On Monday, March 19, the myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God, “Softener of Evil Hearts”, arrived at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross. The icon has been touring in the United States, coming most recently from the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, DC. The brotherhood gathered Monday evening to welcome the icon with bells, flowers, and a procession into the monastery church, followed by a short Moleben. The following day the icon was taken to the local parish of Christ the Saviour in Wayne to be present at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, and returned again to the monastery for a well-attended service that evening in which the monks and pilgrims sang a Moleben with the Akathist Hymn to the Mother of God. Local clergy concelebrated, including clergy from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Antiochian Archdiocese, and all present received anointing with holy myrrh from the icon. At the end of the service, one of the candidates at Holy Cross, Andrew Smith, was clothed as a novice before the icon, receiving a cassock, belt, skufia, and prayer rope, and a special blessing from the Mother of God on the beginning of his monastic journey.
The “Softener of Evil Hearts” Icon has become well-known in recent decades, travelling abroad by invitation and working many miracles of healing. It is a lithographic print made by the Sofrino church-goods factory in Russia; the original icon appeared at an unknown time. This ordinary print began to stream myrrh around 1999 in connection with the glorification of St. Matrona “the Blind” of Moscow, on whose relics it had been placed. An edifying article on the icon was published by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood in their periodical, “The Orthodox Word”, No. 273, 2010.
On Wednesday morning, Fr. Daniel Marshall, rector of St. George Orthodox Church in Cincinnati, OH, drove down to escort to his parish the icon and its caretaker, Mr. Sergei Fomin. The monastic brotherhood gathered to ring bells and bid farewell to the All-Holy Virgin, as she prepared for her next visit of the Orthodox faithful. Archimandrite Seraphim and the brothers express their heartfelt thanks to our Lady for her great blessing, as well as to Mr. Fomin and all others who made it possible for this wonderful icon to visit them. It was a tremendous consolation for monastics and faithful alike to venerate and sing before before the icon, and to receive such great encouragement for the continued efforts of the Lenten season. May the help and prayers of our gracious Lady be with all of us!
View the video of the Akathist service: