Icon "Softener of Evil Hearts" (Semistrelnaya)

This icon symbolically depicts the prophecy of St. Simeon the God-receiver about the sorrow of the Mother of God during the crucifixion of Her Son.

According to the evangelist Luke, the Holy Spirit foretold to the elder Simeon the God-receiver that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. And so, when on the fortieth day after the birth of the Infant He was brought to the temple in Jerusalem, Simeon went there, took the Infant in his arms (hence the nickname God-receiver) and uttered the famous words: 

 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29–32).

With a kiss of blessing Simeon softly placed Jesus back in his mother’s arms. 

Then turning back to Mary, he gently cupped her head with his hands and said:

“A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”(Luke 2:35).

With these words, he foretold the terrible sufferings that would pierce the heart of the Holy Virgin at the crucifixion of Her Divine Son. Seven swords are inscribed on the icon, which symbolizes precisely these sufferings. The icon is called "Simeon's prophecy", and because of its strong influence it was named: "Softening of evil hearts". 

Softener of Evil Hearts icon

As they will pierce Christ with nails and a spear, in a similar way some "weapon" of sorrow and heartache will strike the soul of the Most Holy Theotokos One as soon as he sees the sufferings of Her Son. And then the previously hidden thoughts (about the Messiah) will be revealed about the people who have to make a choice - are they with Christ or are they against Him? 

This interpretation of Simeon's prophecy has become the subject of several "symbolic" icons of the Blessed Virgin. 

The "Softener of Evil Hearts" icon probably originated in southwestern Russia, but unfortunately, there has never been any historical information about it. It is not even known where and when it appeared. The Mother of God in "Softening Evil Hearts" is depicted with swords driven into her heart - three on the right and left and one at the bottom. In the Holy Scriptures, the number seven usually means fullness, an abundance of something, and in this case - fullness and infinity of the sorrow, grief, and heartache that the Most Holy Mother of God experienced during her earthly life.

Very close to "Softening of Evil Hearts" is another miraculous icon - the icon of the Mother of God "Seven Arrows"(Semistrelnaya). The only difference between them is that on "Seven Arrows" the swords are depicted in a different way - three on the right side of the Immaculate Conception and four on the left.

 The "Seven arrows" icon is of northern Russian origin.

 She resided in the church "St. John the Theologian ”on the banks of the Toshna River, which flows into the river of the same name not far from Vologda. A peasant from the Kadnikov district suffered from lameness for many years and no one could help him. He dreamed of an icon of the Mother of God and heard a voice telling him to find it on the bell tower of the church "St. John the Theologian ”and to pray before her. 

The peasant has begged several times to let him go to the bell tower, but nobody did not believe his words. Finally, It was not until the third time that he was allowed to climb to the bell. He found the icon, covered with dirt and mud, that served as a step on the ladder and the bell ringers stepped on it as on an ordinary board. Terrified by the involuntary blasphemy, the clergy washed the icon and offered a prayer in front of it, after which the peasant was healed. 

 During an epidemic of cholera, the inhabitants of the city of Vologda made a liturgical procession with the miraculous icon "Seven-shot" and the deadly disease soon ceased.

These are just two stories of miracles performed in the prayerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin. Let us pray to her in our needs and for good intentions. Let us not forget and thank Her for Her intercession through Him - Her Son and Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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