Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God

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The Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God.  (October 1/14)

Already from the 13th century the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God has been one of the most loved feasts of the Russian people.  In its significance for Russian people it gives way only to the feasts of  Annunciation, the Nativity of Christ and the Bright Resurrection of Christ.  It is also a Russian national feast day.

Of great attraction is the underlying idea of this feast day itself.  The Mother of God Herself keeps constant vigil over the Christian world and protects it.

As to the spreading of the celebration of this feast in Russia, it was doubtlessly influenced by spiritual and emotional peculiarities of the Russian people, who profoundly apprehended the veneration of the Mother of God.

At the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th century there lived in Constantinople a holy man, St. Andrew, the Fool for Christ.  At the age of 17 he was brought (as a slave) by a certain Byzantine nobleman, the head of the Imperial Bodyguard.  He was of Scythian origin (the region that is now southern Russia).  In the house of his master he received the education common at the time, and thanks to his abilities he was shortly appointed a secretary to the nobleman.

Soon, however under the influence of his reading about the lives of saints, and his spiritual father, Andrew took upon himself the spiritual endeavour of a fool for Christ.  The purpose of this endeavour was to demonstrate, under the guise of insanity and inappropriate behaviour, the senselessness of the wisdom of this world.  He would roam the streets of the capital dressed in rags, sleep under an open sky, and utter insane words.  Idle folk would often beat him, and he would suffer from heat and cold.  For this feat of his he was granted the gift of prophesying; he worked miracles and saved many from depraved ways of life.  He had a pupil, Epiphanios of aristocratic family, who subsequently became Patriarch Polievktos of Constantinople.

The miraculous events, which formed the basis of the feast of the Protection, unfolded over a thousand years ago.  A formidable enemy invaded the Byzantine Empire, threatening Constantinople.  The Greeks felt incapable of repelling the encroaching enemy by their own means.  So they turned to the Mother of God with tearful prayers.  Crowds of the faithful headed towards the Blachernae Church where great holy objects were kept: the Panagia’s robe and Her veil (omophorion).  This took place towards the end of St. Andrew’s life.

During the All-Night Vigil service, at about 4am, an amazing vision was presented to Blessed Andrew and his disciple Epiphanios.  A majestic Lady was advancing in the air from the western door.  St. John the Baptist and the Apostle John were supporting Her.  Other saints of the heavenly escort, in white garments, preceded and followed the Mother of God singing hymns.  When She reached the ambo, Blessed Andrew asked Epiphanios: “Do you see the Lady and the Queen of the World?” ­“I see, my spiritual father”, he answered ­ “I see and I tremble”.  And as they were watching, She knelt down and remained long in prayer with tears streaming down Her All-pure Face.  Having finished Her prayers, She approached the Altar Table and prayed yet again for the people who were present.  Then She removed Her veil which shone like lightning, and which she wore on Her head, and holding it over Her arms She extended it over all the people standing in the church.  Sts. Andrew and Epiphanios stood looking at this luminous veil, at this glory of the Lord.  When the Holy Theotokos departed, the veil too became invisible, leaving the Grace upon those present in the Church.

This wonderful vision inspired the Greeks so much that on the following morning they were able to repulse the enemies and put them to flight.  Thus in many other instances, when called upon by the faithful in fervent prayer, the Mother of God has always manifested Her miraculous help and intercession against visible and invisible enemies.

All-important events in the history of the Russian people have always been so closely associated with the pious veneration of the Most Holy Mother of God and Her saving Protection.  Thus Russian rightfully called herself the “House of the Mother of God”.

So, this manifestation of the Most Holy Mother of God in Blachernae Church, with Her omophorion, as a symbol of her protection and shield, extended over the faithful constitutes the basis of our feast of Protection.

The Greek Church did not establish a specific rite to celebrate this vision of the Holy Theotokos.  Apparently Greeks did not see any particular necessity for that since the veneration of the Mother of God was very widespread in Byzantium.  In the 10th century in Constantinople alone there were over 90 churches dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, not counting monasteries and private churches, erected later.

When the life of St. Andrew, Fool for Christ, was translated into the Slavonic language and spread in Russia, its readers particularly noted the wonderful appearance of the Mother of God, and thus the feast of Protection was established in Russia to commemorate this miracle.

Some people think that this celebration was initiated by the famous Russian Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky, who was subsequently canonized.  In support of this assumption we may point out the fact that in the past he was commemorated on the day following the feast of Protection, as the initiator of this feast.

About 1165 Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky erected a stone church on the river Nerli dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God.  But as shown by a strict investigation of the history of the feast of the Protection, it could have been established even earlier, at the beginning of the 12th century Kiev Rus.

It may also be assumed that the feast of the Protection was established by another Russian prince, whom a chronicler called, “a wonderful prince….merciful beyond measure”, i.e. Vladimir Monomakh (1113-1125).  The Great Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky, however, the great venerator of the Mother of God, who built a series of churches in Her honour, has greatly contributed to the celebration of the Protection feast and its spread throughout Russia, particularly in its northern part.  Later this feast became the All-Russian national feast day, single-mindedly observed throughout the country.  Even the heterodox, as for example Tatars, Bashkirs, Kalmyks and others, respected this feast day and following the example of Russians, would abstain from work on that day.

And today, when we experience tragic times, let us turn to the Most Holy Mother of God; let us implore Her with all our hearts to protect us, to shorten the days of suffering of the entire Christian world, and shelter us under Her precious omophorion,

Source:- Fr. Theodor Raevsky (+ Archbishop Savva), Sermon, Word of the Church. Nos 10-11, 1958.

Обновлено 03.06.2010 04:58
 
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History of the Building of the new church, 'Protection of the Mother of God', by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Harrison Street, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia.

During the late 1970's and early 1980's clergy and parishioners of the Protection of the Mother of God Cathedral in Collingwood began seeking a new church site.  The move was necessary as the site in Collingwood was not large enough to expand (the land owned is entirely taken up by the present bluestone church building and the adjacent church hall) and restrictions on parking were inconvenient, especially during weekdays.  Ideally, the parish preferred to build a new church but its existing resources, it was thought, did not permit this.  Purchasing an existing building was thought to be faster, simpler and less expensive.

Under Fr. Wally Evsukoff the Holy Protection parish became vibrant. A few church buildings had been investigated as possibilities for a new Russian Orthodox Church until in 1983, the church council sought to buy a building in Camberwell from the Uniting Church.  Upon approval at a General Meeting, the transaction progressed to the signing of a contract, however, a change of agenda by both parties saw the Uniting Church use a technicality to withdraw their property from sale.  Around about this time, the parishioners and council changed to a firm resolution to purchase land and construct a new Cathedral.

Prominent amongst these people were Alex Alexander (Alexander Sergeevich Alexandrov) and Fr. Nicholas Karipoff (now rector of the Holy Protection Cathedral upon the passing of Fr. Wally Evsukoff).  The decision to build rather than buy was made on the rationale that a church in Russian style is more aesthetically pleasing to those who will worship in it than a renovated church in the style of a western denomination.

The parish in Melbourne had no urgency to move from Collingwood and did not wish to act hastily, preferring to investigate further the option of constructing its own church.  Many blocks of land were investigated but had drawbacks due to either position or existing parking facilities.  A demographic study was undertaken by the building committee, which concluded that Collingwood was well located and that the new church should be within approximately five kilometers of the existing church.  Finding a block of land large enough in the inner city area, however, would be difficult to do.

Mr. Alex Alexander found the site in Harrison Street, Brunswick. This decision showed foresight because at that time this property was not very attractive, being located directly opposite a former tip.  An uproar arose within the local Russian Orthodox community but the church council anticipated a park being built in place of the closed tip (there was initial planning by the council to build a park and in mid-1980's the site was marked as Jones park in the Melway street directory).  It was thought that not only the site but also the surrounding area in East Brunswick was so bad that it could only get better.  Nowadays, of course, we know these decision-makers to be vindicated because the area has been cleaned up; Merri Creek has been developed, the tip site has now begun stage two of its development into a park (paths, trees, ornamental lake, landscaping)

The contract was signed for the purchase of the land on the 6th of February 1984, this timing was encouraging as this was the feast day of Blessed Xenia. The parish paid $82,250 for one and one-third acres which is now (1999) valued at about $600,000.  We had purchased the property in the midst of a downturn in the economy from a gentleman whom himself paid over $100,000 for the land two years earlier, planning to erect flats for sale or similar investment.  It was anticipated that there would be a lot of opposition to the aesthetics of the site, but in 1984 the parish was interested in investments and allowed the purchase of the land in Harrison street on recognition of its potential to yield a profit.

An extra-ordinary meeting of the Parish was held to in December 1985 to present a proposal to begin planning to build a new church on the Brunswick site. Present at the meeting was the Late Archbishop Paul.  The discussion was heated and emotional such that Vladika politely requested not to be invited to any further meetings.  The motion was defeated seventy to fifty-five.  The following year the motion was passed at the Annual General Meeting.

A Design and Construction firm in Dandenong, DDM (Paul Savenkoff & Alex Tzeberg), was asked by the Parish Council and the Building Committee to create a preliminary design for the site.  A brief was drawn up with the aid of Nick Chlebnikowski, a former architect.  The brief contained the parameters in terms of size and function of what the committee thought we needed in a new church and community hall.

Fr. Dimitri Alexandrov (now Vladika Daniel of Eirie, Pennsylvania) was living in Sydney at this time and discovered from a colleague   conographer that a new church was in planning in Melbourne.  Excited by this Fr. Dimitri asked if he could view the drawings.  Having a genuine interest and substantial knowledge in a number of creative disciplines including experience in design of churches Fr. Dimitri was a valuable consultant.  Unfortunately he was transferred back to the United States, where correspondence (pre facsimile-ubiquity) was prohibitively difficult.  What Fr. Dimitri did leave behind was the philosophical viewpoint that modern church architecture should begin from where Russian architecture peaked.  He conveyed to Fr. Nicholas and iconographer Antonina Ganin that from the eleventh until the seventeenth century church architecture in Russia evolved until renaissance influences from Europe detracted from the distinctly Russian styles.  Vlad Lugovoi later suggested that the Yaroslavl style of architecture featured colours in keeping with heritage Victorian schemes and was therefore well suited to the city of Melbourne.  Vlad also fine-tuned the church design a little more.

The Building Committee felt that it was very important to have a model of the proposed building to be displayed as soon as possible to generate interest among parishioners.  As we had no finalized artistic design drawings available, Fr. Nicholas Karipoff invited his sister and iconographer, Antonina, from Sydney to produce a plan and four elevations for a model.  The artistic design of the church was largely developed in 1985.  The church of St. John Chrysostom, upstream from Yaroslavl along the Volga River was chosen as a guide.  Antonina's talents in artistic design contributed much over many long days to the final proportions of the new Cathedral.  A model was then commissioned from Herman Witte and his associates.

Three architects were invited to submit proposals for the plans for the new church (Vlad Chernov,  Alex Kamenev and John Petrakis).  John Petrakis secured the contract with a competitive estimate.  He had a working relationship with Brunswick Municipal Council - which was another advantage.  John, who was later to become an honourary Russian dubbed Ivan Petrov, developed the design further and approached the Brunswick city council about a Planning Permit for a Church and a Community Centre.  His diplomacy in dealing with the City Council, managing to appease them whilst not compromising design is a credit to him.

CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

18th August 1987, on the eve of Transfiguration.  JP as well as members of the building committee, Damian 'Sandy' Ford and Nick Chlednikowski had Damian put in much time voluntarily in a project managerial role, until being employed by the committee full time (he still worked much overtime).  Planning Permit was granted on 19th December 1988 (St Nicholas' feast) after much diplomacy on the part of JP

The foundation laying ceremony took place on the 5th November 1989.  Within the stone some relics of Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth were placed with parchment within a sealed copper/brass cylinder.  This is based on the ancient Christian practice of building churches above the graves of holy martyrs.

 

Обновлено 15.05.2010 00:40