Today, dear brethren, we celebrate the glorious feast of the lightning-like Archangel Michael and all the heavenly bodiless powers. On this day let us talk of the boundless world of the angels; of their nature, of their hierarchy, and of the infinite mercy of God which has added us, Orthodox Christians, to this angelic host and has a formed a single Church made of angels and men; and subsequently of our responsibility to venerate them in a worthy manner and try to emulate them as our future compatriots in the celestial homeland; for which we earnestly pray to God, our common Creator.
St. Cyril of Alexandria says: If our earth, which serves as a focal point between two worlds, carries upon itself such a countless multitude of people and various other creatures, then how many times greater is the number of denizens inhabiting the immaterial heaven, which is so immense and incomprehensible to the mind?
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.
"And when the centurion, who stood near Him,
saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit,
he said, 'Truly, this man was the Son of God'".
Thus began the faith of the centurion. It is clear that this cry of Christ expressed a treasure of moral content in a spirit which the centurion understood. Such a connection between a tormenting cry of the soul and the beginning of a new grace-filled life in one who has heard it, is found repeatedly in the Holy Scripture. We will begin a survey of these places in the Scripture with the most dramatic one, found in the Book of Esdras:
I lifted my eyes, and on my right hand I saw a woman, and behold, she mourned and wept with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved in heart, and her clothes were torn, and she had ashes upon her head.
In the Prophet Ezekiel (9:6), it is said that when the Angel of the Lord was sent to punish and destroy the sinning people, it was told him not to strike those on whom the "mark" had been made. In the original text this mark is called "tau," the Hebrew letter corresponding to the letter "T," which is how in ancient times the cross was made, which then was an instrument of punishment.
So, even then, it was foretold the power of the Cross, which preserves those who venerate it. Likewise, by many other events in the Old Testament the power of the Cross was indicated. Moses, who held his arms raised in the form of a cross during the battle, gave victory to the Israelites over the Amalekites. He also, dividing the Red Sea by a blow of his rod and by a transverse blow uniting the waters again, saved Israel from Pharaoh, who drowned in the water, while Israel crossed over on the dry bottom (Exodus, ch. 14, 17).
Through the laying on of his hands in the form of a cross on his grandsons, Jacob gave a blessing to his descendents, foretelling at the same time their future until the coming of the "expectation of the nations" (Genesis, ch. 48).
The present Feast is for us the beginning of feasts. Serving as boundary to the law and to prototypes, at the same time it serves as a doorway to grace and truth. “For Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4), Who, having freed us from the letter (of the law), raises us to spirit. Here is the end (to the law): in that the Lawgiver, having made everything, has changed the letter in spirit and gathers everything in Himself (Eph 1:10), enlivening the law with grace: grace has taken the law under its dominion, and the law has become subjected to grace, so that the properties of the law not suffer reciprocal commingling, but only so that by Divine power, the servile and subservient (in the law) are transformed into the light and free (in grace), so that we are not “in bondage to the elements of the world” (Gal 4:3) and not in a condition under the slavish yoke of the letter of the law. Here is the summit of Christ’s beneficence towards us! Here are the mysteries of revelation! Here is the theosis [divinization] assumed upon humankind, the fruition worked out by the God-Man.