25 February 2009

'Rejoice, Opener of the Doors of Paradise!'—The Iveron Icon of the Mother of God

Another item on the calendar today is the commemoration of the ‘Iveron’ icon of the Mother of God, also known as the ‘Portaitissa’ or ‘Gate-keeper’. There are, of course, so many famous and wonderworking icons of the Mother of God that it is quite easy to get confused, and it is tempting to ignore them when they show up on the calendar. But when the Church in her wisdom has seen fit to celebrate these things, it behooves us to take heed. I won’t recount the history of this icon here, but I encourage everyone to take a look at some of the sites to which I’ve linked below.

The Portaitissa is a particularly famous icon in Greece, where copies of it can be seen hanging not only in churches and monasteries, but even in shops. I recently saw it in a Greek restaurant in Lawton, OK! Thanks to God, I also had the opportunity to venerate the original at Iveron one memorable afternoon (as well as to get the blessing of the monastery’s abbot, the theologian, Archimandrite Vasileios), where it is kept in a beautiful shrine made by the English iconographer and ecclesiastical artisan, Aidan Hart. Hart also carved this beautiful copy of the icon.

Admittedly, under the name of ‘the Iveron’, or ‘Iverskaia icon’, this icon in particular has had a long and rather confusing history, from its arrival at the Iveron Monastery on the Holy Mountain (this original can be seen in a modern procession here), to the painting of the also wonderworking Moscow copy, placed at the gate to Red Square, to the discovery by Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes of what became known as the wonderworking ‘Montreal Iveron Icon’, and finally the discovery of the myrrh-streaming Hawaii-Iveron icon, not to mention the celebration of the Iveron icon at Mozdok in North Osseta-Alania and the celebrated arrival of a copy of the original in Georgia in 1989. But all of this is worth acquainting oneself with in reverence and piety.

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