THE PROTECTION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
The Feast of the Protection celebrates the day, over one thousand years ago, when St. Andrew, Fool for Christ, and his disciple, St. Epipanius, stood in church during the Vigil Service and beheld the Most-pure Virgin. Accompanied by St. John the Baptist, the Holy Apostle John, and other Saints, she stood tearfully praying for the people. Contemplating that event, we pause to consider the church building, to consider who is present, and who prays in, the church
We have become accustomed to seeing clergy, choir, and parishioners in attendance, but we have completely forgotten that others are invisibly present: God’s holy Angels, His holy Saints, the Most-holy Virgin, and our Lord Himself, are there as well. St. Andrew, St. Epiphanius, Venerable batiushka St. Seraphim of Sarov, and many other righteous ones could see this. We do not see, because it is “the pure in heart [who] see.” It is only the pure in heart who are capable of beholding what mystically transpires within the church; only they behold those who stand alongside us in church. I suppose that we could not bear the actual sight of the spiritual world as it really is. The more one grows spiritually, the more one can see and understand. For our part, we occasionally hear “Now the Hosts of Heaven invisibly worship with us.”
The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God reminds us that Heaven reaches all the way to the earth.
The Russian people have fixed this event, which took place in far-off Constantinople so many centuries ago, well in their memories. They have made the day of its commemoration their own day, a Russian holiday in honor of the Most-pure Mother of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
In times of national misfortune, as in times of individual trials and sorrows, Russian people rush to God’s temples, rush to the Protection of the Mother of God, and ask of the Queen of Heaven her defense and assistance: “Remember us in thy supplications, O Virgin Lady and Theotokos, that we not perish because of the multitude of our sins. Protect us from all evil and grievous perils, for in thee do we put our trust, and honoring the feast of thy protection, we magnify thee.”
At many different times, many Orthodox peoples have received help, comfort, strength, and salvation from the Mother of God. Thus, right now, at a time when the whole world is deeply worried by the recent tragic events of 11 September and by the possible consequences of those events, we would all do well to come to church and ask of the Theotokos her grace-filled intercession.
O Most-holy Theotokos – Cover us with thy wondrous omophorion, and preserve us from all evil!