We celebrate the feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God as an inspiration for all Christians who are battling their temptations, sorrows, and misfortunes against all odds; it is a feast for those who may be desperate but do not despair, even at moments of their greatest weakness.
The feast of the Kazan Icon was instituted by the Russian Orthodox Church to honour the liberation of Moscow and Russia from the invading Polish armies in the early 1600s. The invasion happened at a most desperate time in Russian history when the country was wracked by divisions, strife, and disarray. The Polish armies were advancing, and defeat was looming. The people understood very well that their faith, their identity, and their very future were at stake.
As they were fighting a seemingly losing battle, they turned to the Mother of God with repentance and heartfelt prayer. At the direction of the Patriarch Germogenus, they instituted a three-day fast. With the icon of the Kazan Mother of God, they made a procession around the fortress. A miracle happened. The Polish armies retreated. A grave enemy was overcome and eventually defeated. Since then, the icon of the Mother of God of Kazan has been revered as the protectress of Holy Russia throughout its history. Its people have rallied around it in their fight against Napoleonic armies, the Swedes, and the Nazis.
Yet the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God is a lot more than just a rallying point for armed resistance to a foreign enemy. Rather, it is an inspiration for everyone in the face of strong temptations and bitter sorrows coming from the enemy within. Invariably, our enemy will strike at our most vulnerable moments, especially when we lack peace and harmony within ourselves, our families, or at work.
We should take heart in knowing that the Mother of God is there for us. She will intercede to her Son on our behalf when we run to her in prayer and repentance. As Saint Dimitrius of Rostov has remarked, “The Mother of God saves from great misfortunes not only the righteous but also the sinful, who lament; who, who like the prodigal son, return to their Heavenly Father.”
We may be desperate, but we should not despair. In a seemingly hopeless situation, the people of Russia never lost hope. They repented, fasted, and prayed wholeheartedly to the Lord and His mother. They were heard and saved. If we pray with all our hearts, we will be blessed with a greater sense of harmony and unity. The Holy Theotokos is looking over us and wishes us well. She will always come to our rescue if we appeal to her with faith and love.