HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE PROTECTION OF THE HOLY VIRGIN
- HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE PROTECTION OF THE HOLY VIRGIN
Once again we have gathered, dear brethren, for a feast of the Most-pure
Theotokos; once again we shall hear the Gospel reading, so familiar to us,
about the meeting of the two joyous Mothers ? Mary and Elizabeth; once
again we shall exclaim together with the Theotokos: "My soul doth magnify
the Lord and My spirit doth rejoice in God, My Saviour"; once again we
shall joyously open our lips and gladly sing praises to Her miracles.
And this is truly a miracle of God's mercy that it is so easy for our
hearts to open up to hymning the Mother of God, that not only are we not
wearied by the frequent feast days of the Virgin, but after each one passes
we impatiently wait for the next one, which proves how much we love Her Who
is more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than
The Holy Protection Today's feast has its special characteristics which
make it particularly precious to us. The Most-pure spread Her veil over a
city that was under siege, over a people who had no other hope except the
help of the Queen of Heaven; and She interceded for this people. And thus,
from this ancient historical fact into the Christian soul has entered the
assurance that when there is no other intercessor, no other comfort, no
other joy, when the heart is ready to accept the bitter idea that it is
lonely, forgotten and unneeded by anyone, ? then it suffices just to
remember that we have a kind, merciful and compassionate Mother Who sees
our needs, hears our entreaties, and is always ready to help us, support
us, comfort us; it suffices to remember all this and appeal to Her, the
Most-pure and Most-blessed, with all our heart, cry out to Her ? and then a
miracle will occur: sorrow will pass, and a quiet, tender joy and
reconciliation to God's will shall fill our soul.
These spiritual emotions ? both sorrow and the joy that follow it ? are
facts, reality, actuality. We know where sorrow comes from, what gives rise
to it; we should also know exactly where joy comes from, in order not to
think of it as happenstance, as something which occurs of its own accord or
from a change of inner mood.
The Church helps us examine our soul and see the source of its joy. In
today's kontakion it will point out to us that "today the Virgin standeth
forth in the Church and with the choir of the saints She invisibly prayeth
to God for us."
Can there be any sadness or affliction where the Queen of Heaven spreads
Her glittering veil? Where people appeal to Her with prayer? Can we doubt
Her unseen presence among us? If we purify our feelings so that our heart
would not be subject to any earthly passion, then by the prayers of the
Theotokos the joy of Christ will once again encompass us and will be the
source of everlasting spiritual comfort. Amen.
Protopriest Igor Hrebinka.
THE ICONS OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
The icon is not a portrait or a picture. It is a likeness of a divine,
heavenly appearance, and we pray not to the icons themselves, but through
them we reach the depicted Prototype. For this reason there is nothing
worldly or carnal in icons, and their forms reveal to us the mystery of the
invisible, divine world. It is not faces, but images that look out at us
from icons, and the profound gaze of these images imparts to them an
expression of strict yet kindly repose and a grief devoid of pain, both
alien to worldly vanity. Artistic perspective has no place in an icon.
Nature and architectural details are depicted in it to intensify movement
and the expression of emotion. The icon truly becomes an icon only through
consecration. Through consecration the impassable boundary between a
religious picture, however lofty its religious content and artistic merit,
and an icon, however modest it is in this regard, is crossed. The
consecration of an icon with holy water imparts to it the grace of the Holy
Spirit, which is revealed in certain icons in the form of a special mercy
of God ? their miraculous nature. Iconographers were usually monks, and
they approached their work with prayer and fasting. Icons are not signed by
the iconographer, since they are painted not for personal glory, but for
the glory of God.
Icons of the Mother of God are of three types:
1) The Eleousa (Merciful, Compassionate). This form arose in Byzantium in
the 11th century, and conveys an affectionate relationship between the
Infant and His Mother, Who foresees the sufferings that await Him. The
divine Infant's cheek touches that of the Mother of God Who, inclining Her
head, supports the Infant Who movingly encircles Her neck with His arm.
(The Vladimir and the Feodorovskaya icons are of this type.)
The "Vladimir" Mother of God. Andrei Rublev. 1408.
The Iveron Mother of God 2) The Hodigitria (the Guide). According to
tradition this icon was painted by the Evangelist Luke and sent by Empress
Eudocia (399-453) to Constantinople. In this icon the divine Infant is held
in the arms of His Mother, yet does not touch Her cheek, but sits a little
withdrawn, gazing out before Him. The Theotokos points to the Infant
Saviour (the Way) with Her right hand, and Christ holds a scroll in His
left hand, while with His right hand He conveys His divine blessing. (The
Kazan, Tikhvin, Smolensk and Iveron icons are of this type.)
3) The Orans (the Virgin of the Sign). In this type of icon the Mother of
God is depicted with upraised arms, the preeternal Infant in Her womb. Here
the depiction of the Mother of God is frontal, half-figure or full-figure,
Her hands raised to the level of Her shoulders, Her palms facing out
towards us. Her body bears a circle in which appears a round representation
of the divine Infant. This icon depicts the Conception ? the mystery of the
appearance of Christ in the world. (The Kursk-Root and the Novgorod
Theotokos of the Sign icons are of this type.)
The icon of the Mother of God
"Of the Sign"