Among the Marian feasts listed in our Liturgical Year, the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God deserves special consideration. The cult of the Mother of God as Protectress of our nation reaches like a golden thread from the times of the Kievan princes to the present day. The secret of honouring the Mother of God as a Protectress lies, perhaps, in the fact that we are dealing here not with human but with heavenly and more powerful intercession.
Every person, family and nation would like to enjoy such an intercession and protection. From the very beginning of our Kievan State, we have had great and powerful enemies. It is small wonder then that our people sought the assistance and protection of the Most Holy Mother of God whose intercession is all-powerful. For our people, then, the feast of the Patronage has always been, and still remains, a day of great manifestation of love and gratitude to the Most Holy Mother of God, a day of joyous praise and glorification of her protection and intercession.
The Institution of the Feast of Protection The chief motive that led to the institution of this feast was a vision granted to St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ, when the Saracens besieged the capital of Constantinople. The people, terror-stricken, gathered in the church of the Most Holy Mother of God at Blachernae where her mantle was preserved, and there they held an all night prayer vigil. The greatly distressed people filled the church to overflowing. Among the gathering were St. Andrew and his disciple. Epiphany, both of whom also prayed for the protection of the city.
After the service, St. Andrew saw the Most Holy Mother of God in radiant light as she was approaching from the royal doors (a name the Greeks gave to the main doors of the church) in the company of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Theologian and amid the singing of a great choir of Saints.
St. Andrew saw the Most Holy Mother of God in radiant light as she was approaching from the royal doors (a name the Greeks gave to the main doors of the church) in the company of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Theologian and amid the singing of a great choir of Saints
The Mother of God proceeded toward the altar where she knelt down and prayed long, shedding tears. Afterwards she arose removed from her head a luminous veil, and stretched it out wide over the people in church. Then she disappeared. St. Andrew and his disciple, Epiphany, saw the vision and understood that the Mother of God came to rescue the city. News of the miracle spread throughout the whole city like a flash of lightening. The enemy retreated and the city was saved.
From this veil, which in Slavonic is called “pokrov”, the feast got its name: “Pokrov Presvyatoyi Bohordoytsi” (The veil (or Protection) of the Most Holy Mother of God). The veil became the symbol of protection and intercession of the Blessed Virgin.
Who was St. Andrew the Fool? Historians generally agree that he was a Slav from the southern part of Rus-Ukraine. He together with other slaves, was brought to Constantinople where he became the slave of a wealthy Lord. Here he learned and loved the Christian faith. Meditating on the words of St. Paul: “We are fools for Christ, but you are wise in Christ” (I Cor. 4:10), he began to act like a fool, hence, his name. Having gained his freedom from his master, he spent much time in prayer and the reading of Holy Scriptures.
Some say that St. Andrew lived during the reign of Leo I, the Great (457-474), that is, in the fifth century, while others, who represent the majority, place the time of his existence during the reign of Emperor Leo VI, the Wise, (886-911), that is, at the beginning of the tenth century.
At what period of time did St. Andrew live and when did the miracle of protection take place? It is difficult to give a clear and adequate answer to this question. The opinions of the historians in regard to this question are divided. Some say that St. Andrew lived during the reign of Leo I, the Great (457-474), that is, in the fifth century, while others, who represent the majority, place the time of his existence during the reign of Emperor Leo VI, the Wise, (886-911), that is, at the beginning of the tenth century.
The feast of the Protection was a local feast among the Greeks, which they ceased to celebrate after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. No one knows precisely why October first became the day of the feast. Probably because St. Andrew had the vision on this day, or perhaps because, as some think, on that day the Eastern Church celebrates the memory of St. Roman the Melodist, who composed many hymns in honour of the Most Pure Virgin Mary. On the day following the feast, the Church commemorates St. Andrew the Fool.
The feast of the Protection enjoys a service similar to that of the great feasts with an allnight vigil, but is not one of the twelve great feasts, and has neither a pre-feast nor a post feast.