My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True God,
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
"Today is the preview of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O Divine Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.
Kontakion of the Feast
The Most Pure Temple of the Savior, the precious Chamber and Virgin, the Sacred Treasure of the Glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the Angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven!
THE HOLY FEAST-DAY OF THE ENTRANCE OF THE THEOTOKOS IN THE TEMPLE
[Source: Orthodox Church in America]
The second great feast of the Theotokos is the celebration of her "entrance as a child into the Jerusalem Temple" which is commemorated on the twenty-first of November. Like the feast of her nativity, this feast of Mary is without direct biblical and historical reference. But like the nativity, it is a feast filled with important spiritual significance for the Christian believer.
The text of the service tells how Mary was brought as a small child to the temple by her parents in order to be raised there among the virgins consecrated to the service of the Lord until the time of their betrothal in marriage. According to Church Tradition, Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner. She was led to the holy place to be "nourished" there by the Angels in order to become herself the "Holy of Holies" of God, the Living Sanctuary and Temple of the Divine Child Who was to be born of her.
There is no doubt that the verses of the Old Testament Psalm 45, used extensively in the services of the feast, provided a great inspiration for the celebration of Mary's consecration to the service of God in the Jerusalem Temple.
"Hear, O Daughter, and consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house, and the King will desire your beauty. Since He is your Lord, bow to him..."
"The princess is decked in her chamber with god-woven robes, in many-colored robes she is led to her King, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train."
"With joy and gladness they are led along, as they enter the palace of the King."
"Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations, therefore, the peoples will praise you forever and ever." (Psalm 45:10-17)
The Orthodox Church understands these words of the psalm to be a prophecy directly related to Mary the Theotokos. According to the Gospel of Saint Luke which is read at the Vigil of each of her feasts, the All-Holy Mother of God speaks the following words:
"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, hence-forth all generations shall call me Blessed; for He Who is Mighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation" (St. Luke 1:47-50).
The main theme of the feast of the Theotokos' entrance to the Temple, repeated many times in the liturgical services, is the fact that she Enters the Temple to become Herself "the living temple of God," thus inaugurating the New Testament in which are fulfilled the prophecies of old that "the dwelling of God is with man" and that the human person is the sole proper dwelling place of the Divine Presence. (Ezekiel 37:27; St. John 14:15-23; Acts 7:47; 2 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:18-22; 1 Peter 2:4; Revelation 22:1-4)
The Fortieth Chapter of Exodus about the building of the tabernacle is read at Vespers, together with passages from the First Book of Kings and the Prophecy of Ezekiel. Each one of these readings all end with exactly the same line, "for the glory of the Lord filled the house (tabernacle) of the Lord God Almighty." (Exodus 40:35; I Kings 8:11; Ezekiel 44:4).
Once again on this Holy Feast, the Old Testament readings are interpreted as symbols of the Mother of God. This "glory of the Lord" is referred to the Holy Mother of Christ and it "fills" her and all people after her who "hear the word of God and keep it" as the Holy Gospel of the festal Divine Liturgy proclaims (St. Luke 11:37-38). The Epistle Lesson at the Divine Liturgy also proclaims this very same theme. (Hebrews 9:1-7)
Thus, The Holy Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple is the feast which celebrates the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God. When the child Mary enters the temple, the time of the temple comes to an end and the "preview of the good will of God" is shown forth. On this feast we celebrate-in the Person of Christ's Mother-that we too are the house and tabernacle of the Lord.
...We are the temple of the Living God, as God said, "I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (2 Corinthians 6:11; Isaiah 52)
"Soon after the beginning of the Holy Nativity Fast, the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Entrance of the Most-Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Here we encounter the Holiness of Mary a small child separated from the world, brought to live in the Temple a life set apart, consecrated, and in a state of intimacy with God, something that all of us are called to be. We also see in this Feast a comparison between the Temple of stone and Ever-Virgin Mary, the Living Temple of the Savior, for she will bear God the Logos (Word) the God-Man in her womb, thus showing Herself to be a Holier Temple than that at Jerusalem. It is the Living Temple that is the instrument of the Incarnation which sanctifies the temple built of stone." (V. Rev. Steven Kostoff)
Entrance of the Theotokos
(Source: Saint Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary)
You remember that Joachim and Anna waited a long time to have a baby. They prayed for many years that God would grant them the gift of a child. When Mary was born, they were quite old. How glad they were that God had finally answered their prayers.
Saints Joachim and Anna knew Mary was meant to serve God in a special way. How did they know this? An Angel visited them and told them that God had planned long ago what this little girl would do when she grew up.
Saint Anna and Saint Joachim knew that Mary would have to be carefully prepared for such special service to God. So they promised Him that they would bring Mary to the Temple to live. There, every day, she could be with holy people who loved her. They would show her how to serve God, and how to pray. She would be prepared to be the Theotokos, the Mother of God. And later she would give Birth to Jesus Christ our Lord.
Her parents thought and thought about the best way to take Mary to the Temple. Joachim wanted to take her when she was two years old, but Anna felt that they should wait a bit longer so she would not miss them so much. So when Mary was three, her parents walked with her to the Temple. Many relatives and friends came along, too. They carried lighted candles and sang as they walked along, so that Mary would not feel afraid or worried.
Even though she was so very young, Mary walked up the Temple steps by herself. At the top the priest Zechariah met her, wearing his colorful robes. She walked to him, and she wasn't afraid. She didn't cry for her parents to take her home.
Then something happened that surprised everyone. One part of the Temple is called the Holy of Holies." People were very respectful of this place, in fact, nobody ever entered it except the High Priest, and he only did it once a year. So Zechariah shocked everybody by taking Mary, this little girl, right into the Holy of Holies!
People whispered to each other. They said, "How can she be going into that special place? What is a little girl doing there?" But Zechariah understood that Mary had an important part in God's plan. He knew that God wanted her to be prepared in the Temple. He knew that one day she would give Birth to Jesus Christ.
Mary stayed in the Temple for twelve years. The holy people there taught her how to pray and how to live a life that would please God. Then, as she grew into a young woman, she was engaged to Joseph. Later, Joseph would take care of her and of the Divine Son, Jesus Christ. [All feast day information taken from oca.org)
(To be continued)
Please note: The Feast-Day of the Entrance of the Theotokos in the Temple is a major holy day of our Church and every Orthodox Christian believer is called to attend and participate in the divine services today. Orthros (Matins): 9:00 a.m. and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
We constantly refer to Her as the Ever-Virgin Mary and the Mother of God, our Savior Jesus Christ. Do we not feel a sense of respect, love, gratitude, for Our Savior's Mother? One finds time for everything that has no real value but not for Our Lord's Mother? Does this attitude not offend our Merciful Savior and God? Orthodox Christians today have fallen into deep complacency and indifference which inevitably will hurt their hope for salvation. When we dishonor the Mother of God, we dishonor Him! IT is a very serious sin to show this carelessness to these Holy Days and treat them as if they are not necessary, not important, not of any consequence to our spiritual life and that of eternity.
Our Holy Tradition teaches us that every day is a holy day and every day we should prayer, praise and worship the Almighty God and Creator. The Lord's Day (Sunday) is not the only day of worship for the sincere Orthodox Christian. It is not the only day that we can receive the Grace of God and to commune with Him through the Holy and Divine Eucharist. If you attempt to marginalize the Holy Tradition in your life, you do it at your own spiritual peril.
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God