Miraculous and Holy Myrrh-Streaming Icon of St. Nicholas Comes to Alberta, Canada
During the week of the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the ROCA parish of St. Vladimir in Edmonton, Alberta, was blessed to receive a visit from the Miraculous Myrrh-Streaming Icon of St. Nicholas, brought to us by its guardian Archpriest Elias Warnke from the Mission of St. Nicholas in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was Fr. Elias’s first visit with the Holy Icon to any ROCA parish in eight years, since he has suffered grievously from ill health and has been unable to travel. The last time he came to St. Vladimir’s was in 1998.
Fr. Elias arrived in Edmonton with the Holy Icon on Thursday, September 7/20th. Before he left home he had carefully wiped off all the myrrh from the Holy Icon, and on the drive from the Edmonton airport to St. Vladimir’s it was already covered with Holy Myrrh again, and even its wooden case was moist. The car was filled with its heavenly fragrance. Upon arriving at St. Vladimir’s, Fr. Elias settled into his rooms. The fragrance and blessing from St. Nicholas’s Holy Icon started to fill the entire building. This marked the beginning of a profound, omnipresent peace and joy that all who made the effort to attend would experience in the next few days.
A festal vigil service was held that evening. Early Friday morning there was an adult baptism performed by Archpriest Andrew Kencis (rector of the St. Vladimir parish). The Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God followed at 10 AM, with Fr. Andrew and Fr. Elias concelebrating. Fr. Elias gave a sermon. During the festal services, the Holy Icon streamed abundant amounts of Holy Myrrh, requiring that extra cotton be placed in the bottom trough of the kiot. Also it was noticed from the first night that the analoy cover was already wet with myrrh. After Friday’s Liturgy, Fr. Elias spoke with the people at trapeza about some of his experiences with the Holy Icon, and answered questions of the faithful present.
Friday afternoon, Fr. Andrew took the Holy Icon to visit some elderly and ill parishioners who were not able to attend services at the church. They were grateful for the chance to be with the Holy Icon and pray before it. Fr. Elias took this opportunity to remain at the church to rest and pray for the many faithful who sought special prayers.
An akathist/molieben to St. Nicholas was sung on Friday evening, attended by a very large number of people. The church was filled with the faithful and so crowded; some people stood on the porch waiting for a chance to venerate the Holy Icon. No one was rushed, and everyone had an opportunity to pray as long as they wished. Over a hundred people approached with awe and many, many with tears. They were anointed on their foreheads with Holy Myrrh taken directly from the Holy Icon with the blessing “Holy Father Nicholas pray to God for us.” At the end of the service anyone who had particular needs were encouraged to come forward. Fr. Elias prayed with each of them anointing them directly from the Holy Icon. Also Fr. Andrew and Fr. Elias removed the Holy Icon from its kiot to allow the faithful to fully view it from all sides. The faithful were encouraged to stay to pray as long as they wanted. Downstairs in the parish hall, where a light tea was offered, all remarked on the continued feeling of calm and peace.
Saturday, Frs. Elias, Andrew, Mat. Nina Kencis and James, a parishioner, travelled with the Holy Icon to visit the Convent of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God at Bluffton, Alberta, for its second visit (the first time was in 1998). The Holy Icon was an immense consolation to Great-Schema Abbess Amvrosia, her synodia, Hieromonk Dionisije, and some faithful who had travelled to the Convent to venerate it. An akathist/molieben was served by Fr. Dionisije and beautifully chanted by the Sisterhood choir. The Holy Icon streamed Holy Myrrh heavily for the sisters, who have been suffering through severe trials and persecution. Through the blessing of St. Nicholas’s Holy Icon they received spiritual strength and consolation, evidenced by the tears of joy that streamed down the faces of many. Before departing, Fr. Andrew and the Holy Icon’s guardian blessed the cells of each of the sisters.
They returned to Edmonton for the Saturday evening vigil. Sunday morning, Fr. Andrew baptized an infant before the Divine Liturgy at which Fr. Elias once again gave the homily. At trapeza, Fr. Elias spoke about the Holy Icon’s history and answered questions.
Over the course of the weekend, hundreds of people came to venerate the Holy Icon, both during the services and privately. The entire church and grounds were filled with the scent of the Holy Myrrh. The Holy Icon was always covered in Holy Myrrh, and the cotton placed to collect it was saturated continuously. Fresh cotton had to be added several times. The analoy cover had also become soaked: only a small area on the top was left dry as if to show exactly how wet the rest of the cloth was. Those who attended were anointed with the Holy Myrrh and given a piece of cotton and small print of the Holy Icon. After these were all distributed, small bottles of Holy Myrrh were given. No one was left empty-handed. Many people experienced spiritual benefit and uplifting from the Holy Icon, and some because of the strengthening of their faith experienced relief from chronic ailments. Many had never before seen a myrrh-streaming icon, and were profoundly affected by the experience.
Fr. Elias remarked it was a wonderful blessing for him to come for the visit, noting the dire need of the hundreds of faithful who came. It was clear that the weekend left him completely exhausted, but as he said, “filled with joy.” With the celebration of the Feast of the Mother of God, two baptisms, services every day, a visit to the Convent, and the flow of the Holy Myrrh from the Holy Icon, the days were rich in blessings. Fr. Elias returned home to his parish on Monday.
In preparation for the flight back Fr. Andrew was asked to wipe the Holy Icon dry. This proved to be more of a task than first thought… the Icon was completely wiped down and as Fr. Andrew thought he was finished he noticed that Holy Myrrh was once again flowing from the image of the Saint’s face… he looked at the Icon and remarked “Dear Father Nicholas, you could please cooperate.” The soaked cotton was collected and remains with Fr. Andrew for distribution to the faithful and those in need.
The following weekend, the church was still filled with the scent of the Holy Myrrh. The entire parish has been deeply touched by this wonderful visit. We are grateful to our gracious Lord Jesus Christ and are drawn closer to Him for allowing one of His favourites, St. Nicholas the Holy Wonderworker, to come and be with us. May we never lose the memory of how our hearts were warmed, blessed and inspired by the presence of St. Nicholas!