The Montreal Iveron Myrrh-Streaming Icon of the Mother of God

Today
we commemorate one of
the copies
of the Iveron Mother of God Icon,
called the Montreal Iveron Icon, a miraculously
myrrh-streaming icon from which abundant grace poured
forth to the Russian diaspora and many other Orthodox
Christians. As God’s Providence and the Mother
of God would have it, the man who was found worthy to
receive this icon from Mount Athos and become its
custodian was in fact a convert to Orthodoxy from
Catholicsim—José Muñoz from
Chile, now also known as “Brother
José.” Archpriest Victor Potapov spoke
with the icon’s custodian on one of his visits
to Washington.

* * *

The Iveron
Icon
, which at present is preserved in a monastery on
Mount Athos, was according to tradition painted by the
Apostle and Evangelist Luke. In November 1982, a copy of
the Iveron Icon of the Mother God began to stream myrrh in
Canada. In 1983, the Icon was in Washington for the first
time, and I then asked its guardian, the Spaniard
José Muñoz, how he had received the Holy
Object, and when it had begun to stream myrrh. Here are
his own words, which were recorded during our conversation
with him:

“Once during our pilgrimage
on Athos
, after several hours of walking, we got lost.
It began to get dark. We needed quickly to find shelter
for the night. Going along a path, we stumbled upon a
small, poor skete. There the fourteen Greek monks of the
skete were engaged in iconography. They received us very
cordially. Having rested a little, we began to examine the
icons of their work. One of my fellow travellers, who
spoke Greek, got into a conversation with the monks and
told them who we were and where we were from. I, though,
taking advantage of the moment, began more attentively to
examine everything round about. Suddenly my gaze stopped
at an icon of marvelous artistry with dimensions of
approximately fifteen by twenty inches. I asked a monk if
he could not sell it to me. He refused, having explained
that this image was the first to be painted in that skete
and therefore could not be sold. I could not tear my eyes
from that wondrous icon. We stayed the whole night in the
skete and in the morning stood through the Liturgy. During
the singing of “It is truly meet”, I begged
the Queen of Heaven on my knees to let the Holy Image go
with me… Bidding farewell in the morning, all the monks
accompanied us, but the hegoumen [abbot.—O.C.] was
not among them. And then at the last minute before our
departure from the monastery we saw him: he quickly
descended the staircase with the wrapped-up icon in his
hands. He came up to me and said, “Take it. I am
gifting it to you. It must be with you.” I offered
to pay for the icon, knowing that the monks were needy;
but the hegoumen said severely, “One must not take
money for such a holy object!” I crossed myself,
kissed the image and made a vow to myself that that image
would never become the source of my enrichment…

Jose Muсoz-Cortes
Jose Muсoz-Cortes
“After
this, we set out at once for Iveron
Monastery
in order to receive the
superior’s blessing and to touch the icon
received by me to the original, which is preserved in
this famed monastery. But by far not everyone is
allowed to approach and touch the ancient
wonderworking icon. Glory be to God, we were
permitted! In the chapel, we knelt, and gazing at the
holy object, froze in prayer before the image of the
Iveron Mother of God. The image was so majestic, so
shiningly beautiful, and radiated such spiritual
power that it was difficult to gaze at it for long! A
hieromonk helped me touch my copy to the Original.

“Soon after this we went home to Canada. We returned
on November 3, 1982. I put the icon next to the relics of
the saints of the Kiev Caves Lavra and the New-martyr
Elizabeth Feodorovna, which I had received from the
reposed Archbishop Leonty of Chile. A lampada flickered
before it all the time, and each day before sleep I read
Akathists to it. On the 24th of November, I was awakened
at three o’clock in the morning by the powerful
aroma of roses—the whole room was filled with it. At
first I thought that it emanated from the relics or from a
spilt vial of perfume; but upon approaching the icon, I
was struck! The whole icon was covered with oil—a
fragrant oil! I froze on the spot at such a
miracle!”

Consolation of the faithful

Upon the advice of a local Orthodox clergyman, the Icon
was taken to church and placed on the altar. During the
entire liturgy, myrrh flowed from the hands of the Christ
Child. Since that time, with the exception of several days
during Holy Week, when the Icon is absolutely dry, the
myrrh has continued to flow almost uninterruptedly. (Holy
Myrrh is a sweet, fragrant oil which was used in the Old
Testament for the anointing of kings. In contemporary
Orthodox church practice, a newly born Christian is
anointed with Holy Myrrh during which the words “The
seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit” are said by the
priest.)

In the years since, Jose traveled to many cities and
parishes where the Icon was venerated to the great joy and
consolation of the faithful.

Wherever the Icon went, there are always many questions.
Some people initially had doubts. A scientist in Miami was
astounded to see that the back of the Icon remained
perfectly dry. He later surreptitiously chipped off a
small piece of the board on which the Icon is painted for
scientific analysis: it was found to be ordinary pinewood,
nothing more.

At some times the myrrh would flow in greater abundance
than at others. During the consecration of a bishop in
Montreal there was such an outpouring of the myrrh that it
streamed down from the analogion (lectern on which icons
are kept in Orthodox churches) onto the floor. On another
occasion, in Florida, the myrrh was seen to rise forth
from the hands of the Mother of God and the Christ Child
as though it were being pressed from within. Nobody had
any power to regulate the flow of the myrrh, it would move
at the will of God and His Most Pure Mother.

Jose Muсoz-Cortes with Montreal icon of the Holy Virgin
Jose Muсoz-Cortes with Montreal icon of the Holy Virgin
The
Icon was kept in a frame about two inches deep and
measures about 12 by 18 inches. At first the myrrh
flowed only from the hands of the Mother of God, from
the star on Her left shoulder and, occasionally, from
the hands of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet in March
1985, during a Lenten service, even the frame and
glass of the Icon began to exude myrrh in such
quantities, that the cloth of the analogion on which
it lay was totally saturated. There was always a
layer of cotton wool placed at the base of the Icon
to absorb the myrrh: pieces of this cotton were
distributed to the faithful.

Although there have already been several cases of physical
healing (not only among Orthodox, but Catholics and
Protestants, too), the purpose of the Mother of God seemed
to be directed more at the healing of souls. Many who have
stood before the Icon have testified to this, experiencing
not only compunction and repentance, but consolation as
well.

As mentioned earlier, the flow of myrrh would cease during
Holy Week. It would cease on Holy Monday. After the
Liturgy on the morning of Great Saturday, a light dew of
myrrh would form on the Icon, its case and protecting
glass. During Matins (the midnight service at which the
glorious Resurrection of Our Lord is proclaimed), when the
procession of clergy and faithful, holding icons and
banners, would leave the church, the Icon would begin to
exude myrrh in such quantities, that it would cover the
hands of the person carrying it.

This is not the first time that the Orthodox Church has
witnessed such a miracle. In the nineteenth century the
Surety-of-Sinners Icon in Moscow exuded myrrh with which
the sick were anointed and received healing. Earlier,
there was a myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God in
the Tolga monastery in Yaroslavl; and there have been
others.

What is the meaning of this extraordinary manifestation of
God’s grace in our time? It has been observed that
in the history of the Church such miracles have occurred
in times of great tribulation; we saw this in the
Apostolic times, and, more recently, in Russia, where the
Church suffered cruel persecution for 70 years. The
miracles strengthen the faithful and prepare them to
endure trials. The appearance of the myrrh-streaming Icon
in our time may well signify a period of further great
trials for the Russian Orthodox Church and, at the same
time, offer consolation that the Mother of God will be a
Protectress of the faithful: Unto whomsoever much is
given, of him shall much be required.

The death of Brother Jose and the loss of the
icon

José Muñoz lived a monastic life, and some
say he was secretly tonsured. He spent his entire life
after the miraculous manifestation of the icon taking it
to different parishes the world over for veneration by the
faithful, and when he was at home he prayed continuously
before it, commemorating names sent by people requesting
prayers. But such an angelic man soon became ripe for the
Kingdom of Heaven, and on October 31, 1997 he died a
martyric death. In a hotel in Athens, where he was staying
before returning home from a grace-filled pilgrimage to
the holy places of Greece, this servant of God and His
Most Pure Mother was brutally tortured and murdered by
unknown Romanian criminals. Although he had not taken the
Icon with him to Greece, the whereabouts of the
miraculous, myrrh-streaming Icon are still unknown.

However the Mother of God did not leave her children
without this consolation, and just before the tenth
anniversary of Brother Jose’s death, a printed paper
copy of the Montreal icon began streaming
myrrh in Hawaii
. Now this icon is taken to parishes,
bringing consolation and reconciliation.

Holy Brother José, remember us also in your prayers
where you abide in the Heavenly Kingdom!

Adapted from an article on the website of St. John the Baptist
Cathedral, Washington, DC

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