Intercession of the Theotokos

Icon of the Protection, 19th century, Russia

The Intercession of the Theotokos or the Protection of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, is a feast of the Mother of God celebrated in the Byzantine rite Churches—principally the Eastern Orthodox as well as Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (and formerly Ruthenian Uniate Church). [a]

The feast celebrates the protection afforded the faithful through the intercessions of the Theotokos (lit. Mother of God, the Eastern title of the Virgin Mary). In the Slavic Orthodox Churches it is celebrated as the most important solemnity besides the Twelve Great Feasts and Pascha. The feast is commemorated in Eastern Orthodoxy as a whole, but by no means as fervently as it is in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It is not a part of the ritual traditions of, and therefore is not celebrated by, the Oriental Orthodox Churches or Western Rite Orthodoxy. Yet the feast is perfectly consistent with the theology of these sister churches.

Etymology

The Protection of the Theotokos or the Intercession of the Theotokos ( Old Church Slavonic: Покровъ, Pokrov, Ukrainian: Покрова, Pokrova), 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. It is often translated as Feast of the Intercession or Feast of the Holy Protectress.

With some reservations, the Pokrov icon may 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 (first known from Italy at about 1280).

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