|O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!|
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A mark of the Orthodox Faith is our veneration of the Mother of God. For those Just coming to Orthodoxy, this at first seems strange, until we consider her place in the plan of salvation. It is through her willingness to humbly submit to God’s will that our Savior was born into the world. She is indispensable, therefore, to His incarnation. She herself prophesied in her song in the Gospel of St. Luke that all generations would call her “Blessed.”
We are among those countless generations who have looked to her example and call upon her intercessions on our behalf. The efficacy of her intercessions, as well as that of all the Saints, is part of the fabric of our Faith. Among the many instances of her help for us, we remember especially her protection of the Christian people in Constantinople from invasion. The feast commemorating this event we call the Protection of the Mother of God, and it occurs on the 14th of October (the 1st on our Church calendar).
The Lord shows how He is “wondrous in His saints” through His mysterious use of icons, both as focus for our prayer and as emblems of His mercy. We remember the many miraculous icons of the Mother of God that adorn the history of the Church. These wonders persist into our own time. We have witnessed the myrrh streaming from the wonder-working Iveron Mother of God, now lost. We have witnessed the healing that God has granted to those who seek her help before this icon and, of course, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Sign, the Protectress of the Russian diaspora. Copies of these and many others adorn the walls of our little mission. There is a Russian traditional icon that shows all the saints of the year, rank on rank in the body of the icon, and the margin contains many wonder-working icons of the Mother of God. Just as with all the saints, however many can be painted into the icon, it is still only a representative number.
God willing, this month Matushka Deborah and I will receive a commissioned copy of the icon of the Mother of God, “Multiplier of Wheat,” written by Matushka Daria Carney, the iconographer of our temple icon of the Holy Apostles. (Together with her husband, Father Michael Carney, she should be remembered in our prayers.) The original was written at the behest of Holy Elder Ambrose of Optina Monastery. Showing the Mother of God hovering in the clouds and extending her hands in blessing over a field of standing and shocked ripe grain, St. Ambrose intended it to show that she is a “helper for people in their labors for acquiring their daily bread.” After the Saint’s death, his attendant wrote and gave a copy of the icon to a women’s monastery dedicated to St. Paraskeva / Pyatnitsa. Later, wide areas of Russia experienced a drought and were threatened with famine. A moleben was served before this icon, rainfall began, and the drought was ended.
St. Ambrose proclaimed the feast day of this icon to be the 28th of October (the 15th on the Church calendar). As if for emphasis, it happened in God’s good time that St. Ambrose’s funeral took place on that date. On or about that day, depending on the arrival of the icon, we hope to gather at the church to serve a moleben and akathist before it, using the text of St. Romanos’s great hymn which is appointed to be sung at the Laudation of the Mother of God during Great Lent. As it also happens, this great hymnographer, called the “sweet singer,” is commemorated together with the Protection on the 14th.
On these special occasions, we gather for corporate remembrance, and this prayer together should stimulate us to never neglect like prayers in our individual prayer life. As we struggle for our “daily bread,” we should also remember that our struggle is blessed by our Lord in His prayer to the Heavenly Father, and, accordingly, by the protection and intercession of His most pure Mother.