Lydda Icon “Not Made by Hands”
When the Holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian were preaching Our Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Lydda, not far from Jerusalem, there was erected for the newly converted a church dedicated to the Most-holy Theotokos. Coming to Jerusalem, the apostles asked the Mother of God to visit, and by her presence to consecrate and bless the church. The Most-holy Virgin declared: “Go in peace, and I will be there with you as well.” Returning to the church, they saw on one of the support columns a marvelously beautiful image of the Most-holy Theotokos, “Not Made by Hands.” Later, the Mother of God visited the Lydda church and bestowed upon Her image special grace and power.
During the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363), a new miracle occurred in Lydda. Stone masons were sent to obliterate the miraculous image. However, no matter how they tried to erase the sacred image, it did not disappear, but instead penetrated deeper into the column. The glory of the grace-filled image spread throughout the world. A copy which was taken to Rome and which also received miraculous power is celebrated on 26 June, N.S.
Another Lydda Icon of the Mother of God “Not Made by Hands” exists. It is in a church erected in Lydda by Aeneas, who was healed by the Holy Apostle Peter (Acts 9:32-35). At the direction of the ruler, at a time when the Jews and pagans were bent on wresting the church from the Christians, the church was locked up for three days in anticipation of a sign by which to settle the dispute. When, three days later, the church was re-opened, everyone saw in it an image of the Mother of God “Not Made by Hands.”
In an epistle addressed to the iconoclast Emperor Theophilus (829-842), the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria wrote about both of the Lydda “Not Made by Hands” icons. The Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (912-959) mentions this epistle in his historic sermon about the Edessa Image of the Savior “Not Made by Hands.”
The wonder-working Lydda Icon is mentioned in the service for the Kazan Icon (July 8 & October 22) in the third Ode of the Canon. The It is also commemorated on March 12.