Intercession of the Theotokos
The Intercession of the Theotokos or the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, known in Church Slavonic as Pokrov (Покровъ, "protection"), and in Greek as Sképē (Σκέπη), is a feast of the Mother of God celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic Churches. The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary). In Russia it is celebrated as the most important solemnity after the Twelve Great Feasts. The feast is commemorated in Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole, but by no means as fervently as it is in Russia and Ukraine.
The Russian word Pokrov, like the Greek Skepê has a complex meaning. First of all, it refers to a cloak or shroud, but it also means protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the feast 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. It is often translated as Feast of the Intercession.
According to Eastern Orthodox Sacred Tradition, the apparition of Mary the Theotokos occurred during the 10th century at the Blachernae church in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) where several of her relics (her robe, veil, and part of her belt) were kept. On Sunday, October 1 at four in the morning, St. Andrew the Blessed Fool-for-Christ, who was a Slav by birth, saw the dome of the church open and the Virgin Mary enter, moving in the air above him, glowing and surrounded by angels and saints. She knelt and prayed with tears for all faithful Christians in the world. The Virgin Mary asked Her Son, Jesus Christ, to accept the prayers of all the people entreating Him and looking for Her protection. Once Her prayer was completed, She walked to the altar and continued to pray. Afterwards, She spread Her veil over all the people in the church as a protection.
St Andrew turned to his disciple, St. Epiphanius, who was standing near him, and asked, "Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?" Epiphanius answered, "Yes, Holy Father, I see it and am amazed!"
An icon of the Virgin Mary praying, surrounded by people, was said to be kept in the Blachernae church. It is said to reproduce the events as St Andrew saw them that day.
The Feast of the Intercession is a religious holy day or feast day of the Russian Orthodox Church, which "commemorates an event when an elderly man from the congregation suddenly envisioned the Virgin Mary who stood above the praying people in the air and spread her shroud over them in protection against a Slavic army besieging Constantinople." Some, but not all, regions of the Russian Federation celebrate the Feast of Intercession as a work holiday.
Feast and icon
The feast day commemorating the miracle is held annually on October 1. It is served as an All-Night Vigil, with many of the same elements as occur on Great Feasts of the Theotokos. However, Pokrov has no Afterfeast.
In the fourteenth century, a Russian pilgrim and cleric by the name of Alexander saw in the church an icon of the Theotokos praying for the world, and depicting St Andrew standing in contemplation of her. According to the Primary Chronicle of St. Nestor the Chronicler, the inhabitants of Constantinople called upon the intercession of the Mother of God to protect them from an attack by a large Russian fleet (Russia was still pagan at the time). According to Nestor, the feast celebrates the destruction of this fleet sometime in the ninth century.
The icon of the feast, which is not found in Byzantine art, depicts in its upper part the Virgin Mary surrounded by a luminous aureole. She holds in her outstreched arms an orarion or veil, which symbolizes the protection of her intercession. To either side of her stand numerous saints and angels, many of whom are recognizable to the experienced church-goer: the apostles, John the Baptist, St. Nicholas of Myra, etc. Below, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ is depicted, pointing up at the Virgin Mary and turning to his disciple Epiphanius.
October 1 is also the feast of St. Romanus the Melodist, so he is often depicted on the same icon, even though he and St. Andrew lived at different times. He is often shown directly below the Virgin Mary, standing on a bema, or on a kathedra, chanting from a scroll. The scroll represents the various kontakia which have been attributed to him.
The Pokrov icon may well be related to the Western Virgin of Mercy image, in which the Virgin spreads wide her cloak to cover and protect a group of kneeling supplicants. This is first known from Italy at about 1280.
Churches dedicated to Pokrov
The first churches dedicated to feast of Pokrov appeared in Russia in the 12th century.
Several notable churches in Russia are named for the holiday. Probably the most famous church named for the feast day is Saint Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, Moscow, which is officially entitled "the Church of Intercession of Our Lady that Is on the Moat", Intercession Cathedral, or in (Russian: Собор Покрова пресвятой Богородицы, что на Рву) or also in (Russian: Храм Покрова "на рву", Cathedral of Pokrov upon moat), . The other one is the Church of Intercession in Bogolyubovo near Vladimir on the Nerl River[disambiguation needed], or in (Russian: Церковь Покрова на Нерли, Tserkov Pokrova na Nerli), or (Russian: Церковь Покрова на Нерли, Tserkov Pokrova na Nerli). Both churches are on the United Nations' World Heritage List, the latter as part of the site White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal.
Other notable churches commemorating this feast are Intercession of the Holy Virgin Russian Orthodox Church in Manchester, England, and the Russian Orthodox Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin & St. Sergius in Glen Cove, New York.
- Mikhail Sholokov (1959). Quiet Flows the Don. 1978 edition, Vol. 1, p. 149.
- Itar-Tass, "Russian Orthodox Christians marking feast of Intercession", October 14, 2009, found at Tass Press Agency website in English. Accessed February 7, 2010.
- Neil K. Moran; Singers in Late Byzantine and Slavonic Painting, p.126ff, BRILL, 1986, ISBN 90-04-07809-6
- Shvidkovsky, D. S. (2007). Russian architecture and the West. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300109121, ISBN 978-0-300-10912-2. p. 126.
- St. Petersburg website. Accessed February 7, 2010.
- Pokrov Church of the Russian Orthodox church website from UK. Accessed February 7, 2010.
- Покров Пресвятой Богородицы (Russian) The article was used for iconography description.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Pokrov|
- Celebration of Pokrov in Russia
- Icons of the Intercession
- The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary Icon and Synaxarion of the feast
- The Feast of the Holy Skepi of the Theotokos from the Website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- Saint Andrew, Fool-for-Christ
- (Russian) Pokrovsko-Vasil'evsky monastyr (Protection-Basil monastery)
- Pokrov Foundation, a Bulgarian Orthodox Christian organization