Why did she cry? The story of the Weeping Madonna
by Fr. George Papadeas. South Daytona, Florida: PATMOS PRESS, 2000.
This book touches on a deeply felt question that many faithful will ask themselves when they hear about miraculous occurrences that include weeping or bleeding icons or apparitions of the Virgin. “Why did she cry?” What is the reason that the mother of Our Lord is crying and weeping tears, spilling myron (sweet smelling oil) on her face, and crying blood?
This book is an account that is ecumenical in its nature. It is written about three icons, declared to be “Divine Signs” by the Ecumenical Patriarch (head of the Eastern Orthodox churches.) On March 16, 1960, a young married woman on Long Island – also associated with the Roman Catholic shrine of St. Anthony in nearby Oceanside - was praying in front of her icon in a small home prayer corner. She was startled when she noticed a tear in the eye of the Virgin Mary which appeared to her to be sparkling like a diamond. This icon was witnessed for only three days but viewed by thousands as it teared. About one month later, another icon in the home of parishioners Peter and Antonia Koulis began to shed tears, continuing for six weeks. Both these icons were brought to St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Hempstead, Long Island in New York. For three months, they were seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Because the icon was donated to the cathedral, Fr. Papadeas presented yet a third icon to the family, which depicted the Hodegetria (Virgin Mary showing the way to her Son) which is recognized in the Catholic Church as the Mother of Perpetual Help. This icon began to tear profusely on April 12, 1960. This icon, too, was then taken to the cathedral.
Fr. Papadeas relates aspects of this period of time and explores the reason for the miraculous occurrences. It is interesting that there was correspondence between the Roman Catholic love of the Mother of Perpetual Help and the icons with the tears. As the crowds assembled, both at the homes of the icons and then at the cathedral, there was an outpouring of prayer and a drawing together of people of many faiths. People of all faiths read the numerous newspaper accounts and recognition came from all parts of the world. For example, Fr. Papadeas wrote: “Imagine my surprise one day, when I received a ceramic dinner plate from Tokyo, Japan, with the icon of the Madonna etched in the center. This proved one thing – that the hearts of people, regardless of race, color, or creed have a thirst, and are receptive to spiritual expressions and manifestations.”
Translating the ancient Greek liturgical texts and prayer services from Greek to English has been a hallmark of life for Fr. Papadeas. His work has been extensive. [See patmospress.com/cry.html] Born in 1918, he has produced English texts of the prayers for Great Holy Week in the Orthodox Church, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and the beautiful long Akathist prayer to the Virgin. As pastor and first-hand witness to these three weeping icons, he has gathered together his notes over the many intervening years and offers now his thoughts on the meaning.
This book reads more like a journal, and one can hardly wait until the end to see what conclusion might be reached. Along the way, the author helps the reader understand Orthodox tradition and much of the background about icons. Without giving away the ending, Fr. Papadeas reaches conclusions that perhaps we all already know. There are great divisions among Christians, and feelings of separation from people of other religions. The society has fallen into moral laxity. “These signs,” he wrote, “are nothing short of ‘wake-up calls', for the many who are straddling the moral fence to their detriment.” He believes the “revered Mother” really “wept openly – to touch our hearts.”
It has been nearly fifty years since these weeping Madonnas appeared on Long Island. Why were there three? Why then? How fortunate it is that Fr. Papadeas wrote down his reflections a few years ago. Perhaps, it is a strong ecumenical statement and a mother’s plea for repentance in this corrupt society that is weak and failing, and becoming more so every day.
--Virginia M. Kimball.
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