The Seraphim-Diveyevo “Tenderness” Icon of The Mother of God belonged to Saint Seraphim of Sarov and was his cell icon, he called it “Joy of All Joys.” The saint anointed the sick with oil from the vigil lamp burning before it, and after the anointing they received healings. The saint died during a kneeling prayer before this icon.
The name of the miraculous image of the Mother of God with her arms crossed on her chest is by no means accidental. Tenderness is a feeling of humility, attrition, emotional involvement, that is, the state that the Blessed Virgin Mary expressed in the words: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38).
Above the head of the Mother of God, the words of the ancient Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos are reproduced: “Rejoice, O Bride unwedded”, which are a poetic interpretation of the gospel greeting of the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin: Hail, thou that art highly favoured (Luke 1:28).
Priest Pavel Florensky in his The Pillar and Ground of the Truth book wrote: “Tenderness Icon is remarkable because it depicts the Mother of God without the Infant and even before His conception – at the moment of “Archangel’s delight ”, that is, as the Most Pure Vessel of the Holy Spirit. Saint Seraphim had seven lamps before it, which occupied almost all cell’s space, and this again symbolizes the Holy Spirit in His seven gifts – the seven highest spirits”.
In 1902, the holy emperor Nicholas II presented a precious gilded oklad and a decorated silver vigil lamp for the Tenderness Icon as a gift to the Diveyevo convent. In the year when Seraphim of Sarov was canonized, several exact duplications were made from the icon of the Mother of God, which were sent to various Russian monasteries.
The cell icon of Saint Seraphim did not disappear during the years of disbelief. The Diveyevo sisters who lived in Murom after the monastery’s dissolution, and later the Moscow priest Victor Shipovalnikov safeguarded the icon.
Nowadays, the icon stays at the Patriarchal Residence’s Vladimirskaya Church at Chisty Lane. Once a year, during the Great Lent, it is brought into Yelokhovo’s Epiphany Cathedral during the Patriarchal service there.
Prepared by Novice Tatiana Kladieva