May 19th: Our Lady of the Protection
The Theotokos named “Protection of the Mother of God”, sometimes referred to as the “Intercession of the Theotokos”, has been represented in many ways. The icon always shows the Theotokos standing with her arms outstretched in prayer and draped with a veil. Although she is shown without her son, she is still represented as the Theotokos. On the most complete representations of the icon, Mary is depicted with angels on both sides of her, and on the lower part, are saint Andrei and his disciple Epiphanius with the twelve apostles, bishops, holy women, monks and martyrs. Mary is represented spreading her veil in protection over the congregation. St. Epiphanius is wearing a tunic under his cloak and gestures in astonishment at the miraculous appearance, while St. Andrei, Fool-for-Christ, is dressed only in a cloak.
Below the Theotokos, in the center of the icon, stands a young man holding an open scroll on which is written the text of the Kontakion (Akathist hymn) for the Nativity in honor of the Mother of God. This is St. Romanus the Melodist, the famous hymnographer whose feast is also celebrated on the same day as The Protection of the Mother of God.
The Slavic word Покров (protection), like the Greek Skepê refers to both a cloak or shroud, and protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the icon is variously translated as the “Veil of Our Lady”, the “Protecting Veil of the Theotokos”, the “Protection of the Theotokos”, or the “Intercession of the Theotokos”.
The feast of the Protection of the Theotokos is celebrated in the Russian Orthodox Church as the most important solemnity after the Twelve Great Feasts. But why is it so important? What happened? We will find out tomorrow…