Since it’s been some time that I have focused on a specific title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I thought for today’s “Mondays with Mary” I would turn our attention to one of today’s feasts for Our Lady – the Theotokos of Vladimir, which is celebrated intently in Russia. It’s also a perfect day to discuss this image as we have just celebrated the inaugural memorial – Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. In this image, we see Christ with his Mother.
This specific image of Mary holds a special place in my heart since I received a depiction of this image 10 years ago from a good friend whose marriage I was in as a groomsman. Still a good friend today, he will be my best man when I get married this September. The image he gave to me of Our Lady hangs today in my office/library at home.
Our Lady of Vladimir in Greek (Eleousa) means Mother of Tenderness. We see Christ, as a child, closely nestled to his mother as he gazes into her eyes while his left arm embraces her and his right hand is gently touching her left cheek. The original image is a large icon believed to be one of the images that Saint Luke drew of Mary. Although Mary in the image looks towards us, there is no doubting that she is tightly connected and union with Christ. She is gentle and tender not only with Christ but all of those who love him and seek to know him more. She is the gentle mother leading all believers closer to Christ.
In the year 450, it is believed that image left Jerusalem and was moved to Constantinople. Around the year 1131, the icon left Constantinople and was moved to Vishgorod, near Kiev. In 1155, Prince Andrei Bogolubsky moved it to Vladimir. Eventually the image was transferred to Moscow in 1395, which became the religious capital for the country. Our Lady of Vladimir is the most venerated icon in all of Russia. It has escaped numerous tragedies, which include fires and the plundering of churches. The Theotokos of Vladimir is tied intensely to the life and history of Russia. Many miraculous interventions have been ascribed to it.
The most notable miracle occurred in 1395 when Moscow was facing invasions by the Mongol Empire. After prayers were said before the image and she was asked to intercede for the battle, she became a shield of protection for the Russian people and they held back the Mongol invasion. From that time one, Our Lady of Vladimir became the national sign of the Russian Orthodox Church.
It hung in the Church of the Annunciation in Moscow until 1918. It is now located in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
Our Lady of Vladimir…Pray for Us
I personally believe that Our Lady is the bridge by which the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches will reunite.