The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Tuesday, December 10 as a holiday of an Icon of the Holy Virgin that is known as "The Sign." The icon shows the Holy Virgin sitting with Her hands lifted up in prayer. The Holy Child, Emmanuel the Savior, is depicted on Her bosom, against the background of a round shield or sphere.
This particular way of depicting the Holy Virgin is known as one of Her earliest images. In the burial-vault of St. Agnes of Rome, there is an image of the Holy Virgin with Her hands outstretched in prayer, with the Holy Child sitting on Her knees. This image dates back to the 4th century.
In Rus, such images of the Holy Virgin first appeared in the 11th century. They were called "The Sign" after the miraculous Sign from the Novgorod Icon, which happened in 1170.
That was the year when joint forces of Russian appanage princes besieged the northwestern city of Veliky Novgorod. The inhabitants had no hope, and they spent night and day praying for the rescue of their home city. On the third night, Archbishop of Novgorod Elijah heard a voice from heaven commanding him to fetch an icon of the Holy Virgin from the Church of the Transfiguration of the Savior in Ilyina Street and put it on the city wall. While the icon was being moved, the besiegers sent a thousand arrows into the religious procession, and one of them pierced the painted face of the Holy Virgin. Tears came pouring out of Her eyes, and She turned Her face to the city.
Immediately after this miraculous sign, the enemy's troops were suddenly struck with such fear that they began shooting arrows into each other, while the residents of Novgorod rushed to attack and won.
To honor the miraculous intercession of the Holy Virgin, Archbishop Elijah declared a holiday of the icon, which has been celebrated by the Russian Church ever since.
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