May 14

Unexpected Joy, Moscow, Russia

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.)   

Also commemorated this date:

bulletNuestra Seņora de los Remedios, Riohacha, La Guajira, Caribbean, Colombia. City saved from tsunami, 1663. 
bulletNotre-Dame des Vertus, Aubervilliers, Seine-Saint-Denis, Île-de-France, France. Statue wept and drought ended, 1336.
bulletBeata Vergine del Pilastrello, Dovera, Cremona, Lombardy, Italy. Apparition healed deaf-mute girl, 1386.
bulletMadonna di Pinč, Montagnaga, Trento, Italy. Apparition, 1729.
bulletMadonna del Monte, Marta, Viterbo, Latium, Italy
bulletSanta Maria dei Monti, Naples, Italy. First mass said in church, 1606. Festa Pentecost Monday.
bulletNuestra Seņora de la Evangelizaciķn, Lima, Peru

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly