Icon of the Mother of God of St. Theodore
Commemorated on March 14 (also commemorated on August 16)
The Theodore-Kostroma Icon of the Mother of God was written by the Evangelist Luke and resembles the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.
This icon received its name from Great Prince Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, the father of St. Alexander Nevsky, and who in holy Baptism was named Theodore in honor of St. Theodore Stratelates.
According to Tradition, the icon was found by his elder brother, St. George, in an old wooden chapel near the city of Gorodets. Later, the Gorodetsk Theodorov Monastery was built on this spot. Prince Yaroslav-Theodore became the Great Prince of Vladimir after his brother was killed in battle against the Mongols at the Sita River. In 1239, Prince Yaroslav-Theodore solemnly transferred the relics of his brother from Rostov to the Vladimir Dormition Cathedral. He eventually gave the icon which he inherited from his brother to his own son, St. Alexander Nevsky.
Yaroslav-Theodore is renowned in Russian history. He continued with the glorious traditions of his uncle, St. Andrew Bogoliubsky, and of his father, Vsevolod III Big-Nest, and he was connected to almost all of the significant events in the history of Rus in the first half of the thirteenth century.
Russia was burned and torn apart by the Mongols in 1237-1238. Prince Yarsolav-Theodore raised it up from the ashes, and rebuilt and embellished the cities, the holy monasteries and the churches. He also restored cities along the Volga that had been devastated by the enemy.
He founded the Church of Theodore Stratelates at Kostroma and the Theodorov Monastery near Gorodets in honor of his patron saint. For eight years, he ruled as Great Prince, but he had to guide his country through a difficult path, maintaining a military-political balance with the Golden Horde to the East, while mounting an active opposition to Catholic Europe in the West. His closest companion was his son, St. Alexander Nevsky, who also continued his policies.
The wonderworking Theodore Icon of the Mother of God was constantly with St. Alexander Nevsky, and he prayed before it. After St. Alexander Nevsky died on November 14, 1263 at the monastery founded by his father, the icon was taken by his younger brother, Basil.
Basil Yaroslavich was the youngest son of Yaroslav Vsevolodovich. In 1246, after the death of his father, Basil became prince of Kostroma, the least important of his father’s domains. In 1272, he became Great Prince of Vladimir.
His four years as Great Prince were filled with quarrels. For several years he waged war against Novgorod and his unruly nephew, Demetrius. In becoming Great Prince, however, Basil did not journey to Vladimir, but remained under the protection of the wonderworking icon at Kostroma, regarding this place as safer in case of future attacks.
He also defended Rus against external enemies. In 1272, during a Tatar invasion, the Russian army came out of Kostroma to engage them. Following the example of his grandfather, St. Andrew Bogoliubsky (who took the wonderworking Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God with him on military campaigns), Prince Basil went into battle with the wonderworking Theodore Icon. A blinding light came forth from the holy image, and the Tatars fled from Russia.
The Chronicles say that Great Prince Basil had a special love for the Church and the clergy. After the martyric death of Bishop Metrophanes during the storming of Vladimir by Tatars on February 4, 1238, the diocese remained widowed for many years. This upset Great Prince Basil but, with his help, a large cathedral was constructed in Vladimir in 1274. This was done in connection with the consecration of St. Serapion as Bishop of Vladimir, who was an abbot from the Monastery of the Caves.
Shortly thereafter, Metropolitan Cyril III presided over a council of Russian hierarchs. This was the first council in the Russian Church since the time of the Mongol invasion. Many problems and disorders had arisen in Church life, but the Russian Church was just barely beginning to recover from the troubles that had befallen it. One of its main tasks was to restore the literary tradition of the ancient Russian “princely order”
Without books, the daily life of the Church would be impossible. Books were needed for church services, and for preaching, for the monastic cell rule, and for believers to read at home. Through the efforts of Metropolitan Cyril and the Russian bishops and monastic scholars, this important task began. The council approved new editions of essential books which formed the canonical basis of Orthodox church life.
In 1276, Prince Basil completed his life’s journey. Most of the important events in his life occurred with the blessing of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God. He died at Kostroma, and he also found his final resting place there. Since that time, the holy icon has been in the Kostroma Cathedral of St. Theodore Stratelates.
Renewed interest in the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God and the spread of its veneration throughout all Russia is connected with events at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the end of the Time of Troubles. In 1613, the wonderworking Theodore Icon from the Kostroma Cathedral was used at the proclamation of Michael Romanov as the new Tsar. In memory of this historic event, March 14 was designated as the commemoration of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God.
Numerous copies were made of the Kostroma Theodore Icon, and one of the first was commissioned and brought to Moscow by Tsar Michael’s mother, the nun Martha. From the second half of the seventeenth century, various copies of the Theodore Icon were enlarged with scenes depicting events from the history of the wonderworking icon.
In 1670, Hierodeacon Longinus of the Kostroma Hypatiev Monastery wrote the “Narrative Concerning the Manifestations and Miracles of the Theodore Icon of the Mother of God in Kostroma.”
The Theodore Icon is two-sided. On the reverse side is the image of the holy Great Martyr Paraskeva, depicted in the splendid attire of a princess. It is believed that the image of Paraskeva is connected with the wife of St. Alexander Nevsky.
The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of St. Theodore is also commemorated on August 16.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)