My beloved spiritual children 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.
NOVEMBER 21ST--THE FEAST DAY OF THE ENTRY OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD INTO THE TEMPLE
When the Most Holy Virgin Mary had reached the age of three, her parents, holy Joachim and Anna, took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem, to give her to the service of God in fulfillment of their promise. It was three days' journey to Jerusalem, but, going as they were on God's work, they did not find the journey difficult. Many of Joachim and Anna's kinsmen gathered to take part in this celebration, in which the invisible Angels of God also took part. Maidens went ahead with lighted candles in their hands, followed by the Most Holy Virgin, led on either side by her father and mother. The Virgin was clad in a royal and beautiful garments, like those of the 'king's daughter', the Bride of God (Psalm 44:9-10). Behind them walked many of their kinsfolk and friends, all bearing lighted candles. There were fifteen steps leading to the Temple. Her parents stood the Virgin on the first step, and she ran quickly to the top on her own, where the High Priest, Zacharias, the father of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner, met her and, taking her by the hand, led her not only into the Temple but into the Holy of Holies, the holiest place of all, into which none could enter except the High Priest, and that once a year. Saint Theophylact of Ochrid says that Zacharias was 'out of himself, and moved by God' when he led the Virgin into the chief place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain--otherwise there could be no explanation of his action. Her parents then offered sacrifices to God, according to the Law, received the priest's blessing and returned home, leaving the Most Holy Virgin in the Temple. She dwelt in the Temple for nine (9) whole years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often. When they departed this life, the Holy Virgin was left an orphan, and longed to remain in the Temple for the rest of her days, without entering into marriage. This being contrary both to the Law and Israelite custom, she was confided at the age of twelve (12) to Saint Joseph, a kinsman of her in Nazareth, so that she might, under the protection of betrothal, live in virginity and thus fulfill both her desire and the demands of the Law, for it was unknown in Israel at that time for a girl to vow perpetual virginity. The Holy Virgin Mary was the first to do this, and was later followed by thousands upon thousands of virgin men and women in the Church of Christ. (Source: The Prologue from Ochrid)
The Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple foretells God's blessing for the mankind, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ, the Messiah.
Saint Gregory Palamas in his homily on the Feast wrote, "If there is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit, then is not the Mother of Goodness itself, she who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the Coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He who is the preexisting and good Logos of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that as both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, that for their God-pleasing words and deeds..."
The Power of Faith
"The Church of Christ is founded upon faith as upon a rock which does not shake beneath it. By faith the Saints conquered lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the sharp sword, were strengthened in infirmity (Hebrews 11:33-38). Being inspired by faith, Christians went to torture and death with joy. Faith is a rock, but a rock that is impalpable, free of heaviness and weight, that draws one upward and not downward.
"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water, said the Lord" (St. John 7:38); and the preaching of the Apostles, a preaching in the power of the word, in the power of the Spirit, in the power of signs and wonders, was a living testimony of the truth of the words of the Lord. Such is the mystery of living Christian faith...Faith is strengthened and its truth is confirmed by the benefits of its spiritual fruits which are known by experience. Therefore the holy Apostle instructs us, saying, 'Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Chris is in you, except ye be reprobates?' (II Cor. 13:5).
Yet, it is difficult to give a definition of what faith is. When the holy Apostle says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of thing not seen" (Hebrews 11:1), without touching here on the nature of faith, he indicates only what its gaze is directed towards: towards that which is awaited, towards the invisible; and thus he indicates precisely that faith is the penetration of the soul into the future ("the substance of things hoped for"), or into the invisible ("the evidence of things not seen"). This testifies to the mystical character of Christian faith." (Source: The Orthodox Dogmatic Theology).
DIVINE SERVICES FOR THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF THE MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD INTO THE TEMPLE:
Great Vespers tonight (Monday) at 7:00 p.m.
Orthros (Matins) on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. and Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Place of Worship: Saint Andrew
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God