The Rzhevsk (or Okovetsk) Icon of the Mother of God is from the Rzhevets Monastery in Poltava. On May 26, 1539, on the Feast of Pentecost, in the Tver diocese, in the town of Vyryshensk located in a virgin forest on the bank of the Vyryshna River, not far from the city of Rzhev, at a crossroads for people from four surrounding villages, the monk Stephen made a discovery – fastened to a pine tree was a large iron cross and on another tree an old painted icon depicting the Mother of God with Child, and also St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra. With the discovery of the holy cross and the icon there shone an extraordinary light and healings occurred. From Pentecost to the start of the Apostles’ Fast, twenty-seven healings occurred.
The monk Stephen, and immediately after him, Father Gregory Onisiphorov, journeyed to Moscow with reports of the appearance of the holy icon and cross and the healings that had occurred. Metropolitan Joseph of Moscow gave thanks to the Lord, and after verifying the miracles, gave his blessing to erect two churches – one dedicated to the Procession of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord, and the other in honor of the Hodigitria Mother of God, which contained a chapel named for St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. At the consecration of the churches, a priest and deacon were sent from Moscow, together with church utensils, icons, vestments, books and bells.
In January 1541 the Rzhevsk icon was solemnly transferred to Moscow for the consecration of a church in honor of the Rzhevsk Icon of the Mother of God. After the consecration of the temple, the icon and cross were transferred to the Dormition Cathedral, where they remained until July 11, 1541. On that day the Rzhevsk icon and cross were returned to the place of their miraculous appearance. The Metropolitan, together with all the assembled clergy and faithful of Moscow, as well as Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, accompanied the icon from the Dormition Cathedral to the Church of the Rzhevsk Icon of the Mother of God, where a copy of the icon was placed.
In memory of this celebration, the Feast of the Rzhevsk Icon of the Mother of God was established on July 11.
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org )