Yesterday I had the privilege, along with several other St. Thomas parishioners to visit St. Nektarios Russian Orthodox Church to venerate the Kursk Root Icon which has been traveling down the East Coast on a pilgrimage to several churches. The Knoxville News Sentinel recently posted an article about this 715 year old, miraculous icon. The large crowd of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians gathered together with Fr. Job Watts and other visiting clergy to make joyful prayer to God and to the Theotokos, whose image was visiting the small mission church in Lenoir City. There was such a large number of people that the prayer was held outside in one of the first days of spring weather we have had. It was a beautiful way to spend the morning.
Two things stand out to me in the comments that were made about the history of this icon. The priest traveling with the icon mentioned that part of the history of the image was its travels to the Russian people living in camps for displaced persons from World War II. He noted that many had nothing but the clothes on their back, yet they were overjoyed that the Mother of God had come to visit them. He then noted that we in the United States have been blessed with great freedom and great wealth, yet still we complain, wanting even more. The second set of words that struck me were by Fr. Job, who simply stated that this small mission parish was unworthy of such an honor as to have this image visit. As he spoke these words, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Where else would the Mother of God be present, but in a humble mission parish?” When she lived among us on earth it was in the backwater town of Nazareth. She seems to have spent most of her life in humble places, so why would that change now?
It was a true honor to have been given the opportunity to see and venerate this icon of the Mother of God. I hope it will deepen my devotion to her and increase my prayers for her intercession.