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Icon of the Mother of God of “the Unexpected Joy”, Andronikov, Moscow, Russia

Commemorated on May 14
Icon of the Mother of God of “the Unexpected Joy”, Andronikov, Moscow, Russia
The “Unexpected Joy” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, is painted in this way: in a room is an icon of the Mother of God, and beneath it a youth is kneeling at prayer. The tradition about the healing of some youth from a bodily affliction through this holy icon is recorded in the book of St Demetrius of Rostov, The Fleece of Prayer [See Judges 6: 36-40].
The sinful youth, who was nevertheless devoted to the Theotokos, was praying one day before the icon of the All-Pure Virgin before going out to commit a sin. Suddenly, he saw that wounds appeared on the Lord’s hands, feet, and side, and blood flowed from them. In horror he exclaimed, “O Lady, who has done this?” The Mother of God replied, “You and other sinners, because of your sins, crucify My Son anew.” Only then did he realize how great was the depth of his sinfulness. For a long time he prayed with tears to the All-Pure Mother of God and the Savior for mercy. Finally, he received the unexpected joy of the forgiveness of his sins.
The “Unexpected Joy” icon is also commemorated on January 25 and May 1.



The Unexpected Joy icon shows a young man praying before a painting of the Mother of God, who is gesturing toward her Child in the hodigitria or way-pointing pose. According to St. Demetrius of Rostov, writing about 1670, the youth prayed daily before his icon of the Virgin, and then would go out and commit sins. One day in prayer he saw wounds form and bleed on the hands, feet, and side of the painted infant, and heard the Virgin say, "Your sins crucify my Son anew." Filled with remorse, the man wept, praying for mercy, and the Virgin joined in, asking that Jesus forgive him. Finally Christ agreed to forgive the sinner for his Mother's sake, as a pledge of which the young man must kiss his wounds. When he did so, he experienced the "unexpected joy" of release from guilt.
The icon may have originally been in the St. Andronik Monastery or the Church of Sts. Constantine and Helen in Moscow. After the revolution, it moved to a church in the Sokolniki district belonging to the Renovationists, a breakaway church that was spared the persecution suffered by the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1940s, as the Renovationists lost support, Stalin made a practical alliance with the Orthodox Church. Then some of the holy objects that had found refuge with the Renovationists moved to the Orthodox churches that were still open in Moscow. The Unexpected Joy icon came to the Church of Elijah the Prophet in Obydensky Lane. The Russian Orthodox Church honors the Mother of God of Unexpected Joy on May 14 (May 1 in the old calendar). (Picture of the icon in the Church of Elijah from Information from,, and other sources.)   




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