It’s been said that God performs no miracle until all human resources have been exhausted. Both church history and our own lives are filled with examples of God’s strength made perfect in our weakness (2Cor. 12:9), and when His providential care produces miraculous results. The feast of the Protection of the Mother of God is a needed reminder that we are never alone, and all Heaven fights on our behalf in the vicious struggle against the spiritual wickedness that so easily entangles us in despair and destruction.
The historical background for the feast is year 911, when Constantinople was under siege by a powerful and determined enemy. Godly citizens filled the captal’s churches, one of which preserved the miraculous relics of our Lord’s Mother: her robe and veil. As the faithful fervently prayed for deliverance, two of the men–whom we today would classify as a pair of bums from Skid Row–beheld a vision above the congregation: the Mother of God was surrounded by a choir of angels, apostles, and prophets, holding her veil over the city and interceding on behalf of the faithful. The visionaries, Blessed Andrew, fool-for-Christ, and Epiphanius, his disciple, quickly spread the news of what they saw, and the people were encouraged to pray even harder. Ultimately, an unlikely victory was granted to Constantinople’s defenders, and the feast of the Protection of the Theotokos became a commemoration in church history of God’s presence and faithfulness towards his children.
This occasion reminds us that in Christ “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), that we should always be encouraged to live out the truth of the Gospel and expect great things from Good. The vision beheld by Blessed Andrew and his disciple is available to all Christians whose hearts are purified and whose spiritual eyes are attuned to the truths of our precious Faith. The Church’s fullness encompasses both heaven and earth, because in Christ we are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
Those who criticize the Church’s teaching about the Saints or their intercession on our behalf, do so because they don’t understand the full reality of Christ’s redemption: “having made known to us the mystery of His will… that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him” (Eph. 1:9-10).
Only in God’s eternal Kingdom will we fully realize the awesome mystery of being a Christian, that which the Apostle Paul described as “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). For now, however, we should receive by faith the wondrous beauty of God’s love, and rejoice in the fact that we have been adopted into an indestructible spiritual family, where the Lord’s Mother is also our mother (John 19:25-27), where we are “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), and that when we come to pray, we approach “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company angels, to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:22-23). This is our unshakeable hope in God and our unwavering confidence in Christ, our refuge in the Holy Spirit, as we face this life’s challenges and battle the sin which seeks to destroy us and others. Glory to God for being glorified in His saints!