Your church is dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God. This is one of the most beloved feasts of the Russian people, one of the most pleasing. When I have occasion to speak about how the All-Pure Virgin covered the worshippers in the Blachernae Church with her omophorion, I always point out that there were, of course, different people in this church: the pious and godly; the not very pious; perhaps some who had grown cold; and perhaps even the very sinful. But did the Mother of God inquire into this? Did she separate the good from the bad?
No, she covered everyone with her omophorion! That is why we all firmly trust that, although we often prove ourselves unworthy of God’s mercy – and, on the contrary, worthy of God’s wrath, judgment, and righteous and well-deserved punishment – nonetheless the Mother of God stands with her omophorion between us and the Lord, Whom we anger with our sins. We are capable of provoking God. The Holy Hierarch Theophan the Recluse once wrote sorrowfully:
“What a wonderful Lord we have: long-suffering and abundant in mercy; Who never grows angry to the end; Who does not remain at enmity unto the ages; Who forgets His wrath as soon as we turn to Him with repentance! But we are capable of bringing even such a Merciful and Long-Suffering One to wrath, so as to oblige Him to take up the rod of vengeance, although He is endless mercy and compassion.”
But it often happens that when the Lord turns His wrathful gaze upon us sinners, He does not see us – for the Mother of God has covered us with her omophorion and prays to Him for us all: for the good and for the evil; for the righteous and for sinners; for the pious and for the impious. For everyone! So always remember, when you come here to the Church of the Protection of the Mother of God, that here you are safeguarded as nowhere else in the world. Therefore you should always pray to the Mother of God with faith and trust.
If an earthly mother said about her children that she had some who were good and obedient, and others who were disobedient, she might say: “For a mother they are all equal: whichever finger you cut from a hand, it is all equally painful.” It is the same thing with us. To the Heavenly Mother, to whom the Lord gave to adopt the entire human race – and that means all of us – everyone is equally dear.
How she grieves for the disobedient and ungodly and, for her part, prays to the Lord, that He might put aside His avenging sword and might still have mercy upon those who can be set aright! Do not forget about this and always pray to her with trust, that she might cover us with her Almighty Omophorion! Amen.
Translated from the Russian.