Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
TROPARIA (HYMN) FROM THE GREAT AND HOLY FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF THE EVER-VIRGIN INTO THE TEMPLE
The Child of God, Blessed Mary, the Holy fruit of promise, from righteous Joachim and Anna was born and is come forth; and she is offered as well-pleasing incense while yet a small child in the flesh in the Lord's holy temple, that the holy in the Holies might abide.
Let us with hymns laud and honor the little infant by nature who was shown forth to be the Mother of God past all nature; for she is truly offered to the Lord in the temple of the Law today for a sweet-smelling savor, as her righteous parents' spiritual fruit.
Come, as it meet, O ye faithful, let us cry out with the Angel to greet the Mother of God with: Rejoice, Bride all-comely; rejoice, O cloud of light, from whom the lord hath shined forth upon us, who once sat in the miserable darkness of deep ignorance; rejoice hope of all.
The whole creation now joineth with Angel Gabriel crying a worthy hymn and song of praise to the pure Theotokos: Rejoice, O Holy and All-Blameless Mother of God, through whom we are redeemed from the curse of aforetime and partake of incorruptibility.
O Thou Most Holy of Holies, O All-Pure Mary, God's Mother, by thine entreaties, set us free from the enemy's meshes; from every heresy, from every error and tribulation rescue us, who most faithfully worship the blessed icon of thy holy countenance.
Above the Cherubim's orders, beyond the Seraphim's regions, thou has been shown forth as more spacious than all of the Heavens, for in thy womb thou has contained our God, Whom the universe cannot contain, and hast born Him past telling, Whom entreat, O Virgin, earnestly for us.
MARY: The Untrodden Portal of God
by George S. Gabriel
The holiness and "successive ascent of chosen and cleansed generations of ancestors was a preparation" and cultivation that led directly to the conception of the Theotokos. Through her, the Mosaic Law arrived at the threshold of its fulfillment, and God's promise to the world and covenant with Abraham was fulfilled: "God promised Abraham the forefather that in his seed shall the nations be blessed, O Pure One. And through you the promise comes to pass this day." The coming of Mary had been prefigured by the overwhelming presence of glory in the ark or vessel of the covenant, both in the time of Moses and in the temple. For over a millennium, the tabernacle, the temple, the veil, the ark of the covenant, the golden censer, the sacred table and the showbread, the golden urn of manna, the lamps and all the vessels were all prefiguring of her. When Mary, the Living Temple of God, enters into the Holy of Holies, the old temple's passing is foreshown: "Receiving the Untrodden Portal today, the house of God terminates the worship and shadow under the Law, and it cries aloud, Verily, the truth has appeared to those on earth." The temple receives the East Portal prophesied by Ezekiel and it is at last completed, not in its architecture but in its divine purpose. Mary the Ever-Virgin is the East Portal which "shall be shut...and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel enter by it...and he shall depart from the say way." "With her entry, she introduces the grace of the Holy Spirit into the house of God," and thereby "the temple receives her as it diadem." Being divinely prepared in the temple to become the "chamber" of the Incarnate Lord of Glory, she fulfills the temple's purpose and destiny and all that it had prefigured. She is the living promise and connection of the temple's participation in the mystery of the Incarnation: "The fulfillment of the prophecy that the fallen temple of David would be raised up again is prefigured by her, through whom the dust of the earth that all men are made of is refashioned in a body for God." Therefore, she is the living proof of its fulfillment and, in turn, she prefigures the temple's passing and its rebirth in the Body of Christ. God has declared "a new covenant; He hath made the first obsolete. That which is obsolete and aged is ready to vanish." The Old Testament Church, "The church that was formerly barren," now passes away.
"Prayer is the oxygen of the soul"
The entire life of the Theotokos was one of prayer and worship. Sacred and blessed prayer is the Mother of Virtues. According to St. Sophronios, "the quality and the grace of prayer which is done, as it should, with fervent love and desire for God, has so much great power, that it unites human beings with their Creator and raises their mind to be inseparably bonded with Him. The energy of such prayer, moreover, can hold the world together and keep it from being annihilated by the many sins done each day."
"This prayer is remission and forgiveness of sins; a bridge that separates and frees man from temptations and dangers and transports him to freedom and rest; it is a wall of separation which obstructs the grief of the passions both of men and of demons, and does not permit them (the demons) to enter into us and to torment us; it is a celestial activity that nourishes all the Angels and the Saints; it is a the endless joy and delight of the righteous; it is the virtue which must never cease; it is a source from which spring all good things; it is a mediator for all the gifts; an invisible progress in the heart; a table of noble souls that is unfailing in providing spiritual food; a perpetual illumination of the mind; a heavenly light; an axe that cuts off and dispels despondency; it is the proof of the hope the soul has in God and for this reason it prays; it is the antidote to an the release from sorrow; it is the wealth of the monastics who practice it with contrition; it is the great treasure of the hysychasts who study it thoroughly; it is the reduction and disappearance of anger; it is the mirror which reflects the degree of success in good things for the praying person; it is the revealer of the soul in love with God; the torch of the inner spiritual condition of man; it is a door through which the Angelic light enters into the praying persons and reveals to them the hidden mysteries of God; it is the messenger of the Eternal honor and of the gifts of the beloved servants of God. And to put it even more briefly, prayer creates such a great activity in the soul that it is captivated to rejoice with all of its heart and to be aware that it is standing before the tribunal and the Throne of God; and it is examined for its sins, as if it were that Fearful Hour of the Great Judgment, so the soul is judged and condemned, standing also in fear and trembling, entreating and grieving and seeking correction, in order that in the future judgment it may be found free from the wrath of God and the condemnation of its sins."
"Let us approach willingly the most sacred prayer, the queen of the virtues, speaking to us with an exalted voice and saying: Come to me, all who have become weary of the carnal and the worldly and the demonic warfare, and I will redeem you from all of these and give you rest" (cf. St. Matt. 11"18).
In order to pray, let us prepare and adorn ourselves with all of our soul and heart and strength, and with all of our mind and with profound humility..."
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God