My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE ENTRANCE OF THE VIRGIN MARY INTO THE
TEMPLE (Part II)
The Words of the Prophets are Fulfilled
The High Priest Zacharias, the husband of Anna’s niece Elizabeth, was the future father of Saint John the Baptist and Forerunner. When he beheld Virgin’s approach, he rejoiced in the Spirit, and said, "Mary, the Lord God has magnified thy name to all generations and, by thee, to the very end of time, the Lord will show His redemption to the children of Israel." The High Priest Zacharias unites in his person two traditions-PRIESTLY and PROPHETIC. Rejoice, Mary, preaching of the Prophets and the fulfillment of their words! The Prophets prophesied of thee and have thee as their boast.
A Description of the interior of the Temple
There was a thick curtain that separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies; beyond it was empty space. The Ark of the Covenant stood there, overshadowed by two olive wood-carved Cherubim whose wings touched each other and the side walls. Another feature was the rock of Moriah, which pierced the floor. Both the holy place and the Holy of Holies were paneled with cedar-wood, and the floor was planked with cypress. Walls and double doors were decorated with carvings of flowers, palm trees and Cherubim overlaid with gold. There was no visible stonework inside. A heavy double veil concealed the entrance of the Holy of Holies. The most holy place (in Hebrew, debir) was entered by the High Priest once a year, namely on the Day of Atonement. Only the officiating priests were permitted to enter the larger room, the hekal, to bring in the incense morning and evening; to trim the lamp, which was done once a day; and, as we said, to replace the table with fresh shewbread, which was done every Sabbath.
The Ark of Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant was the most important object, of peculiar sanctity. In the history of the Ark, it is expressly recognized as the leader of the Hebrew host in their exodus and march through the desert, by virtue of its being, in some sense, the dwelling-place of God. More so than any other object, the Ark is used TO TYPIFY THE THEOTOKOS (Mother of God). In Patristic times, the text, "Arise, O Lord, into the Thy rest, Thou and the ark of holiness" (Psalm 131:8), inspired much homiletic treatment. It is therefore fitting that the Virgin Mary, as in the case of the Ark when it was borne aloft by the Levites, should be born by Anna, one of the daughters of Aaron. And, even as in the time of David (2 Kings [2 Samuel] 6:13-17), and more so, Solomon, of the kingly Tribe of Judah who escorted the Ark to the Temple (3 Kings [1 Kings] 8:1-11), in like manner Joachim of David’s House escorts his daughter to the Temple, as the animate Ark. There was no ark of Herod’s temple; but it did not matter, because there was no need for the "TYPE" when the LIVING "ARK" Mary, was present in the Holy of Holies.
The Virgin Enters the Holy of Holies
Then Zacharias, the priest of God, received her into the Temple with rejoicing and established her there; that is, he then took Mary to the Vema. Thus she abode in the Holy of Holies for more than 9 years, though some Apocryphal manuscripts record her say as being as long as 12 years. The Holy of Holies, was a place that none dared enter, except the High Priest–and then, only at his appointed time, and this happened but ONCE A YEAR.
The Holy of Holies was that place in the Temple, the dwelling place of God, in which God came into contact with man through the intermediary of the High Priest. Now God, Who will condescend to become man FOREORDAINED THE HOLY VIRGIN TO BECOME THE SUPREME "Holy of Holies" through which H would come into permanent contact with man in the Holy Church, becoming Man Himself, Christ Jesus, the Great High Priest, and intermediary. As the Holy of Holies was filled with the Glory of God’s presence–so much that the priests could not bear the glory of it–so the womb of the All-Holy Virgin was to be filled with the glory of God’s presence.
The Virgin Receives Bread from the Archangel
Saint Geroge writes that the Angels were astonished to see the Virgin enter the Holy of Holies, as we hear in the festal hymn: "Beholding the entry of the All-Pure One, the Angels were struck with amazement, seeing how the Virgin entered into the Holy of Holies." Saint Andrew of Crete writes that Mary, the "Holy of Holies," is placed as an infant in the Holy Sanctuary, to be reared by the hands of an Angel. In the hymns, we learn that the Angel is the Archangel Gabriel: "And Gabriel was then sent to thee, O Virgin All-Undefiled, to bring thee food. All the powers of heaven stood amazed, seeing the Holy Spirit dwell in thee."
The manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which the Father purposed in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:10-11), had been hid in God. The Principalities and Powers in heavenly places knew it only in part. It was by and through the Church that all came to know the mystery which, from the beginning of the world, had been hid in God (Ephesians 3:9-10). It is THE SECRET PREPARATION OF THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST. In the Temple at Jerusalem, the ELECT Virgin would prepare herself for her future role as the "Temple" of His body–A BODY THAT WOULD BE DESTROYED, BUT THAT HE WOULD RAISE UP IN THREE DAYS (John 2:19), and, then, with that same body, He would e received up into the heavens and sit at the right hand of God (Matthew 16:19).
Moreover, she did not venture to leave this place, but remained therein and conversed with the Angels. Her attitude is described by the hymnographer thus: "O Venerable Holy of Holies, Thou dost love to dwell in the Holy Temple; and Thou abidest, O Virgin, in converse with Angels, receiving bread most marvelously from heaven, O Thou who dost sustain our life." Saint Germanos of Constantinople (635-733 A.D.), in a sermon, present a rich eulogy of Mary: "Fed by Angels… the child grew and became strong, and the whole force of the curse by which we were struck in Eden was foiled."
The Virgin Growing Up in the Temple
Saint John Maximovitch (1896-1966 A.D.) writes that Mary was settled in the quarters for the virgins which existed in the Temple. She spent so much time in prayer in the Holy of Holies that one might say that she lived in it. She desired to fulfill the Commandment of God, "Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God Am Holy" (Leviticus 19:2).
Thus, she became more and more perfect in the work of God. Far from the turmoil of everyday life, the All-Holy One meditated and nourished her soul on Holy Scripture day and night. She ate once daily and occupied herself with prayer and wool work. When the older virgins rested from the praises of God, she did not rest. None exceeded her in the praises and vigils of God, and no one was more learned in the wisdom of the law of God. No one was more lowly in humility, more elegant in singing, and more perfect in all virtue.
Saint Ambrose comments, in Concerning the Ever-virginity of the Virgin Mary, that she was adorned with all virtue and manifested an example of an extraordinary pure life. Being submissive and obedient to all, she offended no one and was cordial to all. She never spoke a crude word and did not allow any unclean thought. Mary blessed God without interruption and, lest perchance even in greeting others she should cease from her praises to the Lord, she even answered then, praising God, in her salutation, by saying: "Thanks be to God" or "Glory be to God." (From the Virgin began the tradition of using expression when Orthodox Christians greet one another.)
Saint Gregory Palamas praises Mary in superlative terms, writing, "Today a new world and a wonderful Paradise have appeared. In it and from it a new Adam is born to reform the old Adam and renew the whole world… God has kept this Virgin for Himself before all ages. He chose her from among all generations and bestowed on Her grace higher than that given to all others, making Her, before Her wondrous childbirth, the Saint of Saints, giving Her the honor of His own house in the Holy of Holies… Wishing to create an image of absolute beauty and to manifest clearly, to Angels and to men, the power of His art, God made Mary truly All-Beautiful… He made of Her a blend of All-Divine, Angelic, and human perfection, a sublime beauty embellishing the two worlds, rising from earth to heaven and surpassing even the latter."
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer writes: "The Holy Spirit wholly sanctified thee in the temple; therefore thou has become the fair spouse of the Father and Mother of the Son."
Through the intercessions of Thy Saints,
O Christ God, have mercy on us. Amen.
[ Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George