This year, the whole world is transfixed by the war in Ukraine. Many people who are still alive remember the horrors of the last great war. People in our own churches here remember the long night of the invasion and occupation by the Red Army, and its ruthless suppression of the Christian faith.
Our brothers and sisters in the old country are deeply grateful for the generosity of all the good people of the Eparchy of Passaic and of all our churches in America. In Transcarpathia, there are six hundred thousand refugees in a region with only three hundred thousand residents. Our bishop, Bishop Nil, presides over three or four funerals each week of young men killed in combat, young men often with young wives and children. I don’t think I could go on as a pastor if I had to do that. I can’t tell you how important it is to them that we remember them and pray for them. They never ask for things, they only ask, “Please don’t forget us. Please pray for us.”
This year I am joyful to share with you our miraculous icon from our original home in the Austro-Hungarian empire, the icon of Our Lady from Mariapocs. This icon wept for the first time on November 14, 1696 during the final attempt by the Ottoman Turks to conquer Europe. The emperor took the original icon to Vienna. The journey took five months because of the crowds of people and the many miraculous healings that took place on the journey. Our people made a copy for our own church in Mariapocs, and the original never wept again after it moved to Vienna.
Meanwhile, in our church in Mariapocs, the new icon wept two more times. The next time was in 1715, and so the church authorities built a Basilian monastery to care for the icon and the countless pilgrims who go there to pray. Our own Fathers Basil Rackaczy and Joe Erdei lived at that monastery in recent years until their deaths. When I went to Father Joe’s funeral this summer, I had the opportunity to pray in front of the great icon, and I prayed for all of you with all my heart. It made me happy that Pope Francis asked me to be the bishop of this great eparchy.
The third weeping of the icon in our church in Mariapocs took place in 1905. Just as with the other events, the icon cried during the holy sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy. The year 1905 is one of the most ominous years in history. The massacre at the Winter Palace by the guards of the proud Tsar led to the Revolution of 1917 that spread atheism and terror across the globe. The Mother of God had good cause to weep in 1905. But the icon reminds us that Mary is always present for us in our suffering, our good mother who was given to us by her Divine Son during his own death on the cross. Wherever He is crucified today, she is standing there with him. I am thrilled to send you this photo of the miraculous icon this year. And I ask that you pray fervently for God’s mercy on our world. If you look closely, you can see the stains from the tears.