"Rejoice thou who art full of grace, the Lord is with thee!"
The "Unexpected Joy" Icon
The history of this icon is related by the Holy Hierarch Dimitry of
Rostov in his work, "The Bedewed Fleece". There was a man who despite
living his life in sins [some sources say that he was a daily
pick-pocket thief in the market place ] nonetheless he
had a pious love and devotion to the Mother of God.
Without fail, he daily prayed before her icon, in a local church, on his
way to the market, saying those words once spoken by the Archangel
"Rejoice thou who art full of grace!"
It came to pass that as he was about to go off to engage in his sinful
activity in the market place, he turned to pray before the icon of the
Mother of God. Immediately he began to tremble, as he saw the image of
the Mother of God become animated and appear
to move. The wounds on the hands, feet and side of the Divine Infant
opened up, and from them burst forth blood. Falling to the ground, the
transgressor shouted: "O Lady, who has done this?"
The Mother of God answered: "You and other sinners once again, like the
unrepentant Jews of old, are crucifying my Son. You call me merciful.
But then why do you insult me with your lawless acts? "O Mistress",
answered the sinner, "may my sins not overcome
your inexpressible goodness! You are the only hope of all sinners.
Entreat your Son and our God on my behalf."
Our Mistress twice repeated her prayer to the Infant Christ, but He
remained adamant, until finally He verbally and audibly responded to the
persistent entreaties of His Mother: "I will fulfill your request. May
your wish be granted. Because of you, this person’s
sins are remitted. Let him, in token of forgiveness, kiss My wounds."
And lo, the forgiven sinner, before whom the inexhaustible mercy of the
Mother of God was manifest in such a wonderful manner, raised himself up
from the ground, and with inexpressible joy kissed the wounds of his
Saviour. From that moment, he lived a clean
and pious life. This event provided the faithful with the incentive to
write this "Unexpected Joy" icon of the Mother of God.
On this icon is depicted a man, on his knees, praying before the image
of the Mother of God. Below the image are usually written the opening
words of the story: "There was a certain transgressor".
Let us, like this repentant and forgiven sinner, also daily live
righteously and in the fear of God, and thus gain for ourselves, this
Through the holy prayers of the Mother of God and of all the saints.