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.
THE HOLY MEETING (HYPAPANTE) OR THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE (Part II)
God Himself, that is to say the unincarnate Logos/Word of God, gave the commandment of purification on the fortieth (40) 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 open 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 and 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" (Egypt 13:9)...
"...The bringing of the children to the Temple on the fortieth (40) day was a feast of purification. The mother and child had to be cleansed of the results of the birth. [This tradition of bringing a new born child to the church after 40 days, is a tradition practiced by Orthodox Christians. Prayers are offered to cleanse the mother before she is permitted to enter the church and also, be able to receive the sacraments. If the child is a male, he is brought inside the holy altar and if a female is brought before the holy icon of the Theotokos depicted on the iconostasis.]
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 51:5). 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 (Mother of God) had need of purification. Conception without seed and birth without loss of virginity do not constitute impurity...
"... 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 the ages", and therefore He was wiser than anyone else. We know that human nature in the womb of the Theotokos was deified by the union of divine and human nature in the Person of the Logos/Word, and therefore Christ's soul was enriched with the fullness of wisdom and knowledge...
"...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 prophecies 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.
God has appointed that the offering of the first-born male should be accompanied by the offering of an unblemished lamb or a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons. In Leviticus it says: "she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting" (Lev. 12:6)...
"...Christ's parents did not offer a lamb as the law provided, because they were poor. The wealthy classes offered a year-old lamb, while the poorer classes offered a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons (Procopius). Christ really was born into a poor family and grew up as a poor man. In the end, Christ's poverty consisted not so much in the fact that He was born and lived in poverty, but rather that He became Incarnate and assumed human nature. As Saint Gregory the Theologian says, while He was rich, He became poor so that we might become rich with His Divinity.
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 (Theotokos) 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 symbolized the virginity of the Panagia and of Christ (Saint Gregory Palamas)...
"...One of the most important and central persons in the Meeting, apart of course, from Christ and the Theotokos, 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 and in what he said at that moment.
The name Symeon corresponds to his life and expectation, but also to God's revelation to him, because in the Hebrew language the word Symeon is interpreted as obedience (St. Nicetas) or as "whom the Lord heard" (St. John Chrysostom).
The Evangelist Luke characterized him as a man who lived in Jerusalem and was just and devout, "waiting for the consolation of Israel". At the same time he says the he had the Holy Spirit and that he had been informed that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ (St. Luke 2:25-26). All these signs are characteristic of an inspired man. This is why Holy Scripture is not interested in man's origin and the elements of his human make-up, because he had another life, a life of the spirit...Joseph the hymnographer calls him "a man holy hierourgon" (one who discharges a sacred function), the holy martyr Methodius calls him an "excellent priest". Saint Photius and Theophylactus say that he was not a priest, but higher than a priest, other says that he was one of the Seventy Interpreters of the Old Testament (The 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 84 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 recognized God.
The Evangelist Luke calls her a Prophetess, because she had the Holy Spirit. Saint Cosmas the hymnographer says that holy Anna "with reverence confessed"...Anna's alternative to confession is thanksgiving and praise to God for sending the redemption of Israel. Her action combines thanksgiving and proclamation, because "she spoke of Him" (St. Luke 2:38)...
"...Righteous Symeon blessed the Theotokos and Joseph, who followed these events with wonder and amazement. And he then turned to the Theotokos to make two remarkable prophecies to her.
The first referred to the Person of the Godman Christ. "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against" (St. Luke 2:34). This prophecy was realized during Christ's life-time, but it continues to e realized in the history of humanity and in the personal life of every man.
The Godman Christ is the fall of those who do not believe in Him and the rising of those who do. Golgotha is an example, one thief believes and is saved, and the other doubts and is condemned. This happens also in our inner life. Christ falls when we, the baptized, fall through prostitution and He is raised through our prudence...
"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 as the time of His departure.
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God