On the obverse of this traditional Orthodox eight-ended cross we see an icon of crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and St. John the Theologian, Apostle and Evangelist interceding mournfully. Weeping angels are flying above. Both worlds, earthly and heavenly were horrified by tortures of the Creator. But the Most Holy Mother of God suffered most of all, who by her body gave birth to the infant Christ, and nourished Him with Her milk. And so much the sublime was Her act of charity – despite cruel suffering the Most Holy Virgin Mary did not turn Her back on people who had crucified Her beloved Son but was merciful Mother for them and a Wealthgiver. Therefore every Christian in his (her) carols Our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God: “More honourable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim”.
Crowned by angels, surrounded by Seraphs and Cherubs, the Most Holy Mother of God is shown on the reverse of the cross as “Nursing the Child” (Madonna Lactans). In this wonder working image of Her the Most Holy Virgin Mary is worshipped as Giver of eternal life and merciful consoler. The icon is especially hallowed by young moms praying for the health of their children.
This great icon originally was in the Great Laura Mar Saba near Jerusalem. St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the founder of the Laura foretold brethren when dying that another Sabbas would someday come to the monastery, and ordered to give him a wonder working icon in token of blessing. In 13th century St. Sabbas, Archbp. of Serbia, a son of Serbian King came to the monastery. The monks gave him the sacred object; and he took it to the Hilandar Monastery at the Holy Mt. Athos and put it to the right of the iconostasis of the church in Careah Cell.
Copies of the wonder working image soon spread all over the South Europe – Italy, Greece, Balkans. In the south of Russia the icon as well became one of the most hallowed. By Her wonders the Most Holy Mother of God brought fame to the copy brought to Odessa by St. Gabriel of Athos at the end of 19th century. This wonder working image is now in the Monastery of the Holy Dormition in Odessa, in the side-chapel consecrated in the name of the icon “Nursing the Child”. On the icon frame there are the rarest sacred objects – a part of Christ’s Robe, and a part of chiton of the Most Holy Mother of God.
The Icon of the Mother of God “Nursing the Child” is commemorated in the Careah Cell on January 12 (December 25), on the Feast of St. Sabbas, Archbp. of Serbia.