Augustine Sokolovski

In our liturgical tradition, the celebration of the Protection of the Theotokos is one of the great ones. Thanks to this, in addition to Easter, the twelve main holidays in honor of the Lord Jesus and the Virgin Mary, there are five great celebrations in our calendar. In addition to the Intercession, these are the Circumcision of the Lord, the Nativity and the Beheading of John the Baptist and the Apostles Peter and Paul.

Historically, the celebration of the Intercession represents the great gratitude of the Orthodox Church to the Lord for the repeated deliverance of the city of Constantinople from foreign invasions. Residents called Mary their special Patroness and believed that the city stood thanks to Her prayers.

The city was founded in 330 by Constantine to the Great and officially bore this name exactly 1600 years before it was renamed Istanbul by Kemal Ataturk. At the same time, in Greece and Cyprus it continues to be called Constantinople. In the Slavic Balkans it is traditionally called “Tsargrad”, which literally means "City of Caesar".

During the first millennium of Christian history, the city indeed remained impregnable to foreign enemies. But in 1204, 1453, and then with the fall of the Ottoman Empire due to the First World War, the city was taken three times. Therefore, this first and immediate meaning of the holiday has partially lost its relevance.

Theologically, the celebration of the Intercession contains many meanings. This is a huge merit of our tradition. Thus, in the second half of the last century, it was the Feast of the Intercession that acquired special significance throughout the Russian Church. The fact is that in the entire vast expanse of our country there were only two Theological Academies at that time.

The future Orthodox clergy studied in one of these theological institutions, knew each other from their training days, and remembered the common traditions that had once defined their strict seminary lifestyle for many years. The main temple of the Moscow Academy, and therefore the main academic holiday of teachers and students, is dedicated to the Intercession of the Theotokos.

In fact, during the times of persecution of believers, when the Church was extremely marginalized in Soviet society, Intercession was the only day of the year when the doors of the Academy on the territory of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra were slightly opened. Many hierarchs came to visit the students, to pray in their own walls.

This was the general worship of the Church, the liturgy as it is, in thanksgiving to God for the gift of spiritual and theological education, which then, in the era of persecution, was truly unique. We should not forget about this now forgotten face of the Intercession Feast.