The icon of Mary I have is not particularly attractive, at least on the surface. It is dark and the look on Mary's face is somber, almost unhappy. I was given the icon years ago and I was going to discard it, but then I felt I shouldn't let it go. So, I kept it. Over the years I have prayed with it daily, as it sits next to the tabernacle. Now, when I am on the road, I miss the icon. If I am gone for a long trip, I will sometimes wrap it up and take it with me; my connection with it has become strong.
Two weeks after the invasion of the Ukraine, I had an inspiration to look at the back of the icon more closely and to investigate its roots. The inscription identifies it as: "Virgin of Vladimir." I looked it up and found that it is likely a 12th century Byzantine icon that was gifted to the city of Kyiv in the Ukraine and then housed in the city of Vladimir in the Ukraine, before it was eventually transferred and resides today in Moscow. There have been many miracles attributed to the icon. Why have I have been praying before the Virgin of the Ukraine for years?
It is also interesting that one of our most difficult cases has involved a young Ukrainian woman. Most recently, she has been almost completely liberated. I have been impressed with her courage and strength. Even the demons said they are surprised she is still alive. She is a strong woman. Does the liberation of one Ukrainian modestly contribute, in some way, to the spiritual liberation of a nation?
And then, before the war erupted, I was privileged to meet Michael Brown, the founder of Spirit Daily. He spoke to me of his Ukrainian friend Josyp Terelya who was tortured for decades by the Communists for his support of Ukrainian nationalism and his ardent Catholic faith, yet never yielded. He was reportedly favored with several Marian apparitions and Michael Brown's book Witness about his life is a must read. It gives a sense of the spiritual importance of the Ukraine and the role of Our Lady. It is interesting that Mariupol, the epicenter of recent humanitarian atrocities, actually means: City of Mary.
I do not know what all this means. But I am convinced of three things. 1. The war in the Ukraine has immense spiritual significance. 2. The faith and strength of the men and women of the Ukraine are astounding. 3. Our Lady is involved intensely with all that is going on and her Immaculate Heart will triumph!
For my part, I continue to pray before the icon of the Virgin of Vladimir. I join in Our Lady's urgent request to pray for peace. I have a strong hope that the days are rapidly coming when Satan and the forces of evil will be definitively crushed under Our Lady's heel (Gn 3:15).