The Icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin is returning to the Monastery of the Assumption of Our Lady in Tikhvin, 200 km east of St Petersburg, on Thursday.
The miracle-working icon will be sent to Tikhvin by train from Petersburg's Ladozhsky railway terminal on Thursday. Metropolitan Vladimir of St Petersburg and Tikhvin and other St Petersburg diocese officials are expected to accompany the precious image to Tikhvin.
From the railway station in Tikhvin the icon will be carried in a solemn procession to the monastery. The procession will make a stop on Ploshchad Svobody (square) to praise the Garklavs family that preserved the icon.
Once the icon has returned to the monastery, the small vespers with acathistus hymn singing will be held.
Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all Russia is expected to arrive at the monastery in the evening to hold an all-night vigil.
The act of the transfer of the icon to the Tikhvin Monastery for good will be signed on July 9.
A tent camp to accommodate about 1,500 pilgrims who will come to worship the icon will be available in the town for a few days.
The Icon of Our Lady of Tikhvin is one of the most revered shrines in Eastern Christendom. The holy image belongs to the iconographic type of Hodegetria, or Lodestar. It came from the brush of St Luke the Apostle and Evangelist in the 1st century. Transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the 5th century, it vanished in 1383.
As chronicles have it, the icon miraculously appeared the same year above Lake Ladoga (northwestern Russia). Gliding in the air above the waters, it stopped close to Tikhvin. The townspeople built a log church and consecrated it to the Assumption of Our Lady. Hence the name by which the image earned renown in Russia.
Basil III the Grand Duke of Muscovy made a pilgrimage to Tikhvin in 1526 to start national warship of the miracle-working icon. A stone monastery was built on the spot of its appearance during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, Basil's son.
During World War II the icon was rescued from the invaders and placed in Pskov. The Orthodox Christian community of Riga overtook the treasure in 1944. Archbishop John of Riga (Janis Garklavs in the world) fled to the United States in 1949 with the icon. The precious icon found its new abode in the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago.
After Archbishop John's demise, the icon came into the custody of his adopted son, Archbishop Sergius Garklavs, whom it was bequeathed under a proviso - he was to return the image to the Tikhvin Monastery in case it revived.
In January 2004, Patriarch Alexis II met delegates of the Orthodox Church in America at the negotiation table to reach a final accord for Russia to regain the icon. It left Chicago, June 20, to be brought to Riga and further on to Moscow. The icon reached Petersburg on June 28, while today it will return to the Tikhvin monastery.