Any fule doe kno that ... on 7 October 1571, thousands of slaves were liberated from the Turkish War Galleys when Don John of Austria defeated the forces of Islam (reread Chesterton!). And it is is no secret that S Pius V perpetuated the memory of this event by an annual commemoration of our Lady of Victory. His successor, Gregory XIII, changed the title of that Feast to our Lady of the Rosary, ordering it to be kept on the First Sunday of October in those churches possessing a Rosary Altar.
So matters remained until Innocent XI fixed this feast on the Universal Roman Calendar ... where it stayed throughout the nineteenth century. This is what all those Victorian clergy were familiar with ... and today recurs as that First Sunday in October!
Mary as Protectress; Mary as the one who stretches her protection over us! But ... especially this year ... that is not the the only consideration which may bring joy to my heart and to yours. Because (especially among Slav Christians) today, October 1, is also Pokrov ... in Greek, Skepe. The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. This devotion, I believe, owes its origins to the Mandora, or Protecting Veil of the Mother of God, which I think was originally kept in the Blachernae Basilica in Constantinople ... what an immense Reliquary City that must have been!!
Readers will recall the pleasure it gives me when I discover East and West breathing in harmony ... which is what we do find here. The Iconography of the West is as keen as anybody to show the Mother of God extending her Veil of Protection over her devoted clients; readers who are fortunate enough to spend their days in and out of Exeter Cathedral ... one of the Greatest Churches of Europe's Western fringe ... will recall the Chantry Chapel of Mr Precentor Sylke (d 1508), in the North Transept, which has a painting of this theme on one of its walls; and other admirers of the mighty cosmopolitan Burgundian Bishop of Exeter ... Prince Bishops don't come much Princier than John Grandisson in the 1320s ... will not need me to tell them that the Mater Misericordiae (Occidentalese for Pokrov) was his Patroness.
I wonder how many centuries it will be before the post-Christians of both East and West again find themselves huddling for protection beneath the Protecting Veil of the Mother of our Most Holy Redeemer.