The most moving experience I have had with an icon was seeing the (previously unknown to me) icon of Our Lady of Tolga in Russia. The icon, 700 years old, is considered a miracle-working icon, and is the treasure of the Tolga Monastery, home of a large community of Orthodox nuns.
We filed into the small, dimly lit wooden chapel. There was a large oriental rug on the floor. As is the norm in an Orthodox church, there were no benches or seats. The icon was on an stand, and one by one we had an opportunity to approach and kneel down to venerate the image. Towards the back of the room, a nun stood and softly chanted. The prayers of the nuns are continuous– 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each nun stands for over an hour, praying aloud in the Presence of Our Lady, until someone else came in and picked up on the next word. There was no other sound.
The icon itself is not particularly beautiful in the usual artistic sense, the artist perhaps less technically skilled. Yet this image is spiritually powerful. It had such an impact on me that I was actually unable to look directly at it. My eyes would flick up towards it, then look away, sometimes awash with tears, at other times simply unable to look up and meet the gaze of the Theotokos and Christ Child. I felt my heart open up, felt the presence of Our Lady, as I prayed for my sons and family. It is good to know that the nuns are at prayer right now in that still, quiet room, lifting our collective petitions and gratitude to heaven.