Construction is underway for a church of the Antiochian Orthodox Church dedicated to the icon of the Mother of God "Unexpected Joy" in the Lebanese city of Zahle. On Friday, representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archimandrite Philip (Vasiliev), and the Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Rudakov, visited the construction site.
Archimandrite Philip and the ambassador participated in a prayer service at the construction site, led by Metropolitan Niphon of Philippopolis, a hierarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church.
This church is being built under the auspices of Metropolitan Niphon with the involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church. The foundation stone for the church dedicated to the icon "Unexpected Joy" was laid on November 8, 2021, by hierarchs of the Antiochian and Moscow Patriarchates.
The feast day of the icon "Unexpected Joy" is celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church on December 22 (December 9 in the old style) and May 14 (May 1 in the old style). The icon depicts a room where the image of the Mother of God holding the child Jesus is displayed. Kneeling in front of her is a young man in prayer. The beginning of the text that inspired its creation is placed below this inner icon: "A certain transgressor...".
The story behind this icon is linked to a miracle described by Saint Dimitry of Rostov in the early 18th century in the book "Sprayed Fleece" (1680).
According to the tradition, a young man, deeply entangled in sins and leading a sinful life, had the habit of praying before the icon of the Virgin Mary, uttering the archangelic greeting: "Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee." One day, preparing once again for a sinful act, the young man prayed before the icon of the Virgin as usual and suddenly saw the image come alive, Jesus' wounds opened and bled. In fear, he exclaimed, "O Lady, who did this?" To this, the Mother of God responded, "You and other sinners crucify My Son again with your sins." Only then did the abyss of his sinful state open before the young man. In tears, he prayed to the Mother of God and the Savior for mercy.
The Mother of God did not cease her prayers for the sinful young man until the Lord Jesus Christ forgave him. The young man received forgiveness when he least expected it, that is, when he had lost hope of being forgiven. From that moment on, he abandoned his former sinful life, started living honestly and piously, and until the end of his days, he thanked the Mother of God with tears for the unexpected joy of forgiveness and remission of sins granted to him through her prayers.