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.
ON FEBRUARY 2ND OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH COMMEMORATES THE MEETING (YPAPANTE) OF JESUS CHRIST
Forty days after His birth in the flesh, Christ was presented at the Temple in accordance with legal convention. And because there in the Temple He was received by persons moved by the Spirit, and especially because Symeon took Him into his arms, this feast is also called a meeting ('Ypapante' in Greek).
The Church appointed this great feast of the Lord and the Mother of God to be celebrated on the 2nd February, because it is the fortieth day after the 25th of December, when the Nativity of Christ in the flesh is celebrated. In this way the year is divided by the turning points in the divine economy and blesses them. At the same time it makes it possible for man to be initiated into the great mystery of the Incarnation of the Son and Logos/Word of God.
The event of the presentation of Christ in the Temple on the fortieth day after His birth is described only in the Gospel of Saint Luke (Luke 2:22-39).
God Himself, that is to say the unincarnate Logos/Word of God, gave the Commandment of purification on the fortieth day to Moses, and it had been established for all the Israelites. This Commandment was given to Moses even before the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, before they crossed the Red Sea.
The Commandment is as follows: "The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: "Sanctify to me all the first-born, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of animal; it is mine" (Exodus 13: 1-2). This offering also referred to the first-born male animals, which had to be separated and offered to God. God's Commandment was clear: "that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstling that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord's" (Exodus 13:12).
This offering was a sign of recognition of God's beneficence, and showed that they belong to Him. It is well known that the Commandment to dedicate the first-born male child was given to the people of Israel, through Moses, directly after the killing of the first-born children of the Egyptians, when Pharoah at once gave permission for the exodus, before they crossed the Red Sea. The explanation of this act is characteristic: "for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt" (Exodus 13:9)...
"...The bringing of the children to the Temple on the fortieth day was a feast of purification. The mother and child had to be cleansed of the results of the birth.
Certainly the birth of children is a blessing of God, but it must be realized that the manner in which man gives birth is a fruit and result of the fall; it is the so-called coats of skin, which Adam wore after the fall, and the loss of God's grace. It is in this light that we should see the words: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 50: 5). Eventually by dispensation God blessed this way in which man is born, but nevertheless it is a fruit of the fall. Parents as well as children should bear this in mind. The ceremony of purification should be interpreted in this theological framework.
When we reflect on these theological truths, we can see that neither Christ nor the Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God) had need of purification. Conception without seed and birth without loss of virginity do not constitute impurity.
The Commandment which God gave to Moses said: "If a woman has conceived and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days" (Leviticus 12:2). This passage shows the purity of the Panagia at once, because the woman is unclean who is to give birth when she has been fertilized by a man. The Panagia, however, conceived by the Holy Spirit and not germinally, and therefore she was not unclean. This means that it did not apply to her case, but she went to the Temple in order to keep the law.
It is a moving scene when Christ as an infant, as a baby, is offered to the Temple. The Pre-Eternal God Who, as the Logos/Word of God, has always been united with His Father and the Holy Spirit and simultaneously has directed the world, the entire universe, is presented to the Temple as an infant in the arms of His mother.
Although Christ was an Infant, at the same time He was "God before all ages", and therefore He was wiser than anyone else...By means of this infancy He cured Adam's "infantile mind". When God formed Adam in Paradise, Adam was an infant as to grace and sanctification. He did have an illuminated nous, but He had to be tested and attain deification (theosis). Since he was unshaped and an infant in spirit, because he had an infantile mind, he was easily deceived by the evil demons, who awakened him to sin and evil. Therefore Christ, having the bodily age of an infant, cured not only Adam's infantile mind, but also his human nature and did what the first Adam failed to do. Thus, by the Incarnation of His Son, God the Father made the deification (theosis) of man more sure and effective. In Christ the devil could no longer deceive human nature, as he had done with ease in the first Adam.
The kenosis, or self-humbling, of the Son and Logos/Word of God, as is also seen in the case of His offering to the Temple, exceeded even the Angel's understanding, for they too were astonished at God's immense condescension. The Prophet Habakkuk prophesies the incarnation of the Logos/Word of God: "God is coming from Teman, and the Holy One from Mt, Paran. His majesty covers the heavens, and his glory fills the earth" (Habakkuk 3:3). The word for "glory" means the incarnation and the divine kenosis of the Logos/Word of God. "Covered the heavens" means that it covered, blanketed even the height of the Angels, since even the Angels were astonished on seeing the immense and inexpressible condescension of the Logos/Word of God.
"...The law provided that a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons be offered, because the turtle-doves signify the wisdom of the parents who were joined together according to the law of marriage, while the two young pigeons referred to the Panagia and Christ, because Christ was born of the Virgin and remained Virgin Himself to the end. Thus, while the former signified the honorable and blessed marriage, the latter symbolizes the virginity of the Panagia and of Christ (St. Gregory Palamas)...
"...One of the most important and central persons in the Meeting, apart, of course, from Christ and the Panagia, was Symeon, "the righteous and devout", who was granted to welcome Christ, to take Him in his arms and to recognize Him by the power and energy of the Holy Spirit. In fact he is a great personality both in that he saw Christ (The Messiah) and in what he said at that moment...
"...Saints Photios and Theophylactos say that he was not a priest, but higher than a priest, others say that he was one of the Seventy Interpreters of the Old Testament (Septuagint), who was unbelieving when he interpreted the Prophet Isaiah's prophecy "behold, the virgin shall conceive..." and just at that time he was informed that he would live until he received Christ in his arms...
"...Apart from Saint Symeon the receiver of God, in the Temple there was also Anna, the Prophetess, who was granted to recognize God and to proclaim that He was her redeemer. Anna was eighty-four years old and was widowed after having lived with her husband for seven years (St. Luke 2:36-40).
Anna's characteristic feature was that she was in the Temple night and day and did not leave it. Thus, while Symeon was led to the Temple by the Holy Spirit, she remained there, and in the Holy Spirit she recognize God.
The Evangelist Luke calls her a Prophetess, because she had the Holy Spirit.
"...No sooner had Saint Symeon received Christ in his embrace than he exclaimed: "Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for my eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou has prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel" (St. Luke 2:29-31). This is a magnificent expression, which the Church has taken over and place at the end of the Vespers (Esperinos) service, as well as in other services, such as the Thanksgiving after Holy Communion of the Holy Gifts. (Also, said at the end of the 40 day blessing of the mother and child).
Saint Symeon's second prophecy, which referred to the Panagia, is as follows: "Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (St. Luke 2:35).
Apparently this prophecy refers to the pain and sorrow of the Theotokos about the Cross, when she saw her Son, Who is the Son of God at the same time, suffering and enduring. Though the Panagia did not endure or suffer pain during the birth of Christ, precisely because she conceived him without seed and gave birth without corruption, she had to suffer very much at the time of his departure.
This was the very sword that would pierce the soul of the Theotokos at Christ's death on the Cross and would reveal the thoughts of many men which were hidden in their hearts. From the pain which she felt they understood that this was His natural mother.
"...The Meeting of Christ shows that Christ is the Life and Light of men and that man should aim to attain this personal light and personal life. The Church sings, by way of exhortation, "Illuminate my soul and the light of my senses, that I may see Thee in purity; and I will proclaim that That Thou art God". In order for anyone to proclaim God, he must see Him clearly. Only those who see, can become teachers. But in order to see God one must previously be illuminated, shine in soul and bodily senses. Then the feast of the Meeting of Christ also becomes a feast of the Meeting of every believer. (Source: The Feasts of the Lord: An Introduction to the Twelve Feasts and Orthodox Christology by Metropolitan of Nafpaktos HIEROTHEOS).
DIVINE SERVICES FOR FEBRUARY 2ND:
Orthros (Matins) at 9:00 a.m.
Divine Liturgy at 10:00 a.m.
Place of Worship: Saint Andrew
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 always. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God