We magnify thee, O all-immaculate Mother of Christ our God, and we honour thy labours and thy precious omophorion, for the holy Andrew beheld thee in the air, entreating Christ for us.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Warmest greetings to you all, as we celebrate the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Most-Holy Mother of God.
Slightly belatedly, tomorrow evening, in the church of St Mary, Butetown, we will pray before the icon of the Pokrov – Our Lady’s Protection and Intercession – as the contemplative focus of our service.
As we look at the icon, we see the Mother of God at the centre of the heavenly Church, flanked by St John the Forerunner and St John the Theologian, surrounded by the throngs of the heavenly powers and saints, interceding for us with the Mother of God, as Queen of Heaven.
Her omophorion, spread over the church below, is the physical sign of her spiritual protection, and her arms raised in prayer show that her intercession is the constant protection of the Church.
In ancient Israel, the queen -the geburah – was not the king’s wife, but his mother, who, enthroned at his right hand, interceded for those who sought the favour and mercy of the king.
On this feast, as the Queen of Heaven, we celebrate the Mother of God as our protection and intercessor with Christ, our King and our God.
The 10th century vision of the Blessed Andrew of Constantinople in the royal church of Blachernae, was a glimpse of the constant reality of the Mother of God and the heavenly Church interceding with the for the earthly Church and its faithful here below.
Such is the Christ-like love of the Mother of God and the saints, that those who have been translated into glory and have been vouchsafed to enter the courts of the Kingdom of God ever intercede for us before the Lord of Glory.
The heavenly throng continually grows with the repose of the new generations of saints whom God rewards in His Heavenly Kingdom, year by year, century by century. And, year after year we celebrate this feast as a reaffirmation of the protection and intercession of the Theotokos and the saints, caring for us and raising us to the Lord by their prayers.
Turning to our children and to those young and new in Faith, we should echo the words of the Blessed Andrew, who said to his disciple, the Blessed Epiphanios, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?”
Amidst the trials and difficulties of our lives, with our pressures and sorrows, when things may me seem hopeless and we may feel lost, we also need to repeat this constant spiritual reality to ourselves: the Holy Theotokos, is always praying for all the world!
In this reality, we need to discover hope, consolation and encouragement, and our Faithneeds to be bolstered and strengthened by the knowledge that Christ has given us His mother as our mother, whose icons day-by-day and feast by feast proclaim everything that she is to us; our Directress; our Unexpected Joy; our Unshakeable Wall; the Joy of all Who Sorrow; the Nurturer of Children; the Consolation of the Afflicted; the Seeker of the Lost; the Surety of Sinners; the Deliverance of Those Who Suffer from Misfortunes; the Giver of Reason.
May every feast of the Mother of God (whether of the events of her life or her wonderworking icons), every hymn and prayer addressed to her, each canon or akathist hymn written and chanted in her honour, bring us closer to her and help us to trust and find comfort in her constant intercession and protection, reminding us that she is always watching over us, wishing to protect us, and intercede for us whether we are aware or not.
But, for this to be a reality, we need to seek her protection; to flee to her in times of need; to go to her as our shelter in danger; to know her as our refuge in affliction. We have to do this of our own volition, as she will not force herself upon us or coerce us. Thus, she ever awaits us with patience, compassion and love. Waiting to hear our cry, her embrace and love for the Church and the world always awaits us.
Encouraged by this feast, let us strive to deepen our relationship with the Mother of God, proactively, with gratitude and loving devotion, and just as St John quite literally took her into his home, each of us must spiritually take the Theotokos into our homes; under the roof of our dwelling and within our hearts that she may always have a place there with us; and within our community of Faith – for the Mother of God is not only at the centre of the Heavenly Church, but also of the pilgrim Church, leading it by her intercession and protection to the Kingdom of her Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to Whom be honour, glory and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father, and His All-Holy, Good and Life-Giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
“Remember us in thy prayers, O Holy Virgin Theotokos,” the Church sings on this day, “let us not perish in our multiplying sins; cover us from all evil and fierce misfortunes; We trust in thee and, celebrating the Feast of thine intercession, we magnify thee”.
With love in Christ – Hieromonk Mark