The Radiant Protection Over the World
Oration on the Day of the Protection of the Mother of God
Fr Sergius Bulgakov
This [vision] happened near the end of the life of the blessed Andrew. It was toward the end of the all-night vigil in the church of Vlaherna that he saw the Mother of God enter the church through the imperial (western) doors surrounded by heavenly hosts and a multitude of saints. She was supported by Her relative, John the Forerunner, the greatest of those born of women, and by Christ's beloved disciple, John the Theologian, given to Her as a son by the Lord when He was on the cross, these two great Johns. She approached the pulpit, and St. Andrew asked Epiphanius: "Do you see the Empress of the world?" And Epiphanius answered in trepidation: "I see, father, and I am terrified." Genuflecting, the Mother of God prayed for a long time, Her tears covering Her divinely beautiful and pure visage. The Mother of God prayed, genuflecting; the Empress of the world wept for the world. Having finished Her prayer on the pulpit, She approached the altar, and here once again prayed for Her people. When She finished Her prayer, She removed from Her head Her homophorion, Her veil which shone like lightning, and with great solemnity She spread it over the people. And both saints saw this shining of God's glory as long as the Most Pure One remained in the church; it became invisible only after She departed.
The holy Church has come to love this vision more than any other and celebrates it as the great and joyous revelation about the Radiant Protection over the world, about the great love of the Mother of God for the world. For the Mother of God prayed tearfully not only in the church of Vlaherna 1,000 years ago, but She prays here and now, always and everywhere and until the end of the age. And Her holy homophorion was spread not only over those present then in the church of Vlaherna, but also over the entire human race and over the entire world. Over us sinners as well there shines the salvific Veil of the Protection of the Mother of God, even though we do not have eyes that are worthy of seeing it. The Mother of God mediates between heaven and earth. She is the intercessor for the world, lifting its prayers to the Throne of God's Glory. She is love and compassion, mercy and pity, forgiveness and intercession. She does not judge, but pities all. She is not the justice of judgment and not the judgment of justice. Rather, She is maternal intercession. And at the Dread Judgment of Her Son She will implore the just judge to forgive us. The sin of the world and the sorrow of the world wound the all-loving heart. To malice and sin She responds with love and tears. Even now the sword is piercing Her heart: The Mother of God is weeping over the world.
How can we understand this mystery? The Empress of Heaven and of Earth, abiding in the heavens with Her Son, superior to the creature, more honorable than the cherubim and incomparably more glorious than the seraphim, the One upon whom the Holy Spirit Himself reposes - She is weeping over the world! The world itself is weeping over itself with Her tears. The world's sufferings and sorrow are also Her sorrow; its tears are also Her tears. O miracle of miracles! O marvelous mystery! How is it that heavenly bliss is combined with earthly sorrow? O gracious ladder, uniting heaven with earth! The One who exists supramundanely is superior to all creatures; through Her Son She receives God's glory, but She -the power and glory of the human race - does not abandon the world. She is the mother. She is the heart. She is the sacred Earth. She lives with us in Her miracle-working icons; She is close to us, Her children….