Patronage of the Mother of God

Iconography of Patronage of the Mother of GodOctober 1

The feast of the Patronage of the Most Holy Mother of God commemorates the constant help that our heavenly Mother gives to those who ask her help and protection.  The feast came into being because of the following event.  During the reign of Constantine VII (Porpphyrogenitus), 913 – 959, the Saracens were trying to take Constantinople and had begun the decisive battle.  The terror-stricken people gathered in various churches of the city to pray.  In the Blachernae Church near Constantinople, during the night services when the faithful implored the Mother of God for help, St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ’s Sake, and his disciple. St. Epiphanius, saw the Mother of God appear in a cloud and pray with outstretched hands together with the people.  Then, at the close of her prayers, she removed her beautiful veil (omophorion) from her head and held it over the faithful as a sign of her unfailing protection.  The next day the city was freed from danger.

According to another source, this miraculous appearance of the Mother of God took place during he reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, in 903 A.D., when a dreadful epidemic afflicted Constantinople, killing great numbers of people.  The faithful prayed in their churches, imploring God to be merciful, and called on the help of God’s Mother.  It was at this time that she appeared holding her veil over the people.  From that hour, the plague ceased in the city.

Whichever account we accept as being true, the theological content of each demonstrates the undeniable fact that “never was it known that anyone who fled to Mary’s protection, implored her help or sought her intercession was left unaided” (St. Bernard).  In reading the lives of the saints and confessions of sinners, we notice repeatedly that they acknowledge Mary the loving mother as their valiant intercessor who consoled, comforted, and soothed them as her sick children.

The feast was first introduced in the Church of Constantinople and from there spread among the Greeks and Slavs.  The Slavic people embraced the feast in the twelfth century.  After the fall of Constantinople, the Greeks discontinued its celebration, but it has been kept among the Slavs until the present day.

The ceremonies prescribed for this feast are similar to those of other feasts of the Mother of God, though it has neither a pre-festive nor post-festive period.

In both the troparion and kontakion, there is a brief description of the event on which the feast is based: ”Protected by your coming, O Mother of God, well believing people solemnly celebrate today and gazing upon your immaculate image, they humbly say: watch over us with your noble protection, and deliver us from all evil by asking your Son, Christ our God, to save our souls” (troparion).  “Today the Virgin is present in the Church and with the armies of saints invisibly pray to God for us; the angels worship with the archangels and the apostles rejoice with the prophets, because in our behalf the Mother of God prays to the eternal God” (kontakion).

The history of the feast is repeatedly described in various hymns and chants.  Let us take, for example, one from the litia of the feast:  “Let us, the assembled faithful, honor on this day the immaculate Queen of all, the Virgin most pure and the Mother of Christ our God, for she always entreatingly extends her hands to her Son.  The admirable Andrew saw her in the church as she was protecting the faithful with her venerable veil.  To her let us sincerely sing: Rejoice patroness, protectress and salvation of our souls.”

It is well to notice that on the next day, October 2, the Church honors St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ’s Sake, who was deigned worthy to see the Mother of God during her apparition at Blachernae.

–Basil Shereghy

Next Feast Days

September 14 Exaltation of the Holy Cross
 October 1 Patronage of the Mother of God
 October 26 Feast of St. Demetrius
 November 8 Feast of St. Michael