St. John the Baptist and the Holy Apostle St. John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. The Most-holy Virgin knelt, and for a long time remained in tearful prayer on behalf of Christians. Then she approached the Altar Table, and continued to pray. At the conclusion of her prayer, she removed her head covering and raised it over the people praying in the church, in token of protection from enemies visible and invisible. The Most-holy Lady shone with a heavenly light, and the omophorion was brighter “than the rays of the sun.” With trepidation, St. Andrew contemplated the marvelous vision, and asked blessed Epiphanios, his disciple standing nearby: “Brother, do you see the Queen and Sovereign Lady, praying for the entire world?” Epiphanios replied, “I see, holy father, and am terrified.” The Most-blessed Theotokos was asking the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all who called upon His Most-holy Name and who rushed to her for intercession. Along with the Angels with her in the air, the Mostimmaculate Queen prayed, “O Heavenly King, accept everyone praying to Thee and calling upon my name for help, that they not depart from my sight wasted and unheard.” St. Andrew and Epiphanios, who had been made worthy to see the praying Mother of God, “…for a long time gazed upon the covering stretched out over the people and upon the glory of the Lord shining forth like unto lightning. As long as the Most-holy Theotokos was there, the covering was also visible. Once she departed, it too became invisible. However, although she took the omophorion away, she left behind its accompanying grace.”
. . .That is what Church Tradition passes down to us regarding the Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos, which we celebrate on October 14. What for us is the PROTECTION of the Theotokos, the symbolic appearance of which was revealed to St. Andrew, Fool for Christ, in Constantinople’s Blachernae church?
The Protection of the Mother of God lies in her being the Mother of God. The Mother of God is that point on earth in which Incarnate God was realized, the point in which He, who had eternally been in God, found His temporal form of existence. The Mother of God is the center of two worlds, the world of the Divine and of the earthly. This is extremely important. It (i.e. the Nativity of God in the world) is what is most important in Christianity. Hence one may say that Christianity is a Theotokian religion, a religion of God-birth-giving: Christianity teaches us about how and why God was born in the world. God was born (i.e. was Incarnate) in the world in order to realize and restore/renew the idea, conceived before all ages, of man as the object of His love.
In order for the immemorial idea of Theosis (deification, attainment of likeness to or union with God) to be accomplished, God, when creating man, instilled in him His Image and His Likeness. Thereafter, God’s revelation to the world has been in human form: It became possible to talk about God, that is to say about His love, His beauty, His truth, His freedom, by looking upon man. Therefore, biblical concepts and words pertaining to man and attributed to God are not, as some propose, simply naïve allegories, but rather comprise a great truth — the truth of the community of God with man: Godliness in man, and humanity in God!
The problem is that the first-created man (Adam) fell, and with him and through him, all God’s Creation departed from God. In order to return man to the likeness of God, the Son of God, the New Adam, eternal Christ, was sent into the temporal world. Taking upon Himself fallen human nature, He transfigured it and raised it up into the Heavens to God the Father. Thus, for the world lying in evil, Incarnate Christ is “Savior,” but salvation would not have been needed had the first Adam not sinned; then the God-Man/God-Incarnate Christ would not be “Savior,” but would simply be “God-Man/God-Incarnate.”
Christ received his human nature from the Ever-virgin Mary. Through her, fallen humanity consented to its restoration, by saying to the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Through the Theotokos, something beyond comprehension, the union of what cannot be joined together – the Creator and His creation – is accomplished. What a wealth of treasure and wisdom and love God has for man! The Creator unites with His creation, and in that union, His creation does not burn to ash in the fire of Divinity. That is the meaning of the Protection of the Mother of God. Because of that protection, the Church attributes to the Mother of God the most beautiful, precious names! What a plethora of terms and poetic comparisons are used to honor the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary! Here are some of the liturgical terms that the Church uses to describe the Unwedded Bride, the Virgin Mary: The Mother of God is the Queen of Heaven and the central point of beauty of the earth; she is the flower of the earth, and a hyacinth, azure vase; she is a sweet-sounding lyre, she is a most-holy ark and a sunbright ray; she is incense and the Spring of grace; she is precious myrrh and a gold/porphyry robe; she is all-holy, and robed in the sun; she is the pearl of the kingdom; she is joy, praise, chanting and glory… She is the power of Divine infiniteness . . ..
Glory to God, Who hath shown us the light, and Who hath given us such an Intercessor!
Parish Life, a monthly publication of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist Washington, DC. October 2017