November 12, 2016
Philadelphia, PA: Joy of All Who Sorrow Parish celebrates 65th Anniversary

On Sunday, November 6, the feast day of the Icon of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow," Our Lady "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Church in Philadelphia, PA celebrated its 65th patronal feast day.

Although officially founded in 1951 by Archpriest Eugene Lyzlov, the parish provided shelter and comfort for hundreds of Russian Orthodox families displaced by the Russian Revolution and World War II beginning in 1947-8. The life experience of these people ("displaced persons," or DPs) had been particularly bitter, and Fr. Eugene saw in the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos "Joy of All Who Sorrow" an especially meaningful symbolism. The parish’s official history notes, "In 1888, a chapel in St. Petersburg had been hit by lightning. The ensuing fire was particularly fierce and workers salvaged nearly nothing. When they turned over the icon of our Lady, however, they saw two things. First, the painting had not been burned. Second, some half-penny coins from the poor box had become embedded into the icon from the great heat, burnt into the un-scorched image… For Russians in America, this story reminded them that beauty could come from disaster, and that small gifts could turn into something much more valuable." It was in honor of this particular icon, "Joy of All Who Sorrow ‘with coins,’" that the parish was named.

Also of particular importance to the parish’s life and history were Tom and Maria Greendyk, who served for many years as the parish’s treasurer and choir director, respectively. Thanks primarily to Tom’s efforts, the parish opened its doors to English speakers, and has been a home to many English speakers ever since.

After Fr. Eugene’s repose in 1982, the parish was nourished for many years by Archimandrite Athanasy (Mastalski), and the divine services were conducted in the presence of the myrrh-streaming icon of the Righteous Anna, Mother of the Theotokos, of which Fr. Athanasy was the guardian. In 2011, Fr. Athanasy retired and spent the final years of his life in St. Tikhon of Zadonsk OCA Monastery in South Canaan, PA, where the icon of St. Anna remains to this day.

Assuming leadership of the parish was the young Priest Valery Sukholobov. It was Fr. Valery who celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the parish’s 65th anniversary, while his Matushka Elena directed the choir. The parish was filled with the faithful, who came to celebrate the parish’s patronal feast day and significant milestone.

Upon completion of the Liturgy, a short moleben was served before the icon of the Mother of God. Fr. Valery then addressed the faithful with a sermon, in which he said, in part: "Today we celebrate not only Sunday – the day of the Resurrection – but also our Lesser Pascha – the patronal feast of our parish, of our common home, the feast day of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos ‘Joy of All Who Sorrow.’ This is truly our shared feast day, especially for those who, by the will of God, struggle with the passions. For them, this feast is particularly close to the heart.

"The first mention of this icon was in 1688. Many know of the icon ‘Joy of All Who Sorrow "with coins,"’ which shone forth in St. Petersburg, but the original revealed itself in Moscow, and is kept there in an eponymous church on Bolshaya Ordynka. According to Tradition, the handmaiden of God Euphemia, sister of Patriarch Joachim, fell grievously ill. She heard a voice, which told her to pray before this icon, and she was healed. This miracle took place on October 24 (November 6 n.s.). From this time forward, the icon’s renown spread throughout Moscow and the entire Orthodox world. Today, there are many copies of this icon, no small number of which have been found to be wonderworking.

"The Most Holy Theotokos helps all of us, and the icon’s very name tells us that people come to it with their petitions and sorrows. This is relevant to many of us here. And the Mother of God receives every one of us with open arms, ready to embrace each of us, defending us from evil. I congratulate all of you, dear brothers and sisters, with the feast of this wondrous icon."

After the service, the parishioners gathered in the parish hall for a celebratory luncheon, during which parishioners shared their reminiscences of parish history.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese