Saint Metropolitan Philaret (Voznesensky) of New York, The New Confessor – Homily for the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Joyous for the faithful heart is the feast of the Protection of the Mother of God! It reminds and strengthens us so vividly and evidently in our hope that we all are not forgotten by the Most-Pure and Most-Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the human race, who protects all Christians by her saving and merciful Protection.
As the great Abba of Russia Abroad, His Blessedness Metropolitan Anthony, once pointed out, the festive celebration of the feast of the Protection of the Theotokos by the whole Russian Church testifies that spiritual roots stood above all else for the Russian people.
For the feast of the Protection of the Theotokos reminds us of an event that took place long ago, and an event in which our ancestors suffered defeat against the Greeks, who were under the Protection of the Theotokos. It turned out, however, that the Greek Church celebrates this feast very little, hardly marking it at all, while the Russian Church and the Russian celebrate the Protection of the Theotokos so festively, that it reminds us of the celebration of the twelve feasts, the greatest feats in our church year. Of course, the reason for this is the calming and encouraging character of the feast. The Theotokos protects the people praying in church. We know this from the great saint and witness of spiritual mysteries, Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ, who testified that the Queen of the heavens did not separate the bad people from the good and the pious: She covered all those standing in the church with Her goodness. That is what the Russian people believed, that She, the All-good Mother, covers all with Her Protection.
Life is now difficult. It was never easy, but now it is especially confusing and it has in many ways lost its Christian roots. Everywhere man is suffocating in today’s atmosphere. Sometimes it may even seem to him that he is alone, that there is no help, and that spiritual demise inevitably awaits him. But the Church sings in one of its best chants: “To the Theotokos let us run now most earnestly, we sinners all and wretched ones, and fall down in repentance calling from the depths of our souls: O Lady, come unto our aid, have compassion upon us.” Help us, showing compassion unto us!
That is Who stands guarding people from misfortune and from sorrow–She, Who lived through suffering and sorrow more than anyone else. For when She, having already suffered greatly, stood at the Cross of Her Son, then the foretelling of the righteous Simeon the God-Receiver on the day of the Meeting of the Lord rightly came true in reality: Her purest and holiest of souls was pierced through by a weapon. We cannot even imagine what Such a Mother went through seeing the incredible and superhuman sufferings of Such a Son. Her powerful and patient heart would not have withstood this suffering; it would have been torn apart, if the Lord Himself had not strengthened Her with His grace during Her torment at the Cross, which was greater than any other suffering of any mother. So She, who suffered thus Herself, understands human troubles and especially a mother’s sorrow, along with whom She suffers. That is why She is considered the defender of every suffering mother. But She cares for everyone and raises Her hands to the Lord of Glory and to Her Son on everyone’s behalf, and She covers everyone with Her All-Powerful Girdle. When one mother, who had many children, was asked which of them she loves the most and which of them she would grieve over most if she were to lose one, the mother answered: “Whichever finger you cut off, it will hurt.” The Most Pure Virgin could have answered thus, because when the Lord Jesus Christ left Her as the Mother of Saint John the Theologian, She adopted all of mankind, and She is considered the Mother of the Christian race.
Can a mother not hear her children? All the children have to do is not abandon their Mother! One spiritual father told his spiritual daughter, who was sorrowing: Pray to the Theotokos, but pray so that She can hear you! And what Mother will not hear her child and try and help?
Let us remember this. Joyous is the day of the Protection of the Theotokos. It reminds us that we sinners, upon whom the righteous anger of the Lord should come crashing down, are covered by Her saving Protection. And when the Lord, angered by our sins, turns His holiest of eyes, He sees the Girdle of His Mother. She has covered us. Let us never despair, regardless of our sorrows and trials, but always call on the Queen of Heaven and the Mother of the Christian race, that She not take away Her Motherly care. Amen.