The Protection of the Mother of God is one of the most beloved feast days on the Orthodox calendar, commemorated on October 1/12. The feast is celebrated on October 28 in the Greek tradition.
The Russian word Pokrov (Покров), like the Greek Skepi (Σκέπη), has a dual meaning: it refers to a cloak or covering garment, but it also means protection or intercession. For this reason, the name of the feast is variously translated as the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos, the Protection of the Theotokos, or the Intercession of the Theotokos.
The feast day celebrates the appearance of the Mother of God at Blachernae in the tenth century. The Blachernae palace church, nearby the city gates, was where several relics of the Theotokos were kept, including her robe, veil, and part of her belt, which had been transferred from Palestine during the fifth century.
In 911 AD, St. Andrew the Fool for Christ, with his disciple St. Epiphanius and many others, saw the Mother of God, St. John the Baptist, and several other saints and angels during a vigil in the Church of Blachernae. They saw her approach the center of the church; she knelt down and remained in prayer for a long time. Her face was drowned in tears. Then she took off her veil and spread it over the people as a sign of protection. At this time, the city was threatened by a barbarian invasion. After the appearance of the Mother of God, the danger was averted and the city was spared from bloodshed and suffering.
The Russian Primary Chronicle notes that the intercession of the Theotokos was needed for the protection of the people of Constantinople when a large fleet of the pagan Rus, led by Askole and Dir, was threatening Constantinople. The invading fleet was defeated and the event was recorded. About seventy years later, Grand Prince Vladimir and the people of Rus’ embraced Christianity and entered the Church. Within a few centuries churches began being named in honor of the Protection of the Theotokos.