The Black Madonna Visits a University Town for Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church Liturgy to Support a Culture of Life

At noon of April 4th Our Lady of Częstochowa arrived at St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church which belongs to the Antiochian Orthodox Patriarchate which has its seat in Damascus.

What was apparent immediately upon arriving in Iowa City was that it is a university town.  The University of Iowa students fill downtown sidewalks. St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church is within the boundaries of downtown but in a suburban setting. Fr. Ignatius Valentine is the pastor of St. Raphael and he greeted the Icon of our Blessed Mother and led Her  to his church. Our Lady of Czestochowa icon was placed in the center of the church which is adorned with many beautiful icons, according to the tradition of Eastern orthodox churches.

For the first time in the North American peregrination the frame of the icon was configured to stand at a slight angle to accommodate it for the practice of kissing the Icon according to the Orthodox tradition.

Fr. Ignatiuk talked about the iconographic traditions: first, they are windows into heaven, second, they represent glorified persons, third, The Church defended the use of images of saints by the faithful. Icons are like photos of the loved ones in a family photo album. Summing up all the rules of iconography emphasize the culture of life making it easier to understand the dignity and the sanctity of the person as created in God’s image.  Fr. Ignatiuk said that his Metropolitan of Antiochian Orthodox Church in America had approved the visit of the Black Madonna. Giving his blessing he said that we need to get more involved in the protection of children.

Fr. Ignatiuk was concerned that Iowa City has a big number of abortions.  The local hospital is involved in providing abortions. Unfortunately this city has both Marie Stopes and Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion providers worldwide, operating within its city. 

In the evening at the Antiochian Orthodox Church the Little Compline was celebrated and the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos was sung.  You have to stand singing the Akathist and the word translates “not sitting”.  The liturgy was beautifully sung and next there was veneration given to Our Lady of Czestochowa pilgrim icon.

One of the women attending the celebration has written on her blog: For me it is amazing that having settled here in Iowa City, a small town in the Mid-West we had the opportunity to take part in the peregrination of the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa. I am lost for words to describe the experience… Our Blessed Mum, as I always refer to Her, is traveling from Ocean to Ocean and changing people`s hearts.

Aneta Goska, who gave us beautifull photos from the celebrations has written: In our city the Icon unfortunately did not visit our church, however at the Antiochian Orthodox St. Raphael of Brooklyn Church they had seats for the guests and everybody could pray according to their own tradition. The Friday celebrations in Iowa City were very solemn and their atmosphere was warm and very friendly. May God thank you for your effort, your work and great hearts! This pilgrimage is amazing.

But, all is possible with God. They say there have never been so many people in this small orthodox church before. Being so close to the Mother of God was an extraordinary experience! I constantly hear the words of St. Elizabeth in my ears “Why is it that the Mother of my Lord has come to me” (LK 1,43).

Chris Morales

>> Donate now <<