Ninth Friday after Easter
Tabynsk Mother of God, Krasnousolsky, Gafuriysky, Bashkortostan, Russia
In 1766, three Bashkir shepherds saw the image near the Tabynsk salt spring. The youngest, a teenager, went blind when he slashed the picture, but recovered his sight after he and his friends prayed to the "Russian God." (After receiving baptism, this young man was said to have lived a life of penance and prayer, barefoot year-round, until the age of 130.) Orthodox believers carried the icon to the Church of the Epiphany at the Krasnousolsk copper-smelting furnace nearby, but once again, it vanished, reappearing this time in the village of Tabynsk on the ninth Sunday after Easter. Ever since it was known as the Tabynsk Icon and celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church on this day. A belief spread that the Virgin's face became extremely dark with sins lifted from pilgrims.
In 1854 the icon visited Orenburg, in the neighboring region, which was stricken with cholera. The epidemic subsided, and the visit was then repeated annually, the holy image traveling between Tabynsk and Orenburg in a series of splendid processions to various towns over the summer. The Mother of God of Tabynsk became patron of the Orenburg Cossack Army, which took her icon with them to battle in World War I. During the Russian Revolution, the Orenburg Cossacks fought against the Soviets. After their defeat, General Dutov led them to refuge in China, along with Methodius, Bishop of Orenburg, and the Mother of God of Tabynsk.
There are various stories about what happened to the icon in China. The most convincing account places it in St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in the northwestern city of Yining until the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, when the church was closed and the icon disappeared. Some sources suggest it could have been transferred to the United States or Australia, but Orthodox leaders deny it is there. Possibly the original image is in hiding somewhere in China.
Meanwhile, back in Tabynsk, Soviet authorities converted the pilgrimage site near the mineral spring to a treatment center. Word spread that snakes filled the baths, and that a mysterious woman in black patrolled the chapel. Pilgrims, too, continued to frequent the site, despite a ban on celebrations and processions there. In 1972 the government dynamited the chapel and spring. The waters burbled up in several new locations. Now a golden-domed church overlooks the old site, and steps lead from it to a natural grotto containing a replica of the Mother of God of Tabynsk (above). It is said that on the ninth Friday after Easter, salt water flows from the grotto down the hill.