The Source of Living Water

All the days of the Bright Week come across as one bright day of Pascha. As for the Friday of the Bright Week, it is distinguished by the fact that on this day the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the icon of the Mother of God called the “Life-Giving Spring.”


Every church on this day holds the water blessing service according to the Paschal rite, while the service celebrated on this day, besides the Paschal stichera and troparia, has the chants of the service to the “Life-Giving Spring” Icon of the Mother of God.

The Mother of God is the Source of Life, as Christ sprang forth from Her, and He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. At the core of every prayer lies the idea of the universal intercession of the Mother of God, Her tireless pleading before Her Divine Son, and Her all-powerful and abundant help to all those in need. The Most Holy Mother of God and the Divine Child are depicted on the icon above the large stone bowl standing over a spring. The water source filled with living water is surrounded by people who suffer from bodily ailments, passions and mental infirmities. All of them drink from this life-giving water and receive healing of all sorts. The meaning of this icon can be interpreted in two ways: It highlights the fact that the Mother of God gave birth to the Eternal Life, the Son of God in the flesh, and also Her relationship with the world—as the cure of all ills.

The appearance of the icon of the “Life-Giving Spring” has to do with a miraculous event that took place in the fifth century on April 4 (according the Old calendar), 450 AD. In Constantinople, not far from the so-called “Golden Gates,” there was once a grove dedicated to the Mother of God. Leo Marcellus, a warrior and a future emperor, once met there a blind, helpless traveler who had lost his way. Leo helped him to find the right path and to settle down in the shade to rest while he went to find water to keep the blind man going. Suddenly he heard a voice: “Leo! Don't look for water too far away, it is here, near you.” Astonished by the mysterious voice, he went to search for water, but didn’t find it. When he stopped musing about it in regret, he heard the voice for the second time, saying “Emperor Leo! Step inside in the shade of this grove, draw from the water you will find here, and give it to the one who thirsts to drink, and apply the silk that you will find in the spring on his eyes. Then you will learn of Me Who sanctifies this place. I will help you soon to build a temple here in My name, and everyone who comes here in faith and calls on My name will see the fulfillment of their prayers and be fully healed of their ailments.” Leo fulfilled everything that She commanded him to do, and the blind man immediately gained his sight and went without a guide to Constantinople, glorifying the Mother of God.

When in 457AD Leo I, nicknamed the Great, was crowned emperor, he remembered the words he had heard from the Mother of God, and built a church there. He called it the Life-Giving Spring and ordered an icon painted. This spring became famous for many miracles, as did the “Life-Giving Spring” Icon of the Mother of God. This name was also given to a monastery founded there later.

In the centuries since, the Church of the Life-Giving Spring was repeatedly rebuilt and beautified. In the fifteenth century, Nicephoros Kallistos, the Byzantine church historian, wrote the order of the divine service for the feast of the renewal of the church. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the church was destroyed and lay in ruins for more than three hundred years. Much later, in 1834-1835, another church to the Mother of God was built over the sacred Life-Giving spring.

The icon of the Life-Giving Spring was also widely known in Russia from ancient times. The celebration honoring the icon during the Bright Paschal Week is yet more proof that it was deeply revered among Russian people. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, a copy of the icon of “Life-Giving Spring” was brought to Sarov Monastery. The great elder Seraphim held it in great reverence and directed many people to pray before it. Besides Sarov Monastery, similar icons were known in the churches of many dioceses of the Russian Church, because the need to quench spiritual thirst has existed before and still lives in our people.

Photo: Photo: The city of Saratov has its own chapel of the “Life-Giving Spring.” It is located on Teatralnaya Square. It is a small structure with snow-white walls, stucco-decorated columns, and a gilded dome. Prayer services are held in the chapel and the believers come there to pray or place a candle. A bowl holding holy water is located in the center of the chapel.

The Mother of God, depicted as if floating above the bowl, embraces Her Child and looks into eyes of those who come to pray there. She knows our doubts, weariness, and fear. But She is also well aware of our doubts: life without faith is akin to a dried-up spring, a ditch covered with slime. Such a life holds no future. Only restlessness of soul, anxiety, and unfounded vexation of spirit. We seek to find a source to quench our thirst everywhere else—only not at the holy and life-giving spring. We look for it, some here, some there. But we fail to find it. And we feel resentful towards life. But what if we should end up before the icon of the “Life-Giving Spring” and come to our senses? May our minds find clarity, and our souls find wondrous powers, and may a simple thought come to us: “I have been seeking all this in the wrong places; I have been trying to quench my thirst elsewhere.”

Natalia Bondarenko
Translation by Liubov Ambrose



Panagiotis5/12/2024 4:57 am
Thank you Orthodox Sister Natalia for this great article. You did a great job. The Panagia, The Ever Virgin Mary, The Theotokos (Mother of God), is indeed the Source of Life as She gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Living Water, and is the only source of Salvation, as Jesus Himself said "No man comes to the Father except through the Son". Our Holy Orthodox Church has been clear on this, and our Church has been clear that it is the True Church and the True Faith. The liberal clown, the one who marched with BLM and baptized children of homosexuals, apparently said that there are "many paths to the top of the mountain" or apparently something similar to this, per a video by "gentle breeze" on YouTube. What did this liberal clown mean by this alleged statement? You can watch the video on YouTube (by "gentle breeze"), about Archbishop Elpidophoros, and make your own decision about what the liberal clown meant by the alleged statement that he apparently made. The video also discusses other things about him. I urge the editors of this great website to provide the link so others can find the video, or maybe you can do a whole article on this website about the video. If not, people can do a Google search to find and watch the video themselves. All glory to God, all glory. Thoxa Si O Theos, Thoxa Si. Just my humble opinion.
Mezgebu Muluneh5/10/2024 12:32 pm
I am Ethiopian and I love orthodox church more than me , I love the mother of the God "maryam" and her son,who blesses the world by his volunteers died on the cross on golegota my God እግዚአብሔር
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