The Mother of God Weeps Tears of Blood
By Aleksey Stroyev
The Don region which, for many years, was the boundary of the Russian Land, is memorable in our history. But it is not only by military glory that the area around the Don is marked. It also bears upon itself the imprint of God's grace. In part, the Don ikon of the Mother of God, which was brought thither by the Don Cossacks and presented to Great Prince Dimitrii Donskoi, is particularly venerated in Rus'. Populating this region, the Russian people, as they did everywhere, first of all built churches and monasteries.
Holy temples and habitations, destroyed during the evil years, are being rebuilt through the efforts of the Orthodox. Also being restored is the Sviato-Voznyesenskii [Holy Ascension] temple in the village of Anoshkino, situated upon the left, lower bank of the Don, within 60 versts [= @ 40 statute mi. or @ 64 km.] to the south of Voronezh. On the opposite shore rises the lofty chalk cliff upon which, according to the testimony of the residents of the village, the Don ikon of the Mother of God appeared in the not-too-distant past.
According to the local chronicle, this village was first settled in 1659. The name of the village is connected with the name of Onufrii (Anoshka) Golobkov, the village starosta [=elder], who had met Peter I, when the latter sailed his fleet down the Don from Voronezh to Azov in the spring of 1696. According to local tradition, the sovereign himself indicated the spot where the church was to be erected and donated the ikon of St. John the Theologian for it. At first, the church was one of wood. In 1789, a stone church was built of local brick. Later a trapeznaya [= refectory] section and a bell-tower were added thereto.
But the turmoil of the revolution came along, and the temple was vacated. In the '30s, the chekists [= members of the extra-ordinary commission (Che-Ka); the original communist secret police] shot the last _batiushka_, together with his wife and three children. In 1950, the authorities decided to set up a button factory in the temple. They brought in machine-tools and tore holes through the ceilings for ventilation. The, enterprise, however, never got off the ground. The Orthodox residents of the village connect this to the already-mentioned miracle of the appearance of the Don ikon of the Mother of God. We will relate the tale on the basis of the oral reports of the eye-witnesses of those events.
Once upon a time, in the spring of 1950, the inhabitants of the village were awakened by a rumbling peal of thunder. Fearing for their industry, they went out into the street, but, to their astonishment, saw nothing except the starry sky, and they decided that a mine had exploded in the forest. (During the war, there had been heavy fighting here, and large amounts of ammunition had been left in the forest.) In the morning the inhabitants of Anoshkino saw how the residents of the village of Storozhevoy, situated atop the chalk cliff, were running down [the cliff], toward the shore. On the shore, then, next to the cliff, stood the house of the buoy-keeper Andrey Yudin, who ferried people across the Don in a boat. He was known to the villagers for his piety. The dwellers of Anoshkino decided that the buoy-keeper had experienced a fire, and began to run to his aid. Having reached the shore, they saw that the buoy-keeper's house was standing whole and unharmed, and that on the cliff there was a huge ikon of the Don Mother of God. Those who had run down earlier said to those who had just come a-running:
"It's the Mother of God. Did you hear the thunder-clap this night?"
"We heard it."
"It's the Mother of God."
"But where is uncle Andrey?"
"They arrested him and took him away."
The authorities reacted immediately. The militia [= police] came and began to disperse the people, in order that they not gather by the cliff. At first, the "enlightened" fighters against "religious intoxication" decided that someone had hung the ikon there. They brought in a mountain-climber, lowered him down on a rope, and he began to scrape away at the cliff with a trowel. Despite the opposition of the authorities, the people nevertheless stood opposite the cliff and shouted:
"Why are you scratching away at the Mother of God? Don't scratch Her!"
And the mountain-climber responded to them with:
"There's nothing here -- just chalk. Don't you see the chalk crumbling away? There's nothing here."
Then the defenders of "free reason" were struck with the ingenious notion that someone had cast the image upon the cliffside by means of a powerful projector, and they decided to wait for nightfall, in order to discover this contrivance. They kept watch for more than one night, but this brought no results. No projector was ever found, although the face, as before, remained upon the cliff. This miracle was accompanied, in the course of the first two weeks, by yet another: every midnight one could hear angelic voices above the ikon, chanting "Let us, [who mystically represent] the Cherubim...." Later, when the indefatigable debunkers of "ancient prejudices" defiled the spot with their investigations, the singing ceased.
At first, Christians from the areas closest to the spot began to make pilgrimages thither; soon thereafter, however, they began to arrive from all over Russia. Once, an archimandrite from Moscow arrived and officiated at a Divine Service. A great number of people gathered for the service, which was during a time of drought. And the Mother of God provided yet such a sign: during the Service there was a heavy downpour; however, all those who stood beneath the cliff, on the right-hand shore, where the Service was taking place, remained dry.
Soon, the buoy-keeper Andrey was released, and he related how the Mother of God had appeared to him. At first, when he had been called, he thought that someone was preparing to cross over the Don, but as it was midnight, he did not want to sail anywhere and did not respond. Then he heard:
"Servant of God, Andrey, come out!" and he immediately came out.
When he came out, he saw the Mother of God. She did not touch the ground, and with Her were St. John the Theologian and yet another Saint, presumably John the Warrior. The buoy-keeper was frightened and fell to his knees. And She began to say:
"Tell the people not to defile the temple of the Ascension, because it is a temple of God and an holy place, and the Lord will punish [them] for it. If they do not want to pray, so be it. Let them shut it down, but defiling it is not allowed."
Andrey then asked:
"But how will I say this? Who would believe me?"
But She continued:
"I pity the little ones and the elderly. Behold, how I weep and implore the Lord to prolong life."
Andrey became even more frightened, but She again said to him:
"Look at Me."
When he looked at Her, he beheld how tears of blood began to flow down Her face. He was frightened yet more and replied to Her:
"But no one will believe me!"
To which the Mother of God said to him:
"Well, then... I will leave My likeness on the cliff. Let the people behold it, and you will tell them..."
And the entire cliff was bathed in light, a rolling peal of thunder resounded, and the powers of heaven began to sing: "Let us, [who mystically represent] the Cherubim...." Then, everything fell silent. Andrey could not walk, due to his fright, and crawled into his house. In the morning, he came out and thought: "Perhaps it was all a dream," but, when he looked at the cliff, he saw the ikon there! He did not have sufficient strength to sail across to Anoshkino and so he went to Storozhevoye. Upon arriving in Storozhevoye, he began to tell everyone:
"Did you hear the thunder-clap?"
"We heard it."
"That was the Mother of God, on behalf of the temple in Anoshkino!"
He went to the authorities and told them everything. At first, they arrested him and took him away to Voronezh; later, however, they released him. Everyone who worked at the button factory was frightened and ran away, and the temple was closed down. It stood under lock and key for two years, whereupon the machine-tools were removed.
Two years later the local communists blew up the cliff on which the ikon had been. Their leader immediately lost the use of his legs. At present, a four-armed cross can be seen in the chalk at the site.
In 1994, the grave of the last priest and his family was discovered in the temple. In 1996, atop the cupola, a cross was erected, which was blessed by the ecclesiastical superintendant of the Ostorogozhskii district, protopriest Aleksandr Dolgushev, who was infirm at the time. Realizing the importance of what was taking place, he found sufficient strength in himself to serve a _moleben_ for the blessing of the waters, with the rite for the consecration of a cross. Toward the end of the service, prot. Aleksandr began to feel a sense of ease, and at the moment of the consecration he was completely healed. He considers this event to have been a miracle. Several times during the course of the service there were instances of myrrh-streaming from the Iverskaya [= Iveron] ikon of the Mother of God. Some of the ikons in the temple, as well as fragments of the frescoes on the walls, were [miraculously] renewed.
It has been decided to erect a monastery at the spot where the Mother of God appeared. Its construction will begin at the earliest possible time.
-- Aleksey Stroyev,
Excerpted from "Pravoslavnaya Rus'" ["Orthodox Rus'"], Vol. 71, No. 13 (1634), 1/14 July 1999, pp. 14-15 (in Russian). Translated into English from the Russian by G. Spruksts. English-language translation copyright (c) 1999 by The St. Stefan Of Perm' Guild, The Russian Cultural Heritage Society, and the Translator. All Rights Reserved.
Permission is hereby granted to use the English-language version of this essay for non-commercial purposes, as long as the appropriate credits and this entire notice are included therewith.