A VERY POPULAR MARIAN IMAGE: THE “JOY OF ALL WHO SUFFER”

In a previous posting, I briefly discussed the Akathist hymn and why its component forms the kontakion and the oikos are part of basic knowledge for the study of icons because one often encounters them as texts in icons. I also mentioned that in addition to the famous “original” Akathist to Mary, there are quite a number of other akathists, not only to Mary as represented in her various icons, but also to various saints, the Guardian Angel, etc.

Today we will look at a very common example utilizing one of these akathists: the icon type known in Church Slavic as Всем скорбящим Радость — Vsem Skorbyashchim Radost — ” The Joy of All Who Suffer,” sometimes given as “The Joy of All Who Sorrow.”  In literature one often sees it in its Russian form, Всех Скорбящих Радость — Vsekh Skorbyashchikh Radost.

According to tradition, it first became noted as a supposed “miracle-working” icon in 1688.  The story is that Evfimiya, sister of Patriarch Ioachim, suffered from an incurable disease.  One day while praying, she heard a voice telling her, “Evfimiya!  Go to the Church of the Transfiguration of my son; there is the image called “Joy of All Who Suffer.”  The church was in Moscow, Evfimiy’s residence.  She followed the instructions of the voice and, the account says, was cured.

What this means for our purposes is that we should not expect icons of this type to be earlier than the end of the 17th century, when the icon first gained fame.  The “Joy of All Who Suffer” is an extremely common Marian type in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The basic image is easy to recognize.  It does, however, vary a great deal from example to example, both in the number and kind of secondary figures around Mary, and in the accompanying inscriptions and the text often found in a rectangle at the base.  So translating the texts on one example does not meet they will match those on another.

The basic image depicts Mary standing crowned in the center in an ellipse or mandorla of light. Sometimes she is alone.  In other images she may hold the crowned Christ Child on her left arm (the “Moscow” form), or he may be omitted (as in the “With Coins” variant). She often holds a scepter in her right hand, or she may gesture toward the Child.

Here is one example that includes a number of the “suffering” as well as the frequently-found angels, but in addition, four saints, and at the top the New Testament Trinity, and the images of the sun and the moon:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

As you see, there is lots of writing on banners; these texts are usually taken (with some variation) from the Akathist to the Joy of All Who Suffer, most commonly from Kontakion 2:

Beholding the streams of wonders which pour forth from your holy icon, O most blessed Mother of God, in that you are the good helper of those who pray, the support of the oppressed, the hope of the hopeless, the consolation of those who grieve, the nourisher of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the chastity of virgins, the guide of strangers, the assistance of those who labor, the restoration of sight to the blind, the clear hearing to the deaf, and the healing of the sick, in you we thankfully sing to God: Alleluia!

Кондак 2
Видяще токи чудес, изливаемыя от святыя Твоея иконы, благая Богородительнице, яко Ты еси молящихся благая помощница, обидимых заступница, ненадеющихся надежда, печальных утешение, алчущих кормительница, нагих одеяние, девственных целомудрие, странных наставница, труждающихся помощь, слепых прозрение, глухих благослышание, больных исцеление, благодарственне вопием о Тебе Богу: Аллилуиа.

Here is a very similar though somewhat later example:

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

(Courtesy of Jacksonsauction.com)

The text at the bottom of this example, as in many others, is this:

We have seen it before in the discussion of the icon type called “O All-Hymned Mother.”  It is the 13th Kontakion of the Akathist prayer/hymn to Mary, the most popular Marian prayer in Eastern Orthodoxy:

О всепетая Мати, рождшая всех святых Святейшее Слово, нынешнее приношение приемши, от всяких напасти избави всех, и грядущия изми муки, вопиющия Ти: Аллилуиа

O all-hymned Mother worthy of all praise, who brought forth the Word, holiest of all Saints, as you receive this our offering, rescue us all from every calamity, and deliver from future torment those who cry with one voice, Alleluia.

As already mentioned, expect considerable variation from icon to icon of this type.  Some versions are very simple, showing only Mary, or Mary with the Christ Child; others add varying numbers of the suffering, along with angels, saints of one kind or another, and at times even a depiction of those in danger on a ship at sea.

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