I’m not talking about beautiful sunsets, stunning wildlife, or Abe Lincoln’s likeness in a potato chip. I’m talking inexplicable, logic defying phenomena that emotionally moves you to the core. I do.
This is an icon, a picture representation of holy events or people that are significant in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. In this case, this is the Virgin Mary holding Christ as a child. There is nothing particularly special about how this icon was made. It is a paper copy of an original, hand painted icon, that has been nicely glued onto a wooden back. It is amazingly special what this icon does. It miraculously streams myrrh, a rose scented oil.
There is an entire story behind how this all began, but it is not mine to tell. You can find the retelling of the events from the person that owns the icon by clicking here. However, I can tell you about my own encounters with this miraculous icon, because I have had the good fortune on many occasions to see it with my own eyes, to smell the delicious perfume, and to be anointed with the holy oil that freely streams from it.
The icon has been “repackaged” since the time the streaming began. An ornate surface of silver, gold, pearls, and jewels (all of which were donated by various people) has been put over it, and the icon rests inside a carved, wooden shadow box. Inside that box are pictures and prayers scribbled on scraps of paper, and bundles of cotton that are there to catch the oil as it simply oozes out from the entire surface. The box is then further protected inside of an embroidered velvet cover. The glass cover of the wooden box is frequently cloudy because the oil will end up everywhere.
I have seen the icon removed from all of its glorious housing and at that moment the aroma of a million roses wafts into the air. There are no squeeze bulbs or pumps hidden inside by anyone trying to take advantage of the faith of the people there to see it. There is no explanation. The man who owns the icon frequently travels the world at his own expense, taking time from his job and his home to be able to bring the Virgin to those who can’t make it to Hawaii, where he lives. Millions of people have flocked to the places he has come to in order to venerate this icon and to be anointed with the oil that has streamed from it.
Many miracles have been attributed to this icon, especially miraculous curing of people afflicted with a multitude of ailments, including cancer. I can’t claim any experience with that, myself, but I know that I feel a deep sense of peace in the presence of the icon. The icon has been brought to my church several years in a row now, and each time we are given a small paper picture of the icon and a cotton swab that has been dipped into the myrrh to bring home. The aroma lasts and lasts and sweetly scents the room in my house where the majority of my own icons are hung.
Eventually the scent of the holy perfume on the cotton fades and changes. I tuck the paper pictures and swabs into a converted jewelry box for safe keeping near my icon wall. Though these are only pictures, they are still special and do not get put into common garbage. We have been fortunate to have the icon visit our parish each year near August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. This is the commemoration of her passage into heaven. It is a very holy day, and to have this icon here during that time makes it even more special. It is something that I have come to look forward to each year.