Here where I am, it is already 1 October, the Feast of the Protecting Mantle of the Mother of God. Let me bear witness this day to her protection as we speak the name of Breonna Taylor, whose blood still cries out from the ground for justice.
This is the day we celebrate when St Andrew Fool-for-Christ saw the Theotokos descend from the dome of the church of Blachernae as vespers was being offered for the holy city of Constantinople under attack 'by Ukrainian pirates,' as my spiritual father always points out. She walks to the ambo, takes off her mantle, and throws it over the people in protection. By that action, the city is saved.
The greatest irony is that it is our Kyivan Church that has received this feast even more than the Greeks, I'm told. We were the pirates, but we have been saved from our privateering by the Protecting Mantle that defeated us. The spell of the private consensus is broken, and we enter into this ecumenical commons.
Feeling with this feast, 'Pokrov' as we call it in our Kyivan tradition, brings me back to one of the places across the Pacific where my entry into the mysteries of this church of ours was deepened. That is Chicago.
My sisters and brothers there at St. Mary of Egypt Social Justice Fellowship were those in this Kyivan Church of ours who deepened my understanding of the service our church offers to the world. A brother of mine took our Black Lives Matter banner with the Theotokos of the Passion written upon it out the other night. It was the night when those who killed the daughter of God, Breonna Taylor, were found not even accusable for her death, sleeping while Black in bed.
On our behalf, our brother took to the streets with this banner. He tells us that he was ridiculed, that he was even taunted by the police, that he felt the danger of his position as he held high the image of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat where God came to dwell in the womb of a human being and through her saved the world. Her protecting mantle does not presume our physical safety. On this icon are the instruments of death for her Son. This is the image of injustice itself, of innocent blood crying out from the ground, the cry of Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name.
I reflect here across the Pacific on what this mantle of our Mother could possibly offer in a time like this. In this time of precarity and pandemic, have we not been lamenting, just as those besieged in the Blachernae church, the perversion of going on as if business could proceed as usual? It is a lament, but it is foolish, we think -- as foolish as the Fool-for-Christ who saw the descent of the Godbearer into the church -- to hope for the conversion of the perverse, that those so fragile that they must repress their fears into the fire and the firing at will might be delivered from their own violence.
But is this not precisely what we pray for in this postsecular commons of ours?
Most Holy Theotokos, save us. Breonna Taylor, we speak your name.