a priest's musings on the journey
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Mary, Our Lady of Help
When I was in seminary, it was my custom to make regular visits for prayer and retreat to the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood City, Pa. During one of my visits I saw an icon of the Mother of God which just drew me in and embraced my soul. I couldn't leave without her, so I decided to buy one of the icons. As she was wrapping the icon for me, Mother Christophora, the abbess, slipped a holy card of another icon into the bag and quietly said, "you need her too." The holy card was a reproduction of this icon, The Protection of the Mother of God (also known as the Theotokos' cerement, which in many Slavic languages has the double meaning of veil and protection.
The icon depicts the story of the miraculous apparition of The Most Blessed Virgin Mary at the Church of Blachernae in Constantinople in 911. The city was under threat of military attack by the Saracens, and the Church of Blachernae, which held the relic of the Virgin Mary's veil, was filled with the fearful citizens of the city gathered for an all night vigil to plead to God for mercy and protection. At 4 a.m., Andrew the fool,a Slav, and a slave who ahd converted after coming to Constantinople, looked up and saw the Mother of God walking in the air, accompanied by St John the Baptist, St John the Beloved, and hosts of angels. She went to the ambo, knelt, and while weeping, prayed silently for an hour. She arose and went to the altar and prayed once more that her son would hear the cries of his people for protection against things visible and invisible which would harm them. She then faced the people and spread her veil over the people as a sign of protection. Miraculously, the invading army retreated, and the city was spared bloodshed and suffering.
Other stories are told in Sacred Tradition about the protection of the innocent faithful from military attack. One tells how the city of Constaniople was spared from invasion by the Russians when the Archbishop of Constantinople placed Mary's veil in the waters, causing a violent storm to arise which destroyed many of the invading ships. In the Western tradition, Pope Pius VII attributed his release from imprisonment at Fontainebleau, where Napolean had held him captive, and Napolean's downfall to the Blessed Virgin Mary's intercessions. He returned to Rome on May 24, 1814, and in gratitude, he establishled a universal feast in honor of Mary, which we commemorate today, under the patronage of an invocation used at Loreto, Auxilium Christianorum : Mary, Our Lady Help of all Christians.
While I appreciate this patronage, I find myself also asking the Mother of God to spread her mantle of protection over non-Christian innocents who also deserve her intercessions. I pray that Holy Mary will watch over those of us who know God through Jesus Christ and interceede for our protection against the powers of evil. I also ask that she would spread her veil over the people of Iraq, the refugees fleeing Beirut, the displaced Sudanese, the homeless who move invisibly among us, those enslaved by thier own addictions, the victims of domestic violence, gays and lesbians who live in varying degrees of oppression throughout the world, children who are being physically, emotionally, and psycholigically abused, and all innocents who are suffering unjustly.
There are a few interesting websites that appeal to the Theotokos of Protection for help agianst injustice and oppression. Please check out pokrov.org- a site for victims of abuse in the Orthodox Church, and The Orthodox Peace Fellowship.
Other saints on today's calendar include:
Dominic, confessor - who founded the Order of Preachers
Vincent (of Lerins), confessor - from whom we have the Vincentian Canon as a rule for catholicity: "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus" - "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all".
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 10:02 AM
These are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing these.