May 15th: Theotokos of Vladimir (5)

Fast forward to the 19th century: on September 2, 1812, on the eve of the occupation of Moscow by Napoleon's troops, the icon was temporarily carried back to Vladimir but was returned a month and a half later, to its place on the left side of the iconostasis in the Cathedral of the Dormition in the Kremlin.

Then came the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Communists, in control of the government, stole the precious gold covering, took the Icon from the Cathedral of the Assumption and hung it in the Tretiakov Gallery. Shortly after, the Cathedral itself was closed and later turned into a museum. This removal of the venerated icon announced the religious persecution which was to follow: profanation of churches; violence against the clergy; prohibition of any public expression of faith or manifestation of piety, especially teaching of religion to anyone under 18 years of age. This transfer of Russia's most beloved icon from a Church to a museum symbolizes the total secularization of public life and the atheistic propaganda, which plagued Russia for more than 70 years.

However, Our Lady of Tender Mercy has always looked down with tenderness and love on her people. She has answered the prayers of all who pleaded her intercession, and now, even after 70 years of repression and persecution, the Christian faith is blooming in Russia like never before. The Vladimir Icon is also considered a powerful symbol of unity between the Christian churches and many popes have said that it is through her intercession that we will achieve true unity in Christ.

Rejoice, Uplifting of men.
Rejoice, Downfall of demons.
Rejoice, you who trampled upon the delusion of error.
Rejoice, you who censured the deceit of the idols.
Rejoice, Sea which drowned the symbolic Pharaoh.
Rejoice, Rock which refreshed those thirsting for life.

Dominique Leboeuf