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On Saturday 29 September, immediately after the Vigil Service, the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God arrived at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in London. The Icon has travelled around the world on the Presidential aeroplane ‘Rossiya’. The Russian President considers that though he rules, he does not reign and therefore the Mother of God should have his aeroplane for this world tour to commemorate the unity between the two parts of the Russian Church. Presidents rule, but in the absence of an Orthodox Emperor, the Anointed of God, the Mother of God reigns. Thus, from the USA to Canada, from Australia to Western Europe, finally She has come to us in these Islands.

A large number of clergy and people, Russians, English and Serbs in particular, had gathered at the Cathedral for the Vigil, followed by a service of supplication and akathist in front of the Icon. The Icon arrived together with Metropolitan Onouphry from the Ukraine and Archimandrite Tikhon, Vice-Rector of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow and confessor of the President. The clergy included the Rector of the Serbian Church in London and two clergy from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, including the writer.

The visit of the Icon to the Islands of the West affirms Russian Orthodox unity here also. This unity was visible in the crowds who came to venerate the Wonderworking Icon, for the first time outside Russia. For the Icon is the sign of our unity; the Mother of God reigns over us all, whatever our nationality.

It comes at a time when events are rapidly unfolding in Russia, as the recently discovered remains of two martyrs of the Godless Revolution are confirmed by some scientists as those of the martyred Tsarevich Alexis and the Grand Duchess Maria. And the Church there continues to gain influence over the highest echelons of society. Hopes rise that perhaps the vast unChurched majority of people there will yet be Churched and that the current elections in the Ukraine will yet help to bring all in that suffering land back into the Orthodox fold.

On Tuesday the Icon leaves for Paris, where His Holiness Patriarch Alexis will serve at Notre Dame, after meeting President Sarkozy. Sadly, the Russian Cathedral in Paris is still occupied by forces hostile to Russian Orthodoxy and so the Russian Patriarch is forced to serve in a Roman Catholic Cathedral, a building big enough for the crowds.

The visit of the Icon comes on the feast day of the holy martyrs Sophia (Wisdom) and her three children, Faith (Vera), Hope (Nadezhda) and Love (Lyubov).

It is our prayer that the unreformed and uncompromised Orthodox Faith, kept despite persecution and humiliation by the reunited Russian Church, both inside and outside Russia, will conquer the hearts of the weak.

It is our prayer that the Icon will give all faithful Orthodox Hope that our gathering together before the end will serve to help others join us.

It is our prayer that the Icon will strengthen the bonds of Love between all faithful Orthodox.

It is my personal prayer that the Icon will create Wisdom among us to accept the continual persecution and exile of the last thirty-three years that we have suffered. For: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.

Standing in line with the other clergy to greet the Mother of God at 8.30 yesterday evening, as the Icon was brought into the Cathedral, I thought:

Idyot Tsaritsa Nebesnaya: The Queen of Heaven arrives.

Idyot Russkaya Tsaritsa: The Russian Queen arrives.

And then I thought, no, more than that:

Idyot Tsaritsa Vsekh Pravoslavnykh: The Queen of all Orthodox arrives.

Most Holy Mother of God, save us!

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