A silver gilded small icon with the Vladimir icon of the Holy Mother of God on its obverse and the Lord’s Cross in Blossom on its reverse is made in the shape of gonfalon. That is the symbol of the Christian Church victory over evil’s forces. In Old Russia banners per se has not been not of great symbolical value. It is the icon embroidered on the colour cloth and visible to the entire host from afar that has been the main thing. It has been the sign of the Heavenly protection and of spiritual help at the battlefield. Only the most worshipped wonder working images has been put to the gonfalons, the Vladimir icon always being one of the most significant.
The Vladimir icon of the Holy Mother of God is the greatest Russian object of worship having for centuries been personification of our country. In the face of it Russian Tsars has been crowned, and Patriarchs has been elected. It is to “the Vladimir image of the Most Holy the Mother of God” that warriors has vowed fidelity to Motherland, and died at the battlefield. And it is upon her protection that Russia has always set its hopes in the years of hardships.
According to the legend the great and wonder-working image was painted by Apostle Luke in the lifetime of the Mother of God, and blessed by Herself. In 1131 Patriarch of Constantinople presented the icon to grand prince Yuri Dolgoruky. In 1155 the St. Prince Andrew of Bogolyubovo took it to Vladimir, and erected a majestic Dormition cathedral for it on the high bank of the Klyazma river. Since then the icon had always participated all the significant events of Russian history.
And there was no case for any believer that praying to Vladimir icon of the Mother of God of turned out vain. There are thousands of examples of miraculous help. Three of them are commemorated by special liturgies.
In 1395 a dreadful conqueror Tamburlaine (Temir) Khan invaded Russian Land. The wonder-making icon of Our Lady was sent for to Vladimir.
The chronicles say that along the whole way from Vladimir to Moscow the sacred image was waited for by crowds of kneeled people invoking: “O Our Lady, save the Russian land!” At the very moment when Muscovites met the wonder-making image at Field of Kutchkovo, Tamburlaine dreamed of consecrators army lead by Woman of Stateliness who commanded him to leave precincts of Russia. Khan interpreted the dream as a sign, and swung his troops round. The icon remained in Moscow (today – in the functioning Church of St. Nicholas in Tolmatchi under Tretyakov Gallery). At the Field of Kutchkovo the Purification Cloister was built in the memory of the miraculous event. The wonder is commemorated by Liturgy on September 8.
In 1480 revolts broke out in Russia: brothers of John III rose in rebellion, eager for absolute ruling in their independent principalities. In winter Pskov land was invaded by Livonian chivalry, Polish King Kazimir and Tatar Akhmat Khan entering into military alliance and starting to prepare for war. The Metropolitan Vassian together with all the Hierarchs officiated public prayers before the icon day and night. And a wonder was conferred. Main Livonian forces could not occupy Pskov; Princes Andrew and Boris having solicited their kingly brother for forgiveness and took the field against Akhmat; Kazimir was perturbed with overall sympathy that was expressed with Russia by Kiev and Smolensk inhabitants then subjected to him, and refused to uphold the Tatars.
Russian and Tatar armies met on the river Ugra afterwards nicknamed “the girdle of the Mother of God”. The great standing lasted for several months. Akhmat waited for the river being frozen over. Ringing frost struck and John III retreated to more advantageous lines for crucial battle. But at the sight of the far bank being quite empty the Tatars regarded being ensnared and fled. In such a miraculous way without any battle the Tatar yoke came to the end in Russia The Tatars had still raided into Russian land time and again but as robbers and not as the mighty. The event is commemorated on July 6 (June 23).
The third wonder is connected with the invasion of Makhmet-Girey, khan of Crimea in 1514. Then by the prayers of St. Basil the Blessed it seemed to Tatars that an innumerable host advanced against them and they fled confusedly. In 1521 Makhmet-Girey having gathered Crimean, Nogai and Kazan Tatars, decided to repeat the campaign but was again frightened by miraculous vision of host at Moscow walls and again retreated fightless. Both events are commemorated on June 3 (May 21).
Many other wonders have been committed on praying to the Vladimir icon of the Mother of God, and not only for country as a whole. Incalculable are occurrences of miraculous help to individuals – benediction in activities, healing of different kinds and even raising from the dead.
The icon reverse shows the Lord’s Cross in Blossom. Around the Cross center there are written the Holy initials ИС ХС and “НИКА”, which means “I overcame” because the Lord overcame death with His Cross. The futurity came to the world through the Cross therefore it is called “the Life-giving” and “the Tree of Life”, and is often floriated. The way to the Kingdom of Heaven is closed by sins. The Most Holy Mother of God is the Helper for the person in his (her) struggle against invisible but extremely malicious enemy; and the Intercessor with God. Words of Her glorifying are written around the Cross: “Hail, the Most Holy Mother of God, our Mediatrix, Helper, and Salvation of our souls”.
«The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God. The Cross in Blossom»
Is It Possible to Buy a Consecrated Cross in a Store
Crosses and icon are consecrated on the Communioun table in the church altar. That is why it is impossible for all the factory products to be consecrated. Besides in a store the pieces are looked at and touched by different people. According to Church rules a non-worshipful touch to consecrated things desecrates them.
Therefore if you bought a piece in a store or at the exhibition better re-sanctify it (even if it marked as a consecrated one). You can do it free of charge in any church after the Liturgy. Truly consecrated crosses may be purchased only in church shops.