What a time we had last night in our little Orthodox mission church. The Kursk Root Icon visited us for the evening. We must have had over 100 pilgrims in our church, Orthodox folks from all over this area, and a few non-Orthodox who nevertheless wanted to come venerate this ancient image of the Mother of God and her Son. Father Joseph, the priest who is the icon’s caretaker, stood at the end of the service and told us all the history of the icon, which is even stranger than I had read, and made me feel all the more blessed that such an object stopped among us here in rural south Louisiana. Someone — either our priest, Father Matthew (above), or Father Joseph — observed that the hunter who discovered the icon in the 13th century, lying next to the root of a tree after the Tatars sacked the city of Kursk, built a small chapel in the woods to house it. She — the Theotokos of the icon — likes chapels in the woods, apparently, so she must have been happy to be among us.
I was able to spend a few minutes virtually alone (Father Matthew was behind the iconostasis) with the icon in the darkened church after all the pilgrims had gone. I prayed for my friends, I prayed for peace between Russia and Ukraine, then laid my particular sorrows at the feet of the Mother of God, and asked her for help and healing, through the power of her Son. To stand in the dark in front of this holy image, thinking of all the Russians, from humble peasants to tsars to saints (e.g., Seraphim of Sarov, John Maximomitch), who have venerated this image and brought to it all their tears, their fears, their hopes, and their love over the centuries — well, it was nearly overwhelming. Who are we that God would send such an image to us in our chapel in the woods? I became aware of what a miracle it is that an Orthodox chapel can exist at all here, and intensely grateful for the healing and conversion that has come into my life through our church community.
“Come back,” I told her, then crossed myself, and back into the kitchen, where folks were eating boiled crawfish and talking about miracles.
Oh, and at one point during the long akathist hymn, I looked out one of the church’s windows and saw goats and chickens grazing. Orthodixie indeed.