For some time my brother in law had been looking for a job. He applied, had numerous interviews and, more than anything, spent much of his time waiting. These were difficult and stressful times for him and his young family: months and months of uncertainty. Despite the disappointments which each interview inevitably brought, he kept his faith. He prayed regularly and faithfully and quite fervently, convinced that his day was coming. Finally, glory be to God, it came and he was able to find a job. It was a good job, one in his own field which ended up taking him to the very center of the financial world: Wall Street. This meant that he had to move and as the move was sudden it found him a bit unprepared. In this new and bustling environment he had to quickly find a temporary place to stay before he got on his feet. Luckily, his new company offered him a solution: they had corporate housing which he could use during this interim period. As he was looking around this corporate apartment on his first day, trying to get settled, he opened one of the drawers and was shocked at what he found: it was an Orthodox icon of the Mother of God. Here – in not only this country’s – but the world’s financial capital, was this holy image waiting to be found. In truth, however, he did not find the Mother of God then, she had been with him all along and while he was praying to God that whole time to find a job, so she also prayed, interceding on his and his family’s behalf before the Holy Throne of God.
That’s what we celebrate today. Today is the feast of the Protection of the Holy Mother of God. This holiday, like all holidays, has a history to it. Namely, in the year 911, on October 1st,during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil in the Blachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. There was a man there named Andrew, who was a fool-for-Christ, he is a Saint in the church. When a Saint is given this title “fool-for-Christ” it is because of their outward appearance of insanity and madness but, in fact, they are filled with holiness and zeal for God. And with St. Andrew was his disciple, Epiphanius. At four o’clock in the morning, the Most-holy Theotokos appeared above the people, holding her omophorion outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by apostles, saints, martyrs and virgins. St. Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: “Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?” Epiphanius replied: “I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!” The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.*
We find ourselves in a very similar situation this morning. We’re all in church this morning. We too are in prayer. But what would we say, what would we do if – all of the sudden – we were to see the Holy Theotokos appear to us? You know, in reality, that’s not completely impossible. We know that in church, at the Divine Liturgy, we are surrounded by angels, we are surrounded by the invisible world. We know that in church, at the Divine Liturgy, the very Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is present. What’s more, as Christians, we know and believe that God watches over us and is with us everywhere we go. We remember the words of our Lord who says in Revelation, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me” (3:20).
More than anything today’s feast should remind us “that we sinners, upon whom the righteous anger of the Lord should come crashing down, are covered by the saving Protection of His Holy Mother. And when the Lord, angered by our sins, turns His holiest of eyes, He sees the Omophorion of His Mother. She has covered us. Let us never despair, regardless of our sorrows and trials, but always call on the Mother of the Christian race, that She not take away Her Motherly care.”** Amen.
**Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky)