The Protection of the Mother of God

The Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, known in Church Slavonic as Pokrov (Покровъ, "protection"), and in Greek as Skepê (Σκέπη), is a feast of the Mother of God celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). It is one of the most important feasts of the Russian Orthodox liturgical year. In Russia it is celebrated as the most important solemnity after the Twelve Great Feasts. The feast is commemorated in Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole, but by no means as fervently as it is in Russia and Ukraine.

The Russian word "Pokrov", like the Greek "Skepê" has a complex meaning. First of all, it refers to a cloak or shroud, but it also means protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the feast is variously translated as the Veil of Our Lady, the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos, the Protection of the Theotokos, or the Intercession of the Theotokos.

Tradition

According to Eastern Orthodox Sacred Tradition, the apparition of Mary the Theotokos occurred during the 10th century at the Blachernae church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) where several of her relics (her robe, veil, and part of her belt) were kept. On Sunday, October 1 at four in the morning, [http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/saints/andrew_foolish.htm St. Andrew the Blessed] Fool-for-Christ, who was a Slav by birth, saw the dome of the church open and the Virgin Mary enter, moving in the air above him, glowing and surrounded by angels and saints. She knelt and prayed with tears for all faithful Christians in the world. The Virgin Mary asked her son, Jesus Christ, to accept the prayers of all the people entreating him and looking for her protection. Once her prayer was completed, she walked to the altar and continued to pray. Afterwards, she spread her veil over all the people in the church as a protection.

St Andrew turned to his disciple, St. Epiphanius, who was standing near him, and asked, "Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?" Epiphanius answered, "Yes, Holy Father, I see it and am amazed!"

An icon of the Virgin Mary praying, surrounded by people, was said to be kept in the Blachernae church. It is said to reproduce the events as St Andrew saw them that day.

Feast and Icon

The feast day commemorating the miracle is held annually on October 1 (October 14 on the Gregorian calendar). It is served as an All-Night Vigil, with many of the same elements as occur on Great Feasts of the Theotokos. However, Pokrov has no Afterfeast.

In the fourteenth century, a Russian pilgrim and cleric by the name of Alexander saw in the church an icon of the Theotokos praying for the world, and depicting St Andrew standing in contemplation of her. According to the Primary Chronicle of St. Nestor the Chronicler, the inhabitants of Constantinople called upon the intercession of the Mother of God to protect them from an attack by a large Russian fleet (Russia was still pagan at the time). According to Nestor, the feast celebrates the destruction of this fleet sometime in the ninth century.

The icon of the feast, which is not found in Byzantine art, depicts in its upper part the Virgin Mary surrounded by a luminous aureole. She holds in her outstreched arms an orarion or veil, which symbolizes the protection of her intercession. To either side of her stand numerous saints and angels, many of whom are recognizable to the experienced church-goer: the apostles, John the Baptist, St. Nicholas of Myra, etc. Below, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ is depicted, pointing up at the Virgin Mary and turning to his disciple Epiphanius.

October 1 is also the feast of St. Romanus the Melodist, so he is often depicted on the same icon, even though he and St. Andrew lived at different times. He is often shown directly below the Virgin Mary, standing on a bema, or on a kathedra, chanting from a scroll. [Neil K. Moran; [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3dcUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA128&dq=pokrov+icon&lr=&sig=ACfU3U1N6OmsFbF6o5ogi4_a8vX4AJEBCA#PPA126,M1 "Singers in Late Byzantine and Slavonic Painting"] , p.126ff, BRILL, 1986, ISBN 9004078096] The scroll represents the various kontakia which have been attributed to him.

The feast day of St. Andrew, the Fool-for-Christ, falls on the following day, October 2 (in accordance with the Orthodox liturgical tradition of the Synaxis).

The Pokrov icon may well be related to the Western Virgin of Mercy image, in which the Virgin spreads wide her cloak to cover and protect a group of kneeling supplicants. This is first known from Italy at about 1280.

Churches dedicated to Pokrov

The first churches dedicated to feast of Pokrov appeared in Russia in the 12th century. Two of these churches are known all around the world: the Moscow Cathedral of Intercession Upon the Moat ( _ru. Храм Покрова "на рву," "Cathedral of Pokrov upon moat"), popularly known as the Saint Basil's Cathedral, and the Church of Intercession upon Nerl River ( _ru. Церковь Покрова на Нерли, "Tserkov Pokrova na Nerli") in Bogolyubovo near Vladimir.

ee also

*Intercession of saints

References

* [http://www.days.ru/Life/life1638.htm Покров Пресвятой Богородицы] (in Russian) The article was used for iconography description.

External links

* [http://www.wscsd.org/ejournal/article.php3?id_article=152 Celebration of Pokrov in Russia]
* [http://www.icon-art.info/topic.php?lng=en&top_id=101 Icons of the Intercession]
* [http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=102824 The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary] Icon and Synaxarion of the feast
* [http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=738 The Feast of the Holy Skepi of the Theotokos] from the Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
* [http://www.standrewfoolforchrist.org/PatronSt.htm Saint Andrew, Fool-for-Christ]
* [http://www.vmonastyr.ru Pokrovsko-Vasil'evsky monastyr (Protection-Basil monastery)]
* [http://pokrov-foundation.org Pokrov Foundation] , a Bulgarian Orthodox Christian organization


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