We honor the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos,
with many solemn holy days during the Church liturgical year.
Feast Days of the Mother of God in the Byzantine Catholic Church are:
September 8 – the Nativity of the Theotokos
October 1 – Protection of the Theotokos
November 21 – the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple
December 8 – Maternity of Holy Anna (Immaculate Conception)
December 26 – the Synaxis of the Theotokos
March 25 – the Annunciation
August 15 – The Dormition of the Theotokos (Obligatory Feast)
The Feast Day of the Protection of the Theotokos
During the month of October, Eastern Churches hold in high regard the important feast day of “the Protection of the Theotokos”. This may also be known as the Patronage of the Mother of God. It is celebrated on October 1st.
This holy day has its origin in the era of the early Christian Church. Christians had gathered at a church in Blachernae, Constantinople around the time of 911 A.D. and in prayer sought the help of our Blessed Mother for protection from an invading enemy. Not only was the city spared from destruction by invaders, but another miracle occurred. In the church while the devout Christians were praying, the Blessed Mother appeared and prayed among them. In the apparition, she extended her veil over the faithful as an indication of her protection.
The Feast of the Protection of the Theotokos is celebrated mainly in Eastern Churches. The Slavic word “Pokrov” is associated with this commemoration. It is a word that has a double translation that refers both to cloak or veil as well as protection. In icons for the Feast, the Theotokos – the Mother of God – is portrayed with her arms outstretched uplifting her veil as a sign of her intercessory role of protection for all who place their complete trust in Our Lord. This gesture is gentle and loving in a motherly way, but also a sign of her solid strength, beckoning all to turn to her.
In our world today and especially as Christians, our need for protection through our most blessed Mother is very great. We face new types of threats, many so cunningly subtle we often fail to see how quickly these have crept into our lives or in how we think. We may not have invading foreign armies, but intuitively we sense the widening encroachment of other kinds of perils evident worldwide. Seeing with the eyes of faith, we are better prepared to discern the forces of darkness attempting to confuse and create division among people, and within every sector of society and the Church.
Yet we can find comfort knowing we have the protection of the blessed Theotokos when we seek her intercession. We are not alone. We are never alone really with God or with his beloved Mother pointing the way to remain true to the end. Near the closing portion of our Byzantine Divine Liturgy we sing these empowering words: “Keep us in your holiness so that all the day long, we may live according to your Truth.”
More than ever we must place our trust in God, and to seek in prayer the powerful refuge of our Blessed Mother. Her strength and fortitude against the assaults of evil are formidable. In our vulnerabilities and fears we should not forget we have a heavenly Mother to turn to for consolation and security.
Let us celebrate her love for us and for leading us always to her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And just as our blessed Mother was so amazingly strong to hold her Son — the Creator of the entire Universe — in her arms, she is equally able to understand and to carry the weight of our cares and needs.
Words sung during Divine Liturgy (October 1)
Protected by your appearance, O Mother of God,
today we devout people solemnly celebrate.
Gazing upon your most pure icon, we fervently say:
Protect us with your holy veil, and deliver us from all evil,
imploring your Son, Christ our God, to save our souls.
Today the Virgin is present in the Church,
and with the choirs of saints,
invisibly prays to God for us.
The angels worship with the hierarchs,
the apostles rejoice with the prophets;
because the Theotokos prays for us
to the eternal God.”