This evening, our family had the incredible opportunity to visit St Luke’s in Garden Grove to venerate the Holy Hawaiian-Iveron Icon. This icon is a myrrh-streaming icon. Although this icon is simply made of wood and paper, it miraculously began emitting myrrh in 2007.
The history of this icon is absolutely amazing. This icon is actually a printed copy of the Montreal myrrh-streaming icon of the Theotokos, which miraculously began emitting myrrh in 1982. And that icon was a hand-painted copy of the original Iveron Icon of the Theotokos, which according to Orthodox tradition, was painted by the Apostle Luke. Yes, the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
The amazing history is lengthy, so I’ll just post links. Click HERE to read the history of the original and Montreal myrrh-streaming icons. And then click HERE to read the history of the Holy Hawaiian-Iveron Icon.
So what do you do with a miraculous myrrh-streaming icon? I struggled with this question all week in anticipation of our visit. I’ve long since gotten past my old Protestant hang-ups about icons. The Seventh Ecumenical Council declared, “Icons do with color what Scripture does with words.” (By the way, Fr Stephen has just posted a good blog post entitled, “Icons and Scripture” that is worth reading.)
I love icons. They are windows into heaven. They constantly remind me of the communion of the saints and their intercessions on my behalf. They spur me to live a godly life. I can’t imagine ever going back to worship or daily life without icons. They are a significant part of the wealth and fullness of the faith that I’ve discovered in Orthodoxy.
But, icons that leak aromatic myrrh? At this point, all I can say is God’s grace is beauty shrouded in mystery. Grace is not some disembodied force floating around somewhere nor comes to us in a vacuum. Grace is God’s activity, his energies. And he anchors it in his creation. He offers his grace through water, through incense, through bread and wine, through oil, through paint, paper and wood, through words, through prayers, through my priest. Grace and creation go hand-in-hand. In fact, creation is truly being creation as God destined when it’s the means of God’s grace.
So, I don’t have any rational explanation why God would choose to anchor and offer his grace through an icon that streams myrrh. But it’s absolutely beautiful. The myrrh smells like roses. And the icon is of the tender Mother of God, the premiere disciple who is praying for our salvation. I was deeply moved when Fr Michael brought the icon up the aisle and laid it upon the analogion.
Hmmm…. A humble, unpretentious 7 x 9 inch plank of wood with a printed copy of the Holy Mother of God directing our attention to Christ and miraculously emitting a heavenly fragrance. Now that I think about it, it seems to be the typical way God reveals himself and offers his grace. And my response is to acknowledge it, to honor it, to pray and to worship a God who lavishes grace in such beautiful and mysterious ways.