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The Miraculous Icon of The Mother of God of Iveron (Panagia Portraitissa)i

Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God

The Tradition

The original Miraculous Icon of the Iveron Mother of God is on Mount Athos (known also as Agion Oros – Greek for the “Holy Mountain”).


The Iveron Icon, which at present is preserved in a monastery on Athos, by tradition was painted by the Apostle and Evangelist LukeMany years later this Icon appeared on the Holy Mountain (“in a pillar of fire” as Athonite tradition recounts) from the sea, close by the Iveron monastery. At that time the holy monk Gabriel was one of the brotherhood in this monastery. The Mother of God appeared to him in a vision and directed him to convey to the abbot and brothers of the monastery that She wished them to have Her Icon as their help and salvation. She told Gabriel to approach the Icon on the waters without fear and take it with his hands. Obedient to the words of the Mother of God, says Athonite tradition, Gabriel “walked upon the waters as though upon dry land,” took up the Icon and brought it back to the shore. The icon was then brought into the monastery and placed in the altar. On the next day, the Icon disappeared from the sanctuary and was found on the wall beside the monastery gate. It was returned to the altar, but the next day it was again found by the gate. This recurred several times until the Holy Virgin revealed to the monk Gabriel that it was not Her wish for the Icon to be protected by the monks, but that She wished to protect them. After this, a church was built near the monastery gate where the Icon resides to this day. In connection with the name of the monastery the Icon came to be known as the “Iveron” Mother of God, and because of its location, the “Portaitissa,” or “Gatekeeper.”In the 9th century, this Icon was in the possession of a widow who lived in Nicea. It was during the reign of the iconoclast Byzantine emperor Theophilus that soldiers came to the house of the widow; wherein a small chapel the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God occupied a place of honour. One of the soldiers struck the Icon with his sword, and immediately blood began to flow from the gashed cheek of the Virgin. Shaken by this miracle, the soldier instantly repented, renounced the iconoclast heresy, and entered a monastery. On his advice, the widow concealed the Icon in order to avert its further desecration. After praying for guidance before the Icon, the widow put the Holy Image into the sea. To her immense surprise and joy, the Icon did not sink but, remaining upright, drifted away in a westerly direction. Fleeing persecution, the widow’s son left Nicea and went to Mt. Athos where he led a saintly life as a monk to the end of his days. There he recounted the story of how his mother had set the Holy Icon upon the waves, and this story was handed down from one generation of monks to another.


The Contemporary Miracle

Myrrh Streaming Iveron Icon from MontrealA version of the famous Portaitissa was the Myrrh-streaming icon from Montreal in Canada. For fifteen years, between 1982 and 1997, myrrh continually flowed from this Icon. Brother José Muñoz-Cortes devoted himself to the care and protection of this icon and accompanied it on numerous trips to parishes all over the United States and Canada, South America, Australia, and Europe.


The flow of myrrh used to cease during Holy Week. It ceased on Holy Monday. After the liturgy on the morning of Great Saturday, a light dew of myrrh used to form on the Icon, its case and protecting glass. During Matins (the midnight service at which the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord is proclaimed), when the procession of clergy and faithful, holding icons and banners, leaved the church, the Icon began to exude myrrh in such quantities, that it covered the hands of the person who was carrying it.The Icon was kept in a frame about two inches deep and measures about 12×18 inches. At first, the myrrh flowed only from the hands of the Mother of God, from the star on Her left shoulder and, occasionally, from the hands of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet in March 1985, during a Lenten service, even the frame and glass of the Icon began to exude myrrh in such quantities that the cloth of the analogion[1] on which it lay was totally saturated. There was always a layer of cotton wool at the base of the Icon to absorb the myrrh: pieces of this cotton were distributed to the faithful.


What is the meaning of this extraordinary manifestation of God’s grace in our time? It has been observed that in the history of the Church such miracles have occurred in times of great tribulation; we saw this in the Apostolic times, and, more recently, in Russia, where the Church has suffered cruel persecution for 70 years. The miracles strengthen the faithful and prepare them to endure trials. The appearance of the myrrh-streaming Icon in our time may well signify a period of further great trials for the Russian Orthodox Church and, at the same time, offer consolation that the Mother of God will be a Protectress of the faithful: Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.


[1] lectern on which icons are kept in Orthodox churches