Her face radiates peace, calm, and confidence. She presents her infant son surrounded by a mandala of glory that shows he is the Christ Child. He holds a scroll, representing that he is the “Word Made Flesh,” one of the titles of this image, also known as the icon “Mary, Helper of Mothers.” It is also called “The Albazinskaya Mother of God,” after the border town of Albazino where the image is well-known and connected with the protection of the Christians during invasions from China and persecutions by the Russian Soviet government.
Catholic and Orthodox Christians share a belief that God can act through material things, allowing the places and images and substances we use in worship to be a conduit of grace that helps us to understand the gift that God wishes to share with us. Icons, images of holy persons and events, are considered windows into heaven or avenues that direct our attention to the holy presence. In light of the importance of icons, local Byzantine Catholic parishes have been hosting a traveling icon connected with miraculous assistance for mothers in conception, pregnancy, and birth.
Our regional Byzantine Catholic Bishop, Kurt Burnette of Passaic, New Jersey, purchased a copy of this icon in part due to such miraculous assistance this image has provided expectant mothers. A copy of this same image at our sister parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been a conduit for divine assistance during medical problems in conceiving a child or during difficult pregnancy. A parishioner there had been told that her child had died in the womb, and she placed the icon on her belly, saying “I am not leaving this church until I feel this baby kick me six times.” Since the baby had not moved in two days, she thought maybe six times would be enough that she would know the child would be healthy. Within half an hour, the baby kicked six times, and he is now a healthy young man. Other cures and assistance gave this icon its reputation as “Helper of Mothers.”
Our copy of the icon will be at St John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Hazleton for the month of December. At the beginning of January, it will continue its pilgrimage to Holy Dormition Friary in Sybertsville. The icon has already visited St Mary’s Byzantine Church in Kingston and St Mary’s Byzantine Church in Scranton and will be traveling to many of the Byzantine parishes in the Eparchy of Passaic, which encompasses the East Coast of our country.
The icon can be viewed before the Divine Liturgy at St John’s parish: Saturday 3-5pm, Sunday 8-9 a.m., or by appointment. For more information or to visit the icon outside of these times, please call the parish office: 570-454-1142.