Hymn to the Theotokos
Προστασία τῶν Χριστιανῶν … Προστασία τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἀκαταίσχυντε, μεσιτεία, πρὸς τὸν Ποιητὴν ἀμετάθετε, μὴ παρίδῃς, ἁμαρτωλῶν δεήσεων φωνάς, ἀλλὰ πρόφθασον, ὡς ἀγαθή, εἰς τὴν βοήθειαν ἡμῶν, τῶν πιστῶς κραυγαζόντων σοι· Τάχυνον εἰς πρεσβείαν, καὶ σπεῦσον εἰς ἱκεσίαν, ἡ προστατεύουσα ἀεί, Θεοτόκε, τῶν τιμώντων σε.
Protection of Christians that can never be put to shame, steadfast intercession to the Creator, we sinners beg you, do not overlook the voices of our prayers. But O good Lady, we implore you, quickly come unto our aid, we who are crying out to you with faith. Hurry to intercession, and hasten to supplication, Theotokos, you who are always protecting those who honour you.
The provenance of this hymn is old, forming the first strophe of a much longer supplicatory kontakion to Panagia, possibly from as early as the 6th century. It is chanted primarily during the Holy Liturgy just before the Thrice-Holy Hymn. How can we be so sure in Panagia’s protection? According to St Gregory Palamas in his homily on Her Dormition, “She is so much closer to God out of those who are close to God, so much greater intercession does the Theotokos have than all other intercessions, I don’t just mean of humans but even of all the angelic hierarchies.”
St Nicholas Cabasilas similarly outlines how truly close the Theotokos is to God and why her intercessions have such power: “God, Who no place has ever encompassed, Who, even if all of creation were to become a thousand times larger, would not contain, the Virgin contained with her blood. And not simply did she contain Him, but she weaves with her blood such a robe, which is fitting in every way for the King.” This is why we can chant this hymn so boldly, knowing that because she is so close to Her Son who is our Creator, our prayers will be heard.
Orthodox Christians throughout the ages are instilled with these affirmations about the Theotokos from an early age. Being the Mother of God, she naturally assumes the role of Mother to all of us, especially to those who “cry out to her in faith”.
Source: Lychnos November/December 2018