A homily delivered in the Three Hierarchs Chapel at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on the Feast of The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary (Wednesday, October 1, 2014).
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When one looks into today’s feast of Pokrov, the Protection of the Holy Theotokos, you can bump into a number of traditions which surround it. Its origins are attributed to a crisis in Constantinople. It might have been a crisis brought on by a siege by the barbarian Avars. Another says it was the Scythians who were besieging the city. Yet another story says it wasn’t a siege at all, but speaks of a horrible plague ravaging the city.
In the midst of the crisis, the faithful Christians assembled to keep vigil at the famous Blachernae church. In attendance were St. Andrew and his discipline Epiphanius. These men were granted a vision of the Holy Virgin, extending her veil over the assembled faithful, her veil of protection. The city was delivered from its crisis, and so we keep this feast in thanksgiving.
As it was over a thousand years ago, Orthodox people are gathered in another church. We are all here, each of us mindful of his or her own personal crises. Looking over the walls of our lives perhaps we see a thousand tiny campfires on the horizon: our fears for the future, laying siege to our hearts. Or maybe they’re our doubts, which will not leave us in peace, their noise constantly drifting over from the other side of the gate. Or perhaps a plague has struck us down with despondency, sapped our energy, and we’re lying sick with gloom.
A feast like today, then, brings us great joy and hope. We celebrate the Theotokos’ protection then but also her continued protection now. She hears our prayers and our sighs. We experience the consolation of God, mediated by her son, and at her intercessions. If we place ourselves in a position of humility, of love, of gentleness, of patience towards each other, then like those gathered in vigil facing their destruction, we place ourselves in a position where we too are able to receive her protection.
For this we can take inspiration from St. Romanos the Melodist, whose feast day is also today, and who joins the Mother of God in the icon of the feast. He stands on the ambo, holding up a scroll, a kontakion. When the attacks come in our lives, his familiar words from his familiar hymn, instinctively spill from our lips: “O Champion Leader, to you I offer thanks of victory, O Theotokos, you have delivered me from terror…” and our fears, doubts, depressions, and trials are brought before God’s mercy for healing and deliverance. Siege and sickness are transformed into another opportunity for the power of God to work in us as we emulate the Holy Virgin’s supreme fidelity to Christ.
We can be confident that no matter what this day brings, good or bad or in-between, we are strengthened by the Spirit of God, and as we leave this chapel and begin to go about our many tasks for today, we can do so with gratitude and thanksgiving that God has not abandoned us in our difficulties but listens to the petitions of his mother on our behalf. Amen.
The Rev. Kyle Parrott (SVOTS ’13) received his M.Div. from St. Vladimir’s Seminary and is currently completing a Masters of Theology at St. Vladimir’s. Father Kyle spent his early years in the Anglican church before becoming active in several Evangelical churches. His interest in missions led him to participate in short–term outreach in Grenada (in the Caribbean) and in Uruguay. The Parrotts’ daughter Sophia was born in 2011 at the beginning of Fr. Kyle’s studies. Matushka Leanne is a gifted photographer and has chronicled many events for the St. Vladimir’s Website.