Thursday, October 01, 2009

Notes on the Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos.

In the Byzantine tradition, October 1st is the date of the Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos. Celebrated with particular devotion among Byzantine Slavs, this feast commemorates a Marian apparition that reportedly occurred at the Church of St. Mary of Blachernae in Constantinople sometime in the 10th century. In a more general way, today's feast celebrates the protection and intercession which countless Christian believers have sought from Mary, the Mother of God. The name of this feast is sometimes translated into English as "Protecting Veil of the Theotokos," evoking the image of Mary as a loving mother protecting her children within the folds of her cloak.

Today's feast day has become a particular favorite of mine, though I'm not sure that I could easily explain my attachment to it. Some readers may consider this something of a copout - especially given my similar comments about the Exaltation of the Cross a couple of weeks ago - but I've been tending more and more to the view that the affective quality of devotional life cannot be easily subjected to rational analysis. For more detailed thoughts on this feast day, I suggest that you read these words by Orthodox priest and blogger Father Stephen Freeman, who serves a small parish in Tennessee:
I reflected this morning on the "Veil of Protection" which we enjoy many times in the course of our life. Protection is more than the active warding off of enemies - it is sometimes a gracious hiding. My short trek to church this morning was through one of the fogs that blanket the Tennessee Valley this time of year. Many things are hidden.

Much of my life remains hidden even from myself. Who is there that knows all of his sins or all of the goodness of God? I think that these things remain hidden from us by the mercies of God. Who could bear the full knowledge of his own sins or even the full knowledge of the goodness of God? The depths of such things are hidden and revealed to us by a merciful God as and when they are good for our salvation.

The prayers of the saints, including those of the Mother of God, [are] a great mystery - they are part of the greater reality of life as communion with God. . . .
To read the rest, click here. AMDG.


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