November 21 – THE ENTRANCE OF THE EVER VIRGIN MARY INTO THE TEMPLE

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.

ON NOVEMBER 21ST
OUR HOLY ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
CELEBRATES THE ENTRANCE OF THE EVER-VIRGIN
MARY INTO THE TEMPLE

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new
covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah [Jeremiah 38:31:32].” In the hymns at Vespers of the feast, we chant: “Thou, O Virgin Mother of God,art she whom the Prophets proclaimed. Thou art the glory of the Apostles and the pride of Martyrs, the restoration of all who dwell on earth: for through thee we are reconciled to God.”

The Feast of the Entrance of the Ever-Virgin Mary into the Temple is not among the most ancient festivals of the Church. Nonetheless, it must have been instituted earlier than the 7th century, since Saint Andrew of Crete (660-740 A.D.) had known about it. Saint Tarasios (806 A.D.), the Patriarch, introduced it at Constantinople a century later. The Church breaks the silence of the canonical Gospels that we may behold the incomprehensible ways of Providence which prepared Mary, THE RECEPTACLE of the Logos {Word) and the Mother predetermined before the ages. She who was preached by the Prophets is now introduced into the Holy of Holies, like a hidden treasure of the glory of God. God has sanctified all things BY HER ENTRY AND HAS MADE GODLIKE THE FALLEN NATURE OF MORTAL MEN.

The Virgin Mary’s Parents, the Righteous Joachim and Anna

The Righteous Joachim and Anna, the Virgin’s parents, had been married fifty years when they produced their much-desired offspring. Moreover, the elderly couple fully intended TO DEDICATE AND CONSECRATE THEIR OFFSPRING, MALE OR FEMALE, TO THE TEMPLE AND SERVICE OF GOD. Thus, when the child reached TWO YEARS OF AGE, Joachim and Anna, “Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have made, lest the Lord should depart from us or, perchance, the Lord send us someone to warn us that we have been too long in paying our vow because our ‘offering’ has not yet been received.” But Anna said, “Let us wait for her third year so that our daughter might not be at loss to know her father, and also that she might not look for us.” Therefore, Joachim conceded and said, “So let us wait.”

Much of both the poetic imagery and iconography of this feast, which are used liturgically, are derived from the following passage of the protoevangelium: “When the child reached her third birthday, Joachim said, ‘Let us invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are virgins. Let each maiden take a lamp and stand with the lamps burning, that the child might not turn back and then her mind would be set against the temple of the Lord.’

The Entrance into the Temple

Thus, her parents departed their home and went up to the temple with an escort of young maidens. Upon arriving, they then put off Mary’s traveling clothes and arrayed her with garments that were nearer and cleaner–indeed, clothes befitting a queen. Now there were fifteen steps at the temple that led from the Court of the Women to that of the men. The significance of the number 15, to the Jews, was that it corresponded to the 15 Psalms of Degrees [ Psalm 119-133). The temple had been built on a mountain so that the altar of burnt offering could not be reached except by steps. On one of these steps, they placed the little Mary. Then the whole company ascended into the temple of the Lord; the maidens bearing lamps and singing psalms. And Mary, without anyone leading her or lifting her, ascended the steps one after the other.

The Virgin’s father, Joachim, was bright with joy and kept feast with Anna. Now Anna, truly blessed God’s grace, led with gladness, into the temple of the Lord, the pure and Ever-Virgin who is full of grace. And Anna called the young maidens to go before her, lamps in hand. “Go, child,” she said, to Him Who gave thee unto me; be unto Him an offering and a sweet-smelling incense. Go into the place that none may enter: Learn its mysteries and prepare thyself to become the pleasing and beautiful dwelling place of Jesus Who grants the world great mercy.”

Entering the temple with virginal glory, SHE IS COMPARED TO THAT AREA OF THE TEMPLE KNOWN AS THE HOLY OF HOLIES. Thus, in hymns, we can hear Saint Andrew of Crete chant, “Thy wise parents, O undefiled one, brought thee, who art the Holy of Holies,” as an offering to the house of the Lord, there to be reared IN HOLINESS AND MADE READY TO BECOME His Mother.”

As the holy icon of the feast depicts, the Righteous Joachim and Anna, rejoicing in spirit, offered their daughter in the temple of the law that she might make her dwelling therein. “The virgins that follow after her shall be brought unto the King; those near her shall be brought unto Thee. They shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing, they shall be brought into the temple of the King [Ps. 44:14, 15).”

The Temple at Jerusalem

In the words of Saint Gregory Palamas (1296-1359 A.D.): “The Temple of Jerusalem was the ‘type’ of Mary, for SHE IS THE ‘TRUE PLACE OF GOD.’ The Prophet Ezekiel 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 (Exodus 26:1), the Divine Manna (Exodus 16:33) the Wondrous Ark (Exodus 25:10), the Veil of the Temple (E 26:31; Matthew 27:51; Heb. 10:20), the Rod of Aaron (Numbers 17:8), the Temple never to be destroyed (John 2:19), and the Gate of God (Exodus 44:1-3) and so all these teach us to cry to thee: ‘O pure Virgin, thou art truly highly exalted above all.’ Saint Kosma (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.” (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

(To be continued)

_________________

“Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!”

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: