|The Return of Our Lady of Kazan to Russia|
A long-venerated image of the Russian Orthodox Church - known among Orthodox as the Kazan Mother of God icon, among Russians as the Kazanskaya, and among Western Catholics as our Lady of Kazan - returned to Russia in August, 2004.
In 1579, after a terrible fire which destroyed the city of Kazan (now the capital of Tatarstan), a young girl, following the instructions given her by the Virgin Mary, found the wooden icon in the ruble of a Russian soldier's burnt home. The icon was installed in the local church, and miracles the restoration of sight to two blind persons - were attributed to the image. Painted on cyprus board, it is a half-length image of the Mother of God with the infant Jesus, appearing aged, extending his hand in blessing.
The Kazanskaya became part of Russian history. it played a role in the 1612 struggle to free Russia from the Poles, and it was placed in the Kazan Cathedralin St. Petersburg. It was also associated with the Russian routing of Napoleon's forces in 1812. Battle trophies of the defeat were displayed in the Kazan Cathedral, and the general who won the most important campaign of 1812, Mikhail Kutuzor, was buried there.
Virtually every Russian cathedral had an image of Our Lady of Kazan, and both St. Petersburg and Moscow had cathedrals named Kazan. After the Russian Revolution, many of the cathedrals were converted into musems or storehouses, and their contents sacked or sold on the market. The Kazan icon from the St. Petersburg Cathedral found its way to the West, sojourned in the United States, and, in 1993, was given to Pope John Paul II; it remained in his private apartment. In 2004, after many interventions and negotiations, the pope announced that the icon would be returned to Russia. What follows is a description of the ceremonies in Rome and Moscow, an account of the image's sojourn in the West and a record of individuals who made this homecoming possible.
The Ceremony of Return--Rome and Moscow
At the "farewell ceremony" in Rome, August 25, 2004, frequent reference was made to Marian devotion as a common bond uniting Catholics and Orthodox. The Pontifical Russian College of Rome - the Russicum - sang in Russian a prayer composed by the pope himself.
Blessed and honored are you, O Mother, in your icon of Kazan where, for centuries, you have been surrounded by the veneration and love of the Orthodox faithful, having become protector and witness of the special works of God in the history of the Russian people, who are very dear to us.
Mother of the Orthodox people, the presence in Rome of your holy image of Kazan, speaks to us of the profound unity between East and West, which endures in time despite the historical divisions and human errors. We now raise to you with special intensity our prayers, 0 Virgin, as we say goodbye to this impressive image of yours.
In his message, the Holy Father mentioned that the icon had passed through various countries, finally reaching the papal residence ten years before. He noted the icon's significance for Russia: "the history of that great people developed around that image. Russia is a nation which has been Christian for many centuries; it is Holy Rus. Even when hostile forces furiously attacked the Church ... the people remained profoundly Christian, witnessing in many cases with blood to their fidelity to the Gospel and the values it inspires.
In his homily in St. Peter's Basilica, Cardinal Kaspar recalled that Our Lady of Kazan is "a symbol and reference point of the Russian people and of the Russian Orthodox Church comparable, for example, to Our Lady of Czestochowa for Poland and to Our Lady of Guadalupe for Mexico." Through her "complex odyssey" during the eighty-year journey in the West, Our Lady of Kazan has become the symbol of the shared faith and devotion of Eastern and Western Christianity. The image is also a symbol of the new Europe and of the process of unifying the continent of which Russia is part. After the upheavals of the totalitarian and atheistic dictatorships of the twentieth century, Cardinal Kaspar said, "Europe needs a deep renewal in the faith....Our Lady represents all the values that such a renewal presupposes: the dignity of the human person, holiness of life, the protection of marriage and the family, the values of law and justice as the pillars of society."
The delegation traveled to Moscow to present--in a three-hour ceremony--the icon to Alexi II, Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, in the Cathedral of the Dormition. In accepting the image, the patriarch said that part of the current renewal of Russian Orthodoxy is the restoration of cathedrals and shrines and the return of images which were in the West for various reasons. As he accepted the Kazankaya, the patriarch said that Russia welcomes back "one of its most venerable images." Originally from the sixteenth century, copies of the Kazankaya can be seen in practically all the Orthodox churches in Russia. He continued, "The veneration of the Mother of God is an inalienable part of the spiritual life in the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches. This mutual veneration of the Mother of God which is traced back to the origin of Christianity reminds of the times of the ancient universal church." The return of the icon, the patriarch noted, points to the sincere desire to overcome the difficulties existing in relations between our two churches. The prayer sung at the reception (Akathistos to the Kazan Mother of God Icon) referred to the Kazankaya as "zealous intercessor for the human race" and "a swift and selfless healer of infirmities and divisions."
The "Complex Odyssey" in the West
At Mitchell's death, the icon was inherited by his daughter, Anna Mitchell-Hedges, The Russian Orthodox Bishop of San Francisco, John Shakovsky, persuaded her to allow the icon to be exhibited at the pavilion of the Russian Orthodox Church at the World's Fair in 1964. Bishop Shakovsky also tried, unsuccessfully, to raise the $500,000 necessary to purchase the icon.
In 1970, the icon was acquired by Msgr. Harold Colgan, the founder of Blue Army. In a confidential report, Msgr. Colgan spoke of acquiring the icon for $15,380, with a promise of $25,000 annually for the next five years. On July 21, 1970, the Blue Army sent the icon to the shrine of Fatima in Portugal where it was received at the Byzantine Chapel of Domus Pacis. According to Msgr. Colgan's wishes, the image was "to be venerated and guarded until the people of Russia may pray before it once again in full liberty in the sanctuary of Moscow. Then, it will be returned in fraternal love to the Russian Church" (Soul, November-December, 1970).
Another participant in the return was Peter Anderson, a Catholic layman from Seattle, Washington, active in a Leningrad-Seattle ecumenical program, who remembered reading about the icon in the Blue Army's publications and learned from a Russian deacon of the importance of the icon for the Russian people. When Metropolitan Alexy of Leningrad (the future patriarch of Moscow) visited Seattle in 1989, he had dinner with Anderson and Fr. Frederick Miller, then-executive director of the Blue Army (now spiritual director at the North American College in Rome). Miller remembers that the dinner at Seattle's Space Needle "was strange." The metropolitan and two priests arrived at the popular restaurant and "sang grace at the top of their lungs. It was quite impressive. Everyone in the restaurant was silent, forks dropped." At that dinner, Alexis expressed of his interest in the icon of Kazan.
Anderson notified Archbishop Edward Cassidy, at the time president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Although religious freedom was growing in the Soviet Union in 1989, the Cathedral of the Mother of God of Kazan in Leningrad was still a government-run "museum of atheism." Anderson said the Leningrad-Seattle ecumenical program hoped that presenting the icon to Metropolitan Alexy would pressure the government to restore the cathedral to its original use as a place of Orthodox worship.
The next player in the program was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick (at the time, Archbishop of Newark), who, during an apostolic visitation of the Blue Army in 1993, asked Fr. Miller to present the image to the Holy Father. Miller later said, "I felt the most important thing I did in my five years as director was to get the icon to the Holy See."
Questions also arose about to whom the icon should be returned and whether the pope should return it as part of an official visit. In October, 2000, Pope John Paul met with the mayor of Kazan, Kamil Ishkakov, who expressed his interest in the return of the icon. In November, 2003, the pope met with Vladimir Putin--a meeting at which the icon was displayed and venerated. Although Putin could not extend an invitation to the pope to visit Russia without the approval of the Russian Orthodox Church, Putin told the Italian press, "My personal position is that it's important to make every effort in favor of unity among the various Christian confessions.... I consider it my objective not so much making it possible for the pope to come to Russia, as much as favoring Christian unity with every opportune step."
With the return of the image to Russia, the wish and prayer of many has been fulfilled. The Blue Army acquired the image so that one day it could be returned to Russia. In the words of Fr. Miller, the icon's trip home to Russia "says something very positive about the Blue Army, despite some of its shortcomings. The organization promoted prayers for Russia and an awareness of the need for full Christian unity for most of the twentieth century." Both Cardinal McCarrick and Peter Anderson expressed their satisfaction at the image's return to Russia. That the Pope John Paul was not making the trip, the cardinal said, "is a sadness for me because I know he wanted to do this himself for no other reason than to honor the Church and people of Russia and their faith and trust in the Mother of God." Although "circumstance will not make that possible," the cardinal said, "the pope felt that it was time that it be returned to Russia." Anderson too was disappointed that the pope was not carrying the icon to Russia, "I think the important thing is that it is happening, and I pray that it is a time of grace. . . . What has happened . . . can touch a lot of Russian hearts."
The return of the Kazan Mother of God was one of several events in which Pope John Paul participated to mark the 150th anniversary of the definition of the Immaculate Conception. Others were his visits to Lourdes and to the Holy House of Loreto. Upon his arrival in Lourdes, August 14, 2004, he stated, "I am here to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception." (Lourdes has been closely associated with the Immaculate Conception since Mary's words to Bernadette, March 25, 1858.) On August 15, he said, "I have greatly wished to make this pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to celebrate an event which continues to give glory to the Triune God. Mary's Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gracious love of the Father, the perfect expression of the redemption accomplished by the Son, and the beginning of a life completely open to the working of the Spirit .... Be men and women of freedom. But human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin... It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator ... Defend that freedom! We know we can count on Mary, who, since she never yielded to sin, is the only creature who is perfectly free .... Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfillment of your humanity!"
As a sign of his special regard for Lourdes, he presented a golden rose, a custom which popes have followed for centuries as a mark of special respect. Noteworthy is the prayer--Mother of the Living--which the pope composed for the end of the rosary at the grotto of Massabielle.
Mother of the Living
At the Marian Library
Another event sponsored by the Marian Library for the 150th anniversary celebration was an exhibit of emblems depicting the Immaculate Conception. Books with emblem art flourished in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Emblems consist of a picture (frequently from a classical source), an inscription or title (frequently from a biblical source) followed by an explanation--pictura, inscriptio, subscriptio. The emblems from this exhibit have been described in a commemorative booklet, Symbols of Grace (available from the Marian Library - $5.00).
The International Association for Patristic Studies has launched the International project, a long-term endeavor, with international scholars, to produce "via an interdisciplinary, dispassionate and scientific study of early Mariology," a chronological inventory of all Greek, Latin, and Syriac texts containing references to, and images of, Mary and of all images of Mary and relevant archaeological evidence up to the Council of Ephesus; an alphabetical list of all Marian epithets; an encyclopedia, drawing out in articles and surveys the implications of the data collected. Many of the participants are from the Centre for early Christian Studies at the Australian Catholic University.
New items on The Mary Page (www.udayton.edu/mary) include "Mary in Doctrine" with a lengthy history of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception; another on Marian Spirituality, with an article by Sr. Marie Azzarello on the Visitation-Pentecost Spirituality in the Congregation of Notre Dame. Also, there are images and identification of Marian postage stamps--from several countries.
The media takes note of rising Protestant interest in the Virgin Mary. Religion and Ethics, a program on PBS, hosted by Bob Abernathy, had a report, "Protestant Mary," on December 17, 2004, featuring Beverly Roberts Gaventa and two faculty memebers from the evangelic Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. The Christian Century, December 14, 2004, had a cover story, "St. Mary for Protestants." The summer, 2004, issue of Christian History was entitled "Mary in the Imagination of the Church." The March 21, 2005 issue of Time had a picture of Mary on the cover with "Hail, Mary: Catholics have long revered her, but now Protestants are finding their own reasons to celebrate the mother of Jesus." A statement of 1989 German Protestant Catechism for Adults is verified: "Mary is not only Catholic; she is also Protestant" (Maria ist nicht nur katholisch: sie ist auch evangelisch).
The Mariological Society of America's fifty-seventh Annual Meeting will take place May 16-19, 2006, at the Weber conference and Retreat Center, Adrian, Michigan.
Recently featured exhibits in the Marian Library Gallery were Sacred Dolls: Re-Imaging Our Lady, a display by Dianna Marlene Hargitai, and Blessed Art Thou: Mother, Lady, Mystic, Queen by Bro. Michael O'Neill Mc Grath, O.S.F.S.
A major exhibit was Polish Madonnas in Art and Poetry: Paintings by Wislawa Kwiakowska, a collection of fifty paintings from the Diocesan Museum of Plock, Poland. The paintings were inspired by a fifteenth-century Polish poem to the Bogarodzica (Mother of God) and by verses from modern Polish poetry. The poetry and the paintings tell of the presence and the influence of the Blessed Mother in daily life - especially in familiar scenes - gardens, forests, flowers. In the worlds of the artist, the paintings are an invitation to enter into the world permeated with the love of God and Mary. (A commercial booklet--Polish Madonnas in Art and Poetry--is available from the Marian Library.)
Therese--a film presenting the story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus--is the first film by Leonardo Defilippis, long involved in creating Catholic stage plays and video productions in Beaverton, Oregon. His newly-founded company, Luke films, is financed entirely through private donations. The film has been shown in commercial theaters in the United States and Canada. The soundtrack was composed by Sr. Claire Sokol, O.C.D., a member of the Carmel of Reno, Nevada, based on the composition entitled "Canticle of Love" written in 1996 for the centenary of Therese's death. Defilippis considers the film a resource for evangelizing: Therese, he says, is, "the most popular saint and woman of the modern times." For more information about the film, visit http://www.theresemovie.com (Photo courtesy of Luke Films, Inc. 2004 All rights reserved.)
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