by St. Luke the Evangelist according to Tradition, is one of the most revered sacred items of Belarus. The Mother of God herself blessed the icon and promised to always be with the people through her icons.
One original icon was kept in Constantinople. St. Vladimir the Baptizer of Rus’ brought a copy of it to Kiev and placed it in the ancient Tithes Church. When the Crimean Khan Meñli I Giray captured Kiev in 1482, one of the invaders took the icon, tore off its golden riza, and threw the icon itself into the Dnieper.
However, the icon survived and later appeared in Minsk, where it was noticed by its “extraordinary radiance” on August 13, 1500. It placed in the Nativity of the Theotokos Church, where it remained for 116 years.
Unfortunately, the icon was taken by Uniate Catholics in 1616, but when Minsk became part of the Russian Empire in 1793, it returned to the Orthodox.
When the atheists came to power in 1917, the icon was again robbed of its precious riza. The faithful raised more than enough money to buy it back, but the authorities took the money and kept the riza. The icon was given to the Renovationists in the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral that they captured. When the cathedral was blown up in 1936, the icon was transferred to a local museum.
When the Nazis came to the city in 1941, one pious woman, Varvara Slabko, managed to convince them to give her the icon, which she gave to the St. Catherin Church. After the liberation of Belarus from the Germans, the church was closed and the icon was transferred to the Holy Spirit Cathedral, where it has remained ever since.