Icon of the Mother of God “Softener of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.”
Commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints and on February 2/15.
The Softener of Evil Hearts icon is also called the Prophecy of Simon (or Simons Prophecy) since St Symeon said to Mary, upon the presentation of Our Lord in the temple:
“Behold, this child is set for the falling and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sin which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
February 2 is the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple. This celebrates the event when the baby Jesus was presented in the Temple according to Jewish law, and was received by the Elder Simeon and the Prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-38).
St Simeon prophesied about Jesus being the salvation of the world, and also had a prophecy for His mother, Mary. It is this prophecy which is the inspiration for the Icon of the Mother of God, “Softener of Evil Hearts”, also celebrated today.
The Theotokos is depicted in this icon with her heart pierced by seven swords; a symbolic number possibly indicating the the fullness and boundless sorrow, pain and “sickness of heart” that would have been experienced by the Mother of God at His crucifixion.
Just as Christ would be pierced with nails and a spear, so the soul of Mary would be pierced by a certain weapon of sorrow and pain in the heart, when she saw her Son’s suffering. After that, the heretofore hidden thoughts of the people regarding the Messiah would be revealed, and they would face a choice: to be with Christ, or against Him. Such an interpretation of Symeon’s prophecy became the subject of a number of icons of the Theotokos. All those who turn to them in prayer sense that with the softening of evil hearts comes an easing of spiritual and physical suffering. People come to recognize that when they pray for their enemies before such icons, their feelings of enmity are softened, and that internecine strife and hatreds abate, giving way to kindness.When we pray for before such an icon we are not accusing our enemy of evil, but confessing the evil in our own hearts, and asking for help.
“All who come with prayer to the ‘Softening of Evil Hearts’ icon will feel a softening of the heart,Sufferings of the soul and body are made well. If you pray for your enemies before it, their hostile thoughts will depart, leaving in their place a more generous feeling of mercy. Parishioners have witnessed not only cures of evil and envy, but the icon performs miracles for the health of our body as well. Holy Myrrh flows from the icon in liters.”said the Rector of Bogolubskaya cathedral, Father Victor, in the city of Pushkin outside of Moscow.
One source states “this icon protects the house against negative energies and envy”, and “it is often placed at the front door.”
The Mother of God is depicted without Her Child, with seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.
The icon “Simeon’s Prophecy” symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).
Do not confuse this with the “Semistryelnaya” type, “Of the Seven Swords” which shows Mary pierced by three swords on one side and four on the other, with no sword from below.This icon is commemorated August 13 in the Old Calendar.
The “Softener of Evil Hearts” icon is commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints and on February 2 / February 15.
Troparion, in the 5th tone
Soften our evil hearts, O Theotokos, * and quench the attacks of those who hate us * and loose all straitness of our soul. * For looking on thy holy icon * we are filled with compunction by thy suffering and loving-kindness for us * and we kiss thy wounds; * we are filled with horror for the darts with which we wound thee. * Let us not, O Mother of Compassion, * according to the cruelty of our hearts, perish from the cruelty of heart of those near us, ** For thou art in truth the Softener of Evil Hearts.