The Intercession of the Holy Mother of God: about the special meaning of the holiday, the wedding season, the most significant traditions

Metropolitan Anthoniy (Pakanich) on how to properly celebrate the holiday of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God.

– Vladyka, on October 14, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God. When was the holiday approved? What is the meaning of the holiday?

– The holiday of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God is one of the great non-twelve holidays of the Orthodox Church. The history of its establishment dates back to the beginning of the X century, when the city of Constantinople was besieged by the enemy and trembled on the eve of an unequal battle. The enemy army at the city walls was several times greater than the number of its defenders.

At the most terrible moment, when the outcome of the battle, according to human calculations, seemed to be a foregone conclusion, the religious people gathered in the Blachernae temple, where the robe of the Mother of God was kept, for a prayer stand for the protection of the city and their personal salvation. The prayer of the religious people was heard – the Holy Mother of God appeared and tearfully prayed to God for the protection of Christians. Then She removed the omophorion from Her head and covered the worshipers with it. The enemy moved away from the city walls without causing any harm.

We learn the details of this event from the life of Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ. It was he and his disciple Epiphanius who, while in the temple, were honored to see the Most Holy Virgin, who prayed with tears for the forthcoming people.

The Mother of God was accompanied by selected saints: the Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist, as well as the apostle and evangelist John the Theologian. «Both of them, as having great boldness before God, our Very Firm Prayer raised up with Her, so that together with them she could quickly incline God to mercy,» explains Saint Demetrius.

The intercession or omophorion of the Mother of God is a symbol of the protection and patronage of those who turn to Her with prayer. And only when a person realizes his/her imperfection before the majesty of the Creator, realizes that nothing can be done without God (John 15: 5), and begins to pray sincerely, then the Lord necessarily performs a miracle. And the initial miracle in the matter of human salvation was the Incarnation from the Pure Mother: «God determined to have mercy on us for Her prayers infinitely more than for the prayers of all other saints, according to the very height of Her service to the sacrament of redemption and therefore hears every prayer of His Most Pure Mother, so as all Her prayer is holy and pleasing to Him», – this is how the holy righteous John of Kronstadt speaks about it.

The main meaning of the holiday of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God reveals the kontakion of this celebration: «Now the Virgin is in the church and with the host of saints invisibly prays to God for us. Angels worship with bishops, while the apostles rejoice with prophets: for the Mother of the Eternal God prays for us». The Blessed Virgin Mary prays for the human race before God. Today’s holiday reveals to us the secret of the greatness of the Mother of God, she, being the Mother of God of the Word, became the Mother for each of us. The Monk John Damascene emphasizes the property of the Mother of God – motherhood: «Because Mary, having become the Mother of the Creator, really became the Mistress of all creatures».

– The Orthodox day coincides with the opening of the wedding season, which lasts until the Nativity Fast. It is believed that this is the most favorable period for marriage, since all those entering into marriage will be under the special protection of the Mother of God. Is it true? And why is this holiday called «family»?

– Yes, we really can observe a quantitative increase in marriages blessed by the Church during this period. It is the longest period of time during the year between two fasts: the Dormition and the Nativity, during which, according to the Charter of the Church, the celebration of the Sacrament of the Wedding is permitted.

The Intercession is called the «family» holiday the precisely because newly created families especially need the prayerful intercession of the Queen of Heaven: for a young wife, the Mother of God is the highest prototype of a «humbly wise wife», in Her person – the salutary for humanity and especially for the woman, holy motherhood, prayerful protection of children on many happy years of life. The families of the newlyweds pray for this, uniting into one large clan, each member of which bears a certain measure of responsibility for the creation of the «small Church».

– What are the Orthodox traditions of the celebration of the Intercession? Maybe special prayers?

– From the modern traditions of the celebration of the Intercession, are known family customs to give festive headscarves to daughters-in-law and daughters as a symbol of the omophorion of the Mother of God for wearing to the temple, because the covered head of a woman is a sign of her humility before the Lord.

In a broader sense, the feast of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God was traditional for the Ukrainian Cossacks. In the center of the Zaporozhian Sech, on the island of Khortytsia, the Cossacks raised the Intercession Church as a token of gratitude to the Mother of God for Her patronage. The example of the Cossacks is edifying for each of us – in the center of the life of any community there should be a temple in which a person has the opportunity to unite with God.

In Ukraine, since 1999, on the day of the Intercession (October 14), the holiday of the Ukrainian Cossacks was established, and since 2014, the celebration of the Day of the Defender of Ukraine has been postponed to this day. Considering these events through the prism of time and faith, one can notice a direct analogy: the Holy Mother of God extended Her Honest Intercession in response to sincere prayers of those who from the bottom of their hearts asked the Lord for peace, for the preservation of the holy temples of Constantinople.

Therefore, the current holiday of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God is filled with a special meaning for us – in prayers to the Mother of the whole world, we, like the inhabitants of Constantinople, must ask for deliverance from warfare and our personal salvation.

The Holy Mother of God prays for every person who is waiting for consolation in trouble, who, fearing for his/her personal life, nevertheless gives it up for others. At the same time, people should remember the words of Saint Innocentiy (Borisov), Archbishop of Kherson: «We will undoubtedly resort to the shelter of the Most Blessed Virgin, but we will not bring our sins under this cover without washing them with tears of repentance. The Mother of God heals all infirmities, satisfies all sorrows, covers the very sins, as long as they are united with the contrition of the heart for them, but does not cover and cannot cover the hardening of sins!».

I would like to remind that the day of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God is a public holiday, as well as a day off, which makes it possible for all people to visit churches and, together with the Holy Mother of God and the host of saints, prayerfully ask the Merciful God for mercy on our Fatherland and our people.

Interviewed by Natalia Goroshkova

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