On October 28, the Greek Orthodox Church commemorates the Feast Day of the Protection of the Theotokos, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary.
The feast-day of the Holy Protection of the Mother of God was established following a vision of holy Father Andrew during the course of a Vigil in the Church of Vlachernae at Constantinople. At the Fourth Hour of the night while deep in prayer, the Saint lifted up his eyes to heaven and beheld the Holy Mother of God watching over the faithful as she covered the faithful with her holy Veil. Epiphanius, the disciple of Saint Andrew, who was also accounted worthy of looking upon this wonder (miracle) confirmed the truth of the vision. Whereupon the Saint hastened to the altar, opened the coffer containing the Precious Veil of the Queen of the world and, standing in front of the Royal Doors, extended it above the worshippers. Upheld by an invisible power, the holy Veil hung in the air and was of such size as entirely to cover the great congregation. Then, amid a sheltering burst of Light, the Mother of God went up into Heaven and out of sight, but leaving the Christian faithful in possession of the Holy Veil as a pledge of Her loving protection. Many a time did the Mother of God give clear evidence of her protection of the Imperial City and, by analogy, of the entire Holy Church of Christ, which is the New Jerusalem. Indeed, everywhere and at every moment, the Sovereign Lady of the world casts her Veil mystically over Christians as she makes prayer and intercessions for the salvation of the world to her Son and Lord.
The Holy Orthodox Church has always glorified the Most Holy Mother of God as the Protectress and Defender of the Christian people, entreating by her intercessions (prayers), God’s loving-kindness towards us sinners. The Mother of God’s aid has been clearly shown times without number, both to individuals and to people, both in peace and in war, both in Monastic deserts and in crowded cities.
“…She was clad in gold-encrusted purple and shone with an unspeakable radiance, surrounded by the Holy Apostles, Saints, Martyrs, and holy virgins. Seeing the vision, Saint Andrew gestured towards it and asked Epiphanius, ‘Do you see how the Queen and Lady of all is praying for the whole world?’ Epiphanius replied, ‘Yes, Father; I see it and stand in dread.’
Because of this wonderful miracle of the Theotokos, we keep a yearly feast of gratitude, imploring our Lady never to cease sheltering us and the world in her mighty and holy prayers.
The holy icon of the Holy Protection shows the feast in which the Theotokos is standing above the faithful Christians with her arms stretched open in prayer and draped with a veil. Angels are on both sides of her. In most holy icons, Saint Andrew and his disciple Epiphanius are in the lower right. Saint Epiphanius is wearing a tunic under his cloak and seems astonished at this miraculous appearance. Saint Andrew is dressed only in a cloak. Below the holding an open scroll with the text of the Kontakion hymn for the Nativity in honor of the Mother of God. This is Saint Romanus the Melodist, the famous hymnographer whose feast is celebrated on October 1st. His choir is with him as is the Emperor Leo the Wise, the Empress, and the Patriarch of Constantinople.
While most of the Orthodox Christian world celebrates the Holy Protection, of Agia Skepi, of the Theotokos on October 1st according to ancient Orthodox Tradition, Greeks celebrate the Feast Day of the Agia Skepi (Holy Protection), on October 28th as a special holiday in order to invite the secular government of Greece (Hellas) to honour the Mother of God for her loving protection of the Greek Nation during World War II.
The celebration of the Holy Protection dates back to 626 A.D. when the miraculous intervention of the Theotokos saved the city of Constantinople from the Avars (Turkish-Mongolian Nomads), and it was officially established that October 1st be the date to honour this great miracle. All Orthodox Christians celebrate this feast on October 1st until 21st October, 1952 when the Holy Synod (Council) of the Church of Greece decreed that from henceforth there was to be celebrated in Greece a dual feast of the Holy Protection and the National holiday of ‘Oxi’ (‘No’) Day which commemorates the day when Greece said NO to the Axis powers and fascism and nazism.