Ninth Friday after Easter

Tabynsk Mother of God, Krasnousolsky, Gafuriysky, Bashkortostan, Russia

The story of the Tabynsk icon begins in the South Ural wilderness, where a community of 30 monks lived by farming and salt production at Ascension Hermitage, seven miles from the village of Tabynsk. In June of 1597, a deacon monk named Ambrose was passing by a salt spring when he heard a woman say, "Take my icon." Fearing sorcery, he ignored the voice. But two days later, after hearing it again, he found an icon of the Blessed Virgin, similar to the one found 18 years earlier in Kazan, capital of the neighboring region. Ambrose ran to tell his brethren, who helped him carry it to the church, where they prayed before it. But although the church was locked for the night, the icon was missing in the morning.   

Finding the icon at the monastery entrance that day and again the next, when it had disappeared once more, the monks decided to build a chapel to house it there. When miracles began taking place, clergy took the image for official verification to Kazan and then to Ufa, the regional capital, where it vanished, reappearing at the salt spring near Tabynsk. The icon remained a magnet of regional devotion in Ascension Church until 1663, when the monastery was destroyed during the Bashkir rebellion. This time the icon disappeared for a century. 

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. 

Sources include: 

bullet"красноусольск / святые ключи / 18 мая 2011," montu.ru/krasnousolsk-svyatye-klyuchi-18-maya-2011.htm (picture)
bulletV. Simonov, "The Chinese Life of the Tabynsk Icon," Ufa Diocese Bulletin. №4, April 2001 | English translation by Igor Radev, 中国正教会, www.orthodox.cn/saints/200104tabynicon_en.htm
bulletNadezhda Fartyguina, "Sacred Symbol to Mark Jubilee on Bashkir Soil," June 7, 2011, BASHvest - First electronic newspaper of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Russian Orthodox eng.bashvest.ru/showinf.php?id=1930
bulletpspro, "Табынская икона Божией Матери," Комментарии : LiveInternet - Российский Сервис Онлайн-Дневников, www.liveinternet.ru/users/pspro/post204390050/
bullet"Сказание о Табынской иконе Божией матери," Полномочный представитель Президента РФ в Приволжском федеральном округе, www.pfo.ru/?id=23423
bullet Sergeev, Vladimir, high priest, Saint Tikhons Orthodox University, "Табынская икона в жизни русской эмиграции в Китае в ХХ веке" (Tabyn icon in the life of the Russian emigration in China in the twentieth century), Agios, www.agioc.orthodoxy.ru/date/tab.doc
 

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly