On October 14th (October 1st old calendar) the Church triumphantly and joyfuly celebrates the Protection of the Most Holy Virgin. This holiday is a favorite of the Russian Orthodox people. It was established in the 12th century by the Russian Church. The historical basis for the feast is the rescue of the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, from attack over 1000 years ago.
It was during an All-Night Vigil in the Blachernae church, overflowing with those at prayer, that at the fourth hour, the Fool-for-Christ St. Andrew beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos entering the Royal Gates of the temple surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. After praying for a long time she took off her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies. The most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more that the rays of the sun.” While gazing at the miraculous vision with trembling, Saint Andrew asked his disciple Epiphanius, “Do you see the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see Holy Father, and I am in awe.”
Who was this Blessed Andrew that was chosen to see the Mother of God? Andrew, a Slav by birth, was the slave of a rich man, Theognostus, in Constantinople. Theognostus liked Andrew and saw to his education, teaching him reading and writing. Andrew was a calm and kind-hearted young man. He liked to read the lives of Saints, study the Scriptures and often go to church. Gradually the desire to devote himself to God grew stronger and following a sign from above he left worldly honors behind and took on himself the ascetic feat of being a fool - for - Christ, that is he acted as if he were insane. Andrew lived in the streets, hungry, wearing rags and shunned even by beggars. But for his extreme humility, fasting, unceasing prayer and spiritual purity, he was given by God the gifts of discernment and prophecy.
And so we see that it was not someone of episcopal or other priestly rank, neither patriarch or bishop; nor the emperor or some other royalty, nor someone from the academic world with which Byzantium was so rich, nor any other of the eminent citizens of the capital that was selected to see the mystical vision of the Mother of God in the Blachernae temple. This was granted to the fool – for – Christ Saint Andrew and his disciple Epiphanius to see this great and awe-inspiring vision.
During this feast the Holy Church celebrates the great and joyful revelation of a light of protection for the world and the great love of the Mother of God. For not only on that day more than a thousand years ago in the Blachernae temple did the Virgin pray, be she has continued to pray for the world and will continue until the end of the ages. And not only over those then in the temple did she spread her fair veil. But also over the whole world and all mankind and over us sinners, is spread the radiant and saving Protection of the Mother of God.
The Most Holy Virgin, Mother of God is the mediator between heaven and earth, the intercessor for the world before the throne of the glory of God. The world is not left in sorrow, mankind is not left to grieve alone. The Mother of God grieves and cries for us. We know that we are great sinners, but we also know that we are not forgotten by the Mother of God who is close to every human soul. What is more comforting?. Throughout all the centuries the hearts of believers have been illumined with the joy of the Protection of the Mother of God, the joy of her prayers for the world. Yes, the joy and light of the Protection of the Mother of God is on us, in us, in our hearts and in our country.
From the book « Wonder-working Icons Mother of God in Russian History ».