My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
O Virgin, we extol the great grace of thy Protection, which didst spread out like a bright cloud beyond all understanding; for thou dost invisibly protect thy people from the foe's every assault. Since we have thee as our shelter and certain help, we cry to thee with our whole soul: Glory to thy great deeds, O Most Pure Maid. Glory to thy shelter Most Divine. Glory to thy care and providence for us, O spotless one.
Kontakion. Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Let us the faithful hasten to the Theotokos now and venerate her sacred veil, as we chant unto her, singing hymns to praise and honor her, as is fitting; for she sheltereth from all calamities, as they cry to her: Rejoice, Protection most radiant.
THE FEAST OF THE HOLY PROTECTION ("AGHIA SKEPI") OF THE THEOTOKOS (Commemorated on October 1st)
"From time immemorial, the Church has celebrated the Most-Holy Theotokos (Mother of God) as the Patroness and Protectress of the Christian people, who, by her intercessory prayers, implores God's mercy for us sinners. The help of the Most Holy Mother of God has been clearly shown numerous times, to individuals and to nations, in peace and in war, in monastic deserts and in densely populated cities. The event that the Church commemorates and celebrates today confirms the Theotokos' consistent protection of Christian people. On October 1, 911 AD, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Wise, there was an All-night Vigil (Agrypnia) in the Vlachernae Church of the Mother of God in Constantinople. The church was full of people. Saint Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was standing in the rear of the church with his disciple Epiphanius. At four o'clock in the morning, the Most-Holy Theotokos appeared above the faithful, holding her omophorion (mantle) outstretched as a protective covering for the faithful. She was clothed in gold-encrusted purple, and shone with an ineffable radiance, surrounded by holy Apostles, Saints, Martyrs, and virgins. Saint Andrew said to Blessed Epiphanius: 'Do you see, brother, the Queen and Lady of all praying for the whole world?' Epiphanius replied: 'I see, Father, and am struck with amazement!' The Feast of the Protection was instituted to commemorate this event, and to remind us that we can prayerfully receive the unceasing protection of the Most-Holy Theotokos in any time of difficulty.
Some additional information about this holy feast and the Russian Church:
"In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special feast marking this event states, "For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision... and it transpired that Your Holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!"
Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Orthodox Church sings, "With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land."
Note: The Church of Greece has moved the celebration of Agia Skepi to the 28th of October ("Οχι Day"): in commemoration of the great help and protection of the Theotokos to the Greek nation throughout its history, and especially during World War II:
"The role of faith in Ever-Virgin Mary in Epirus, Greece is also outstanding during the Second World War. Her role was catalytic not only because she constituted the basis of people's faith, but also because, with her miraculous interventions, she proved to have been the greatest ally of the Greek army on the snowy and rough mountains in Epirus.
Of course, miracles and apparitions were reported in many regions of Greece during the war, but at the front, at the Greek-Albanian borders and on Pindus, Virgin Mary was the protector and the leader of those who fought for their country under difficult circumstances. Their faith was so strong that they could see her encouraging them and "covering" them protectively, while they were fighting on the snowy mountains of Pindus and Albania.
The account given by Vassiliki Bouri, niece of Spyridon Houliaras, who fought at the borders, is characteristic. According to it, Spyridon Houliaras used to narrate incidents of the war to his relatives before he died. The one that affected him the most, however, was a miracle of Virgin Mary. While the soldiers were fighting under really adverse conditions, Virgin Mary appeared in front of them and as a protector "covered" them with her mantle and led them towards their enemy, ready to confront them.
This miracle is also corroborated by the accounts of other soldiers of that time who fought on the mountains of Pindus. At the front, Greek soldiers saw the same vision everywhere: at nights, they could see a tall, slim woman figure walking with her kerchief resting on her shoulders. For the soldiers she was no other than Ever-Virgin Mary, the defender general of Greeks.
"No matter how faith is expressed during war, it is certain that it offers assistance to the soldier who is tested. And the image of the protector makes him hopeful and optimistic. ...People from Arta, fighting at the front, were afraid neither of mortars nor of enemy bullets, as long as they had the image of Panaghia in front of them..."
It was also characteristic that on the military identification cards, right next to the personal details there was an icon of the Virgin Mary. And just moments before they attacked, they would pray, shout "Panaghia mou!" (My All-Holy Mother of God) three times, and dash forth.
The Primary Chronicle of Saint Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 AD or according to the Russian historian Vasilieve, on June 18, 860 AD.
ON OCTOBER 1ST WE COMMEMORATE THE FEAST OF SAINT ANANIAS THE APOSTLE AND SAINT ROMANUS THE MELODUS
Saint Ananias, whose name means "God is gracious", was from Damascus, where by divine revelation he was commanded to baptize Saul who became the holy Apostle Paul (Acts 9:10-17). He completed the course of martyrdom when he was stoned to death during the proconsulate of Lucian.
Saint Romanus the Melodus, flourished during the reign of Anastasius (491-518 AD). He was from Emesa of Syria, and apparently was born of Jewish parents, for a hymn written in his honor in Greek says he was "of Hebrew stock," and it has furthermore been noted that he uses many Semitic idioms in his writings. He was baptized an Orthodox Christian, and at some time became a deacon in the Church of Beirut. He was the first composer of the kontakia hymns, the foremost of which is that of the feast of Christ's Nativity, "On this day the Virgin..." In composing many of his kontakia hymns Saint Romanus was inspired by the hymns of Saint Ephraim of Syria.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Apostle. Third Tone
O Holy Apostle Ananias, intercede with the merciful God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offences.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn of the Righteous One. Plagal of Fourth Tone
In thee the image was preserved with exactness, O Father; for taking up thy cross, thou didst follow Christ, and by thy deeds thou didst teach us to overlook the flesh, for it passeth away, but to attend to the soul since it is immortal. Wherefore, O righteous Romanus, thy spirit rejoiceth with the Angels.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God