Thia arch-shaped relief icon is a replica of Our Lady of Iver, which in turn belongs to a type known as Hodegetria (Greek for “Directress”, “She Who Points the Way”). The icon was named after the Iver monastery on Mount Athos, where it was been stored since the 10th century. According to legend, the miraculous icon used to belong to a godly widow who lived in Nicaea at a time when the Church struggled with an iconoclastic heresy. In an attempt to protect the holy image from the heretics, she prayed to the Queen of Heaven and threw the icon into the sea. However, the icon did not fall face down into the water and instead stood upright and sailed over the waves to the West. A few years later on Easter Tuesday the monks at Iver saw a pillar of fire in the open sea, which, as it turned out, was coming from the icon as it floated in their direction. The monks accepted the image of the Mother of God with great respect and placed it in the altar of the cathedral only to find it over the monastery gate on the following morning. The monks returned the icon to its previous location, but on the following morning it was hanging over the gate again. Finally, the Mother of God appeared to one of the monks in a dream and said that She did not wish to be protected – on the contrary, She would become a patron of the monastery, and, as long as the icon remained over the monastery gate, the mercy of God toward the monastery and its inhabitants would never run dry. Therefore Our Lady of Iver is also known as Portaitissa (Greek for “Guardian of the Gate). There is a bloody wound on the Blessed Virgin Mary’s face, with different stories existing as to its origin: some say that the icon was scratched by the sword of an iconoclast warrior at the widow’s home, while others claim that this was done by one of the Arab pirates who attempted to rob and destroy the monastery. In both cases, blood began to flow from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s cheek and the criminal repented after seeing the miracle. Inscribed upon the reverse of the scapular is the Troparion to Our Lady of Iver in Church Slavonic.
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