Using their lunch hour for prayer this past Tuesday (December 21), about 150 people welcomed the 700-year-old Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God to St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in South Nicholasville. A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, led by the icon’s guardian, Archpriest Serge Lukianov , visited St. Athanasius for three hours of prayer and fellowship. The gathering included Orthodox believers from all over Kentucky, and even some from as far away as Tennessee, representing a wide array of nationalities–Greeks, Christian Arabs, Russians, Ukrainians, and native born Americans.
The Kurst-Root Icon, discovered 715 years ago by a hunter during one of Russia’s many “times of trouble,” is one of the great sacred treasures of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the past 90 years, since the Russian Revolution, the icon has been a special “consolation” and vital spiritual reference point for many displaced and persecuted Russian Christians. And in recent years here in America, the icon has become a symbol of the increasingly deep ties among Orthodox Christian believers of all ethnic backgrounds in this country–a reminder of Orthodoxy’s rich historical roots as well as Orthodoxy’s vocation to speak to the spiritual needs of the people of North America.
At the end of the one-hour prayer service (Moleben with Akathist), Father Lukianov greeted the congregation, along with the rector Father Justin Patterson, Father George Wilson (rector of Panagia Greek Church in neighboring Lexington), and Father Alexander Frizzell, a monk of the Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia. Father Lukianov presented Fr. Patterson with a copy of the Kursk Icon with a commemorative plaque on behalf of Metropolitan Hilarion, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, in memory of the icon’s visit to Nicholasville. Following a time of prayer and reflection before the icon, Father Lukianov gave a video presentation about the historic visit of the Kursk-Root Icon to Kursk, Russia in 2009–the first time the icon had been back to Russia since the Russian Revolution in 1917. As many as 400,000 people greeted the icon as it was carried in triumph through the streets of Kursk.
For more information on the visit of the icon to St. Athanasius, as well as more video and photo materials, please visit the website of the Russian Church Abroad’s Diocese of Eastern America at http://www.eadiocese.org/News/2010/12/21/nchlsvll.en.htm