Saint Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church
Proclaiming & Living the Holy Orthodox Faith
in the California Central Valley

The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
Commemorated on October 1

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ Saint Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. Saint John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” Saint Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them go away from my icon unheard.”

Saints Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting Saint Andrew in contemplation of her.

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 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered more important by the Slavs then by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of Saint Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Saints Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate Saint Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating Saint Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that Saint Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

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 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.” Moreover, it would seem that Saint Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin monastery) In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of Saint Basil the Blessed).

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”

What is Incense?

The ingredients given to Moses by God: 

Ex 30:34-38 - 34And the Lord said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the Lord38Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.”


(Wood) Resins: 

Resins are natural secretions which occur when the bark of the plant is damaged, which provides protection from pests. Frankincense, myrrh, copal, damar, and amber are common resins. Resin don’t give off much scent until they are burned; exposure to high heat causes resins to give off smoke and aroma. Benzoin is a very common fixative with an earthy “vanilla ice cream” scent.


Athonite incense, in the tradition of the Greek monasteries of Mount Athos, are made from pure frankincense tears ground into a powder and mixed with fragrant oils and aromatic wood resins.  The mixture is kneaded into a “dough-like” consistency; rolled and cut.  The pieces are coated with a very finely ground white clay to mitigate the stickiness to keep the rolled pellets from clumping together. The incense is finally cure for at least 30 days which results in a substance of complex fragrances.


Some popular types of Athonite incense include: Old Church - a woody blend of frankincense, cedar, fir needles, and vetiver.  Burning Bush – soft floral with cinnamon, clove, and honey.  Jerusalem – powerful rose with berry, and honey.  Bethlehem Rose – rose with vanilla.  Damascus Rose – intense rose fragrance with rich amber.  Byzantium – geranium, lily, wild berry, cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla.  Evergreen and Embers - fir, spruce, balsam, cedarwood and moss with touches of cinnamon, cloves, and eucalyptus (great during Nativity season).  Nazareth – sandalwood, musk, florals, and cinnamon.  Iveron – white blossoms, rose, lily, and musk.  Certain varieties of incense are popular during particular Festal seasons - such as rose scented varieties for celebrations of the Theotokos. Other varieties (such as Nazareth) may be "low impact" for those persons with sensitivities to smoke or asthmatic.


Athonite style incense is burned using a charcoal tablet in a “burner” with is usually metal, stone, or other heat resistant container. 

(The types of charcoal and charcoal burners are covered in these articles  ---->>>>HERE)

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Orthodox Christian Church

Adapted from: John Meyendorff. The Orthodox Church

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 Mere Christianity by CS Lewis


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Sep 24, 2023

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Sep 17, 2023


Archimandrite Andreas (Konanos)

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How We Should Conduct Ourselves in Church

JUNE 2020

O Lord, I Have Loved The Beauty of Thy House
Psalms 25:8 (LXX)

Why burn incense?

Let my prayer arise as incense before Thee



St. John (Maximovich)

of Shanghai and San Francisco

Evangelist Luke, painting an icon of the Theotokos. Photo: Wikipedia

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