Many times has the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to different great saints, usually accompanied by one or two of Christ’s apostles, to St. Seraphim of Sarov appearing alone. But she never appeared to anyone in such glory as in the Blachernae Church in Constantinople, on this great feast day called Her Protection.
There were a multitude of people in the church, and amongst them was Blessed Andrew the fool-for-Christ with his disciple Epiphanios.
They were serving the All-Night Vigil. The people were fervently praying to be delivered from the invasion of barbarians, who were already just outside Constantinople.
At about four in the morning, Blessed Andrew suddenly saw beneath the dome of the church the Most Holy Theotokos, standing upon the clouds and surrounded by hosts of angels, apostles, prophets, holy hierarchs, and a multitude of great saints.
Blessed Andrew asked Epiphanios, “Do you see our Lady and Queen of the World?” “I see her, my spiritual father, and am struck with awe”, answered Epiphanios.
Before their eyes the Most Holy Theotokos descended, entered the altar, and prayed for a long time to God, kneeling before the altar table. Then she arose, came out to the ambo, and removing her large veil that shone with heavenly light and flashed like lightening, she spread it over the people praying there.
With this the wondrous vision of Andrew and Epiphanios ended.
In the morning it became known that at the dawn, the barbarians had withdrawn their attack on Constantinople and left.
I think that it is clear to you all what a great difference there is between this most glorious and wondrous appearance of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos and her many appearances to great saints, together with one or two apostles, or even alone.
I would like to deepen your attention and focus it upon the very important characteristics, which distinguish her wondrous appearance in the Blachernae church on the great day of her Protection.
Great of course is the difference between what we believe by hearsay or written message and what human eyes have seen.
True, not all those praying in the Blachernae church saw the vision of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, but only Andrew the fool-for-Christ and his disciple Epiphanios; however, the testimony of the blessed fool-for-Christ, who fulfilled in great measure the first gospel commandment of poorness in spirit, is quite convincing to us; for such a great saint, of course, could not lie or invent something that didn’t happen—and we can believe his eyes as if they were our own.
Let no one doubt what Blessed Andrew and his disciple Epiphanios saw with human eyes.
The Most Holy Theotokos never again appeared in such great glory, with a multitude of angels, apostles, prophets, and saints. Such an enormous and most glorious retinue as Andrew and Epiphanios saw could only accompany her who is holier than all the saints; and this divine testimony about her is of great significance to us.
We believe with our hearts that the Most Holy Theotokos always prays for the Christian race and intercedes for it before her Divine Son, but Blessed Andrew and Epiphanios were convinced of this by what they saw with their own eyes, when she descended from the dome of the church into the altar and prayed for a long time on her knees.
We recall that the Apostle Paul calls the devil the prince of the air, and with great gratitude to the Theotokos and her Divine Son, we understand the significance of Veil shining with divine light and stretched over the heads of the those praying there, by which she protected them from the prince of darkness and his angels that scuttle through the lower air, whom she defeated with the lightning of her prayers flashing from her Protecting Veil.
Do you see, O people of God, how great and holy for us is the meaning of the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos; how the vision of Blessed Andrew and Epiphanios strengthen our faith in her as the Fervent Intercessor for our world.
Let us love her with all our hearts, as little children love their mother, and render great glory and honor to her Divine Son according to human flesh—our Lord and God Jesus Christ, with His Pre-eternal and Beginningless Father, and All-Holy Spirit.