The Protection of the Mother of God
May God’s blessings be with you on this wonderful feast day of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos!
The feast that we celebrate today commemorates an event which occurred in Constantinople in the tenth century. The city was under threat by the invading barbarians and the people were assembled in the Blacharnae Church praying to God. Saint Andrew and his disciple Epiphanios were blessed to see the Most Holy Mother of God, along with St John the Baptist and St John the Theologian and other heavenly hosts. The Mother of God was praying and imploring with tears for the protection of the city and the Christians abiding there. Following her fervent prayers, she took her veil and spread it out over the church and city as a sign of her protection and prayers. The threat of the invaders was averted, and the people glorified God and His Most Pure Mother in gratitude for their salvation.
Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke very few words in His agony upon the cross… but one of the things that He did say to His mother and to the disciple whom He loved was: ‘Woman, behold thy son.’ And then to His disciple He said: ‘Behold thy mother!’ We, who as Christians are disciples of Christ, have been given the Most Pure Virgin as our mother, and she has been given to us as our mother and protector.
The intercessions of the Mother of God throughout Christian history are too numerous to count. Throughout the centuries her interventions and her prayers have strengthened and comforted the faithful. Her appearance in Blacharnae which we celebrate today is but one of the many visions and miracles manifested by her maternal love for the followers of her Son.
Those visitations and miracles have never ceased and continue today. How fortunate are we to be able to witness the miracle of her myrhh-streaming icons? To see and smell the fragrant oil which drips from her image, to receive anointing unto the healing of our souls and bodies? We are blessed indeed and should daily join our voice to the chorus of those from all generations who have called her blessed, and who have looked to her, beseeching her prayers to her Son and our God.
I very much like what Brother Nektary, the keeper of the Hawaii icon had to say about such miraculous icons… He said: ‘All icons are windows into heaven, but sometimes, as in the case of a myrhh-bearing icon, those windows have been left open.’
These visitations are a consolation to God’s people. There are many sources of concern for us today as we see a world which is so divided, which has lost its moral compass, and which seems to be teetering on the brink of disaster. The Orthodox Church is threatened from the outside by a world which has lost sight of God and from the inside by disorder and schisms.
One of the clear and potent messages of this great feast of the Protection of the Mother of God is that we are not alone. We are not orphans standing out in the cold of this world. Christ has given us His Mother to watch over us as a hen covers her chicks with her wing. One of our biggest problems is that we do not have the spiritual clarity to see this reality.
Just like the anxious disciples who were tossed to and fro upon the sea, we also allow ourselves to be caught up in fear in the face of the storms of this world. Is not Christ there at the helm? Is not His Most Pure Mother covering us with her protecting veil?
In this world we shall have tribulation, but we need not be afraid, for Christ has overcome the world.
We may still suffer… we may still behold real tragedies… but if we retain our faith in Christ our God, if we hold fast to the promises of our Lord… we will not allow those waves to drown us, we will keep peace knowing Who is ultimately in charge and Who is watching over us.
Just as the vision of St Andrew looked beyond the surface level of the imminent threat of the surrounding invaders – to see past that thin layer to the glorious reality of the presence of the Mother of God, her fervent prayers and her protecting veil. So too must we work to have our eyes open to the eternal realm which intersects and interplays with all the little triumphs and tragedies of our lives. Something greater is going on here… and it requires a purity of heart to perceive it. But it is real, and our attentiveness to that greater reality will guide and guard how we respond to any setbacks and drama that we may experience in the here and now.
May God grant us that purity of heart which opens the eyes of our soul. Which opens our eyes to the true meaning of this life and to the eternal consequences of each inclination of our heart and mind. Which opens our eyes to the on-going fulfillment of our Lord’s promise and the gift of His Most Pure Mother as our heavenly benefactor and protector.
Through the prayers of the Most Holy Mother of God, may Christ’s Holy Church be protected and preserved and may each of us realize and recognize the tremendous blessing and protection we have as children of the Most Pure Virgin and as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.