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.
A CONTRITE PRAYER TO THE ALL-HOLY THEOTOKOS
O Spotless, Immaculate, Chaste, Undefiled, O Pure Virgin, Our Lady and Bride of God, you have united God the Logos (Word) with mankind through your wondrous conception, and the outcast nature of our race you have joined to Heaven. You are the only hope of the hopeless, the help of those in trouble, the ever ready assistance to those who turn to you, and the refuge of all pious Christians. Abhor me not, the sinner, the accursed, who, through sinful thoughts and words and acts, have altogether turned myself into an unworthy servant-a slave to the lazy will inclined to the pleasures of the world. But as the Mother of God who loves mankind, have compassion on me the sinner and prodigal, and accept my supplication being offered to you with unclean lips. Using your boldness as a mother, entreat your Son, our Lord and Master, that He may open even to me the compassion of His loving kindness, and, overlooking my innumerable faults, may return me to repentance, and make me into an approved doer of His Commandments. Stand by me always as one who is merciful, compassionate and a lover of the good, be for me, in this life, a fervent Protectress and a helper, to defend me from the assaults of adversaries and to guide me toward salvation; and, at the time of my departure from this life, take care of my wretched soul and drive away from it the dark countenance of evil demons. And at the fearful Day of Judgment deliver me from the eternal torment (of being separated from God) and lead me forth as an heir of the ineffable glory of your Son and our God. May this indeed be my fate, O my Lady, Most Holy Theotokos, through your mediation and your protection, and by the grace and love for mankind of your Only-begotten Son, Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship, together with His Father Who is without beginning, and His All-Holy, Good and Life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
SAINTS COMMEMORATED (November 23rd): Saint Gregory, Bishop of Agrigentum; Sains Sisinius the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus; Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium; Saint Ischyrion, Bishop in Egypt; Saint Metrophanes, Bishop of Voronezh; Saint Trudo, Egoumenos (Abbot); Saint Amphilochios of the Kiev Caves; Saint Gregory of Georgia; Saint Helenus of Tarsus, Bishop; Saint Anthony of Iezerul-Vilcea; Saint Alexander in Perm; Translation (Anikomide) of the holy relics of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Russia.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Bishops, Holy Egoumenoi, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
FROM ELDER PORPHYRIOS THE KAPSOKALYVITE: "Christ is our Friend; He is whatever is beautiful and good. He is everything. In Christ there is no gloom, melancholy or introversion, whereas man suffers from various temptations and situations that make him suffer. Christ is joy, life, light the true light, which makes man glad, makes him fly, makes him see all things, see all people, suffer for all people, and want all people to be with Him, close to Him".
THE TEMPLE AT JERUSALEM
In the words of Saint Gregory Palamas: "The Temple of Jerusalem was the 'type' of Mary, for she is the 'true place of God.' The temple was to be the dwelling-place of the Divine Glory, for "the glory of the Lord came into the house, by the way of the gate looking eastward...and, behold, the house of the Lord was full of glory" (Ez. 43:4-5). And then the Prophet was told, "thou hast seen the place of My Throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, in which My name shall dwell in the midst of the house of Israel forever..." (Ez. 43:7). In the hymns of the Feast we also see the analogy of the Virgin and the temple with its holy vessels, as in the hymn of Saint George the hymnographer: "The law prefigured thee most gloriously as the tabernacle" (Ex. 26:1), "the divine jar of manna" (Ex. 16:33), "the wondrous ark" (Ex. 25:10), "the veil of the temple" (St. Matt. 27:5; Heb. 10:20), "the rod of Aaron" (Num. 17:8), "the temple never to be destroyed" (St. John 2:19), "and the gate of God" (Ex. 44:1-3); "and so all these teach us to cry to thee: "O pure Virgin, thou art truly highly exalted above all."
Saint Cosmas (7th-8th century) the Poet takes up this theme, comparing her to liturgical vessels, and chants, "Thy Son, O Virgin, has truly made thee dwell in the holy of Holies as a bright candlestick, flaming with immaterial fire, as a golden censer burning with divine coal, as the vessel of manna, the rod of Aaron, and the tablet written by God, as a holy ark and table of the bread of life."
On the Feast of the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple, one of the lessons read during Vespers is 3 Kings 8:1-11, which describes the dedication of Solomon's temple (c. 960 B.C.).
In holy icons of the Church, as those seen in the Stavronikita Monastery or the Monastery at Chora (Kariey Djami), it is evident that the actions of bringing the Ark of the Covenant and the holy vessels into the temple are illustrated as prefigurations of Mary's presentation and life in the temple.
As can be seen in this holy icon from Stavronikita Monastery, the priests are carrying the ark into the temple. Note how the iconographer, Theophanes the Cretan (16th century), has placed a depiction of the Mother of God upon it. She was an anti-type of the ark, the abode of God, through her role in the Incarnation. Thus, this vessel, borne aloft by the priests, will figure prominently among her epithets in Byzantine hymnography and exegesis.
An icon that is to be found in Constantinopolitan Church of Pammakaristos (Fethiye Camii), the Virgin is depicted, in the sanctuary, above the High Priest Aaron and his sons.
In this holy icon we recall the prophecy of Ezekiel, who had seen the Virgin-Mother as the shut outer gate of the sanctuary that looks eastward [Ez. 44:1].
Rejoice, Mary Theotokos, temple of holiness and temple that shall never be destroyed, as the prophet cried, "Holy is Thy temple, wonderful in righteousness!" (Ps. 64:5-6).
In the canon of the Akathist to the Theotokos, we chant this verse: Rejoice, O pure Maiden, the spacious "tabernacle" of the Logos.
THE TEMPLE OF HEROD
Herod the Great has attacked Jerusalem in 37 B.C. He was a prolific builder and decided to dismantle the old structure of the temple and rebuild it in the prevailing Hellenistic-Roman style. This was probably a political gesture to reconcile the Jews. Work began c. 20-19 B.C. Herod, taking pains to respect the sacred area, trained one thousand priests as masons to build the shrine, since only priests could enter the house and the inner court. Although the central part was completed within a year and a half, some of the subsidiary buildings were still under construction half a century later.
At the age of three years and two and one-half months, the young Virgin Mary in all likelihood entered some time shortly after the completion of the central part of the building, that is, some time between 17 and B.C.
The temple building is spoken of as exceedingly impressive in its grandeur of gleaming white marble, which became one of the wonders of the ancient world. Passing out of the colonnade, or eastern porch, known as Solomon's Porch, it was pierced by the Golden Gate, which was an exit from the city. The area known as the Court of the Gentiles, or what the rabbis call the "Mount of the House" was a place to which Gentiles had access. Here, too, more than likely was the market for the sale of sacrificial animals, the tables of the money changers, and places for the sale of other needful articles. The roofs were carved cedar. On the south side there were the royal porticoes which had 162 columns with Corinthian capitals that formed three aisles. Advancing within this court, you reached a place where no Gentile, nor Levitically unclean person, might proceed. There were tablets, bearing inscriptions to that effect, to warn people. Thirteen openings admitted into the inner part of the court and then fourteen steps led up to the terrace. Then a flight of steps led up to massive splendid gates. There were four gates, but the most splendid gate was that to the east, termed "The Beautiful". (Please note: the center door or gate of the Iconostasion in an Orthodox church is called "Oraia Pyli" or "Beautiful Door").
Entering by the Beautiful Gate, you came into the Court of Women, so called because the women occupied in it two elevated and separated galleries, which, however, filled only part of the court. Then fifteen steps led up to the upper court, which was bounded by a wall, and where was to be found the celebrated Nicanor Gate. Here the Levites, who conducted the musical part of the service, placed their instruments. In the Court of the Women was the Beautiful Gate where the treasury and the thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles for monetary offerings were located, while at each corner there were chambers and halls, destined for various purposes. The four chambers in the courtyards were for storing wood for sacrifice, for storing oil, wine, and salt that was to be spread on the slippery marble courtyards in case of wet weather, a room for quietness and separation for those performing vows (named Nazarite), and one where instruction could be received and questions asked.
Men could ascend through the Nicanor Gate to a narrow courtyard where they could look over a low wall into the Court of the Priests. There the priests sacrificed at the altar of sacrifice, which, with the laver, was placed before the temple porch. The laver was huge (about 7.5 feet high with about a 10,000 gallon capacity) and was supported on the backs of twelve bronze bulls, in groups of three facing the four directions. The round bronze basin stood in the court between the altar and the porch. It is unclear whether the brazen sea was to be found in Herod's Temple, since it is last mentioned being part of Solomon's Temple, because the Chaldeans broke the sea into pieces and carried them away to Babylon (2 Kings 25:13; Jer. 52:17, 20).
The most holy place (in Hebrew, debir) was entered by the High Priest once a year, viz. on the Day of Atonement. Only the officiating priests were permitted to enter the larger room, the hekal, to bring in the incense morning and evening, to trim the lamp, which was done once a day and, as we said, to replace the table with fresh showbread, which was done every Sabbath.
THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
The Ark of the Covenant was the most important object of peculiar sanctity. In the history of the ark, it is expressly recognized as the leader of the Hebrew host in their exodus and march through the desert, in virtue of its being, in some sense, the dwelling-place of God. More so than any other object, the ark is used to typify the Theotokos. In Patristic times, the text, "Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and the ark of Thy Holiness" (Psalm 131:8) inspired much homiletic treatment. It is therefore fitting that the Virgin Mary, as was in the case of the ark when it was borne aloft by the Levites, should be borne by Anna, one of the daughters of Aaron. And, as in the time of David (2 Sam. 6:13-17) and, even more so, Solomon, of the kingly tribe of Judah, who escorted the ark to the Temple (1 Kings 8:1-11), just as Joachim of David's house escorts his daughter to the temple, as the animate ark.
The ark is described in Exodus 25:10-22 as a box surmounted by two figures of Cherubim. Provisions were made for gold-plated acacia wood staves permanently inserted and fixed through golden rings so that it could be carried. The acacia wood box measured about 4 ft. by 2 ft. by 2 ft. and was gold-plated inside and out, with a gold molding. The initial purpose of the chest was to hold the "testimony" to God's salvation. The ark was a throne for the invisible God Who was seated on the wings of the Cherubim. Now within the chest were the two stone tablets of the "Covenant of the Lord" [the Ten Commandments] (1 Kings 8:21); a homer (c. two quarts) of manna in a golden pot (Exodus 16:33-34), as a memorial to God's provision; and the rod of Aaron which bloomed blossoms and produced almonds as "a testimony...against murmurings" (Numbers 17:10) to the exclusive priesthood of the sons of Aaron and the authority of Moses and Aaron.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God