Many different misfortunes, sorrows, and woes befall mankind, but one should always remember that “God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
If a misfortune occurs at home, say a child becomes sick, – no one can take care of him, calm him down, and comfort him like his own mother. But we all have a universal Mother in heaven Who is an earnest Intercessor for Christians. Countless times She, the All-benevolent One, has helped everyone who appealed to Her with faith and love, both individuals and entire cities, even entire nations. There is an especially great number of such examples in the history of Holy Russia. Among them is the event that led to the establishment of today’s holiday.
In the early 17th century czars from the Rurik dynasty ceased to occupy the Russian throne, and the country was left without a ruler. A so-called Time of Troubles ensued, or, as the people called it, “the hard times.” Internally the country became subject to unrest among the populace, theft, murder; the treasury was empty; there was no law or order anywhere. Bordering regions were separating themselves from Russia one after another, and to top it all there was the issue of placing a foreign king on the throne of Russia – that traditional bastion of Orthodoxy!
Making use of all this desolation, our enemies – the Poles – invaded Russia with their troops and easily conquered the heart of Russia – Moscow, took over the holy Kremlin.
Ah, brethren, how truly it is said that history repeats itself! Now we see the same thing happening within our homeland, which is suffering terribly under the yoke of the godless…
At that time it seemed that the very existence and sovereignty of our nation was threatened, but God judged otherwise. The moans and tears of the agonized and stricken native sons, the heartfelt entreaty of the faithful, together with the prayers of the saints and the Queen of Heaven and earth – the Mother of God Herself – reached the Lord. This was revealed to the people in a miraculous manner. In the dead of the night the cell of Moscow’s hierarch Arseny, who was languishing in the besieged capital, being bedridden due to a severe illness, suddenly lit up with a wondrous light, and there appeared the venerable St. Sergius of Radonezh, who said to the hierarch: “Rejoice, father! Our and your prayers have been heard: through the intercession of the Theotokos God’s judgment upon our homeland has been changed to mercy; on the morrow Moscow will be in the hands of the besiegers and Russia will be saved.” And as though in confirmation of the truth of these words the ailing elder was immediately healed of his illness.
The executors of God’s will in regard to the salvation of Russia were two prominent citizens: Kuzma Minin, a church warden from Nizhniy Novgorod, and Prince Dmitriy Pozharskiy. The first, after his famous speech in which he exclaimed: “Let us stand up for Holy Russia, for the house of the Most-holy Theotokos (the Moscow Cathedral of Assumption), let us rather sell our wives and children, but liberate our homeland!” – amassed a magnificent treasury and assembled a militia, while the second stood at the head of this militia.
This holy army approached Moscow under extremely unfavorable circumstances, but it did not rely so much on its own strength as on aid from above, bearing within its ranks the miraculous Kazan icon of the Mother of God. And as soon as the Christ-loving army learned of God’s miraculously announced decision, influenced by the prayers of the Champion Leader, it bravely rushed forward and soon liberated Moscow from the Poles. Russia was saved. The hierarch Arseny came out of the city with a procession of the cross, in order to welcome the holy army. Great was the joy of the people and fervent was their prayer of thanksgiving to God and His holy saints, and above all to our universal Mother, the Queen of Heaven. In order to preserve for all time the memory of this glorious event, the Church established this yearly commemoration on 22 October in honor of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God. The icon itself remained in Moscow for a long time, and was later transferred to St. Petersburg, where it stayed in the specially-built Kazan Cathedral.
Thus it is obvious that in that terrible period of the hard times our homeland was saved by the protection and entreaty of the Christians’ earnest Intercessor. However, it should be remembered that the Mother of God, as well as the saints, never act against our will, never force our will. Only those who “tearfully pray before Her most-holy icon with tender souls and remorseful hearts,” only “Her good-natured and God-fearing servants,” though “burdened by many sins,” but pouring out their hearts in repentance can hope to receive from Her “help and deliverance from great misfortunes and woes” (quotes from the troparion and kontakion to the Mother of God). Otherwise even the saints are unable to help us. Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, – says the Lord through the holy prophet Jeremiah, – yet My mind could not be toward this people – the Hebrews (Jerem. 15:1), for they worshipped alien gods. The same can now be said of Holy Russia, which is doing its utmost to be sinful…
Be that as it may, every person who has preserved within himself even a spark of faith (and undoubtedly there are quite a number of those), remembering the history of today’s holiday, should not lose hope in the salvation of his homeland, nor should he become depressed if woes, suffering, disappointments, and all manner of deprivation befall him personally. Sometimes God’s Providence in its wisdom delays in delivering us from these temptations, allowing them in order to give us a chance to demonstrate more clearly our faith, hope, and love for God. In truth, how many times the Russian people appeared to be standing on the verge of destruction, but as soon as they acknowledged their sinfulness and returned to God, the Lord resurrected them as though from the dead and resurrected them with great glory. And how many times in the life of each one of us, if we were able to see it, there was such a confluence of circumstances that we thought everything was ended, that there was no way out, and suddenly the tempest quieted down, the clouds dispersed, and the sun once again shone brightly upon us, warming us to the very core… We are naturally unworthy of such mercies, and our faith is weak, yet we are not alone, we can always receive the aid of our saints and above all the All-merciful Queen of Heaven, Who, attending to our tearful prayers, will Herself intercede for us before the throne of Her Son and our God, for the prayer of a Mother availeth much to the good will of the Lord (from the 6th hour).
Thus it was before, thus undoubtedly it will be always. We have no other aid, we have no other hope safe Thou, O Mistress. Do help us Thou, for in Thee we hope and Thee we glorify: we are Thy servants, may we not be shamed (Kontakion). O Most-holy Theotokos, save us! Amen.
Protopriest Leonid Kolchev