The historic icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, visited to Holy Apostles Orthodox Church in Saddle Brook NJ on Tuesday, 8 October. The Icon has been making a pilgrimage across the world beginning two years ago on the pacific coast of far eastern Russia. Since then it has weaved its way through Orthodox and Catholic churches in Russia and Europe. The primary purpose of the pilgrimage is to raise awareness for the sanctity of life across the spectrum: the young, the old, and the unborn. The icon is an exact replica of the original which resides in Czestochowa Poland. It is venerated by both Orthodox and Catholics and has through its long history belonged to either church at various times. Before its final resting place in Poland, the icon also resided in the Ukraine, Constantinople, and the Holy Lands.
Three hundred people attended two services at Holy Apostles Church. In the afternoon many showed up for a healing service where they were anointed. In the evening many more attended Vespers which included a candle-lit procession through the neighborhood with the icon and an anointing. The procession, which included singing of various hymns to the Mother of God, drew some of the neighbors from their homes, interested to see what was going on. The crowd at both services was a broad mix of residents from Bergen and Passaic Counties and included those of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant backgrounds. Five Orthodox and three Catholic priests were in attendance for the services, along with a group of nuns from the Sisters of Life in Suffern NY who added to the joyousness of the event with their beautiful singing. A Polish children’s choir also joined in the evening event. After the services many stayed to socialize in the parish hall where refreshments were provided.
Many of those in attendance described the event as one of mutual love and excitement, the intensity of which they have not experienced for quite some time. One lady from the community commented that she wished the Church always had this much cooperation and love. Father Matthew Brown (parish rector) said, “We are happy that so many people from so many different backgrounds joined together at Holy Apostles to honor the Virgin Mary, to seek healing of their various ailments, and to support the sanctity of life.”
More information on the icon’s pilgrimage and how to have it make a visit to your church can be found at:
Additional pictures from the event: www.holyapostlesnj.org