Word Magazine October 1999 Page 21


By Fr. Stephen Rogers

To a child who is hurt, fearful or in distress, there is no greater place of warmth and security than the embrace of a loving mother. In times of great need, children will run to the loving arms of their mother.

Throughout history Christian people, be they individuals, residents of a particular city or citizens of an entire nation, in times of distress have turned for protection to an all-embracing mother, Mary, the Mother of God. Whether it be in monastic deserts or the crowded city streets of Constantinople, Orthodox people have looked to the most holy Mother of God as the Protectress and Defender of the Church, by virtue of her motherly intercessions to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

On October 1, the Church celebrates the feast of The Protecting Veil of the Most Holy Theotokos. This feast commemorates an event which took place at the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise. During an all-night vigil in the church, the Mother of God appeared to St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ, and his disciple Epiphanius. The Holy Theotokos was visible to these men above the people crowded into the church, stretching out a veil over them as though to protect them with this covering.

According to St. Andrew’s account, the Theotokos was clad in gold-encrusted purple and shone with a brilliant radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and holy virgins.

“Do you see how the Queen and Lady of all is praying for the whole world?” St. Andrew asked of Epiphanius.

“Yes, Father, I see it and stand in dread,” replied the disciple.

The celebration of the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos reminds us of this historical event and, more importantly, affirms the constant protection of the Mother of God whenever we sincerely seek it in times of distress.

Whether our attackers be physical or spiritual, the Mother of God serves as a motherly intercessor before Christ, desiring to place us under her protecting covering. Throughout the year the Church designates special times in which we may earnestly entreat the Theotokos for her protection. Friday nights during Great Lent and the two weeks prior to the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15) are times in which special supplicatory services are offered to entreat the intercessions of the Theotokos. Every service offered by the Church calls upon Mary, that through her intercessions we might receive the saving grace of her Son, the Christ.

Like St. Andrew, like the monks of Mount Athos, like Christians throughout the ages, we all should seek the loving embrace, the warmth and protection of the Most Holy Mother of God. As we seek to live our lives as Christians, the spiritual enemies who seek to destroy us are many. Against their attack we have a protection, a rampart in time of spiritual war. That protection is the Theotokos, our “Champion Leader,” who in the prayers of Little Compline is addressed as “the hope of the hopeless, the help of those who do battle; the ready help of those who flee unto thee, and the refuge of all Christians.” She who held the Son of God in her arms also desires to nurture his body, which is the Church. Let us all shout the words of the dismissal hymn of the feast:

“Today we Orthodox people joyfully keep festival, being illumined by thy glorious coming among us, O Mother of God; and gazing upon thy most pure image, we say with compunctions; shelter us with thy most precious protection, and deliver us from all evil, and pray to thy Son, Christ our God, that He may save our souls.”