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.
APOLYTIKION (DISMISSAL) HYMN OF THE HOLY FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF THE THEOTOKOS TO THE TEMPLE [Apodosis [Leave-taking] of the Feast] Fourth Tone
Today is the prelude of God's pleasure and the proclamation of man's salvation. The Virgin is clearly made manifest in the temple of God and foretells Christ to all. Let us also cry out to her with mighty voice, "Hail, fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.
KATHISMATA OF THE HOLY FEAST. FIRST TONE
The yield of the just Joachim and Anna is offered to God in the Holy Sanctuary as an infant. She, blessed by Zacharias, nurtures our life. As Mother of the Lord, let us faithfully bless her. You were sanctified by God before you were conceived. Born on earth you are now brought as an offering before Him fulfilling a paternal ordinance. Escorted with bright torches, you were presented to the Holy Temple, as a truly holy temple, pure since infancy. You were beheld as a vessel of the unapproachable divine light. Truly great is your entrance O Only Ever-Virgin, Bride of God. Be gladdened, O David the Psalmist. Let Joachim and Ann rejoice, for a holy child has come from them: Mary, the divine Light-bearing torch. Entering the Temple she rejoices. Beholding her, the son of Barachias (Zacharias) blessed her and cried out in joy, "Hail, wonder of the world."
THE READING OF THE ORTHROS (MATINS) HOLY GOSPEL LESSON ACCORDING TO SAINT LUKE 1:39-56
In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call be blessed; for He Who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.
FROM "ORTHODOX DOGMATIC THEOLOGY" by Fr. M. Pomazansky:
In the first centuries of the Church of Christ, the truth of God the Word's becoming man and His birth of the Virgin Mary was the catholic faith. Therefore, the Apostolic Fathers expressed themselves thus: "Our God Jesus Christ was in the womb of Mary"; "God took flesh of the Virgin Mary" (St. Ignatius the God-bearer, St. Irenaeus). Exactly the same expressions were used by Sts. Dionysios and Alexander of Alexandria (3rd and 4th centuries). The Holy Fathers of the 4th century, Sts. Athanasius, Ephraim the Syrian, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Gregory of Nyssa, called the Most Holy Virgin the Theotokos (Mother of God).
In the 5th century, because of the heresy of Nestorius, the Church triumphantly confessed the Most Holy Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God (Theotokos) at the Third Ecumenical council, accepting and confirming the following words of Saint Cyril of Alexandria: "If anyone will not confess that Immanuel is God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is Theotokos, inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Logos (Word) of God made flesh: let him be anathema."
The ancient and most ancient proclaimers of the True Faith, in accordance with the Apostolic Tradition, had taught that the Mother of the Lord should be named and confessed to be Theotokos (Mother of God).
"Christ has become man by the Virgin, in order that by the same way in which the disobedience caused by the serpent (Satan) took its beginning, by this way should it also take its destruction. For Eve, being a virgin and incorrupt, conceived the word spoken of the serpent, and brought forth disobedience and death. But Mary the virgin receiving faith and grace, when the Archangel Gabriel brought her the good news [... ] answered "be it unto to me according to Thy word." (St. Justin the Martyr).
Saint Epiphanios of Salamis wrote: "Honor Mary, but let the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be worshipped; let no one worship Mary [... ] even though Mary is most beautiful and holy and venerable, yet she is not to be worshipped." In spite of his reservations concerning too much adoration, however, Epiphanios stated elsewhere, "He who honors the Lord honors also the holy vessel; he who dishonors the holy vessel, also dishonors His Lord. Let Mary be by herself the holy virgin, the holy vessel". Epiphanios makes a strong distinction in these two passages between the words "honor" (timao) and "worship" (latreia or proskineo).
Another Holy Father of the Church, St. Gregory of Nazianzus stated the following: "Anyone who does not admit that Holy Mary is the Mother of God is out of touch with the Godhead. Equally remote from God is anyone who says that Christ passed through the Virgin as through a channel, without being formed in her in a manner at once divine and human--divine because without the agency of man; human because following the normal process of gestation [... ].
Saint Gregory of Nyssa wrote: "In any case of the virgin birth the power of the Highest was implanted immaterially in the undefiled body and took the Virgin's purity as the material for the flesh, employing it as the contribution of the virgin body towards the formation of one who was in truth a new Man [... ] created after the likeness of God, not in the fashion of man."
Saint Proklos (an opponent of Nestorius the heretic) wrote: "For if the mother had not remained a virgin, He Who was born would have been a mere man and the birth would not have been miraculous. If she had not remained a virgin after the birth, how would He have been God and how would this have been an ineffable mystery? He was born ineffably, entering harmlessly through closed doors [... ]."
Saint Proklos offers an early prayer of praise:
Oh womb, in which the testament of our deliverance was composed, O womb, in which the weapon against the Devil was fashioned, O earth, in which the husbandman sprouted an ear of corn without seed, O temple, in which God became priest [... ]
Saint John of Damascus stated: "What shall we call you, oh Lady? With what words shall we salute you? With what praises shall we crown your holy and glorious head, you who are the provider of all good things, the giver of riches, the ornament of the human race, the pride of all creation, through whom creation was made happy!"
Saint Gregory Palamas wrote: "The Holy Theotokos alone in her body glorified by God, now enjoys the celestial realm together with her Son. For earth and grave and death did not hold forever her life-originating and God-receiving body-the dwelling more favored than heaven...how can we not proclaim her pre-eminence as regards all creatures."
(The Mother of God) is the 'ladder in the heavens" by which God came down, the "bridge leading men from earth to heaven", the "sea which drowned the Pharaoh", the rock "which gushed forth water and quenched the spiritual thirst of the faithful", the "pillar of fire leading those lost in the wilderness" and the "sign of the promised land which flows with milk and honey."
-paraphrased from a lengthy lexicon composed by St. Romanos Melodos (6th century)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God