My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


Homily on the ANNUNCIATION of Our Most Holy Lady

Saint Evodos (Ist Century), a disciple of Saint Peter and one of the Apostles of the Seventy, wrote in his work on the Mother of God how the Virgin was taken to the Temple at the age of three and remained there for almost eleven years. She was then given into Joseph’s keeping and gave birth to the Lord in her fifteenth year. The account of the Virgin Mary’s girlhood, spent in the Temple from three years of age, is found in the Feast of the Entrance, commemorated by the Holy Church on the 21st of November.

The Virgin Comes of Age

When Mary was about thirteen, it was an occasion for the Pharisees to remark that it was not the custom to allow a woman of that age to abide in the Temple of God. Therefore, at that time, the high priest made a public order: all virgins who had public settlements in the Temple and had come of age were to return home. Furthermore, since they attained a proper age of maturity, in accordance with Hebrew custom, they should endeavor to be married.

Saint Romanos the Melodist (490-556 A.D.) made the following observation: "Mary did not leave the Temple of the saints. Now, at the proper time, Mary had become radiant, and Zacharias observed that she was past the bloom of girlhood. The record of accommodations provided by the Temple for young female virgins is not clear scripturally or historically. Evidently, they were dedicated to God and were brought up according to the Scriptures. The young ladies received a proper education in the doctrines, commandments, and sacred rites of their religion.

The Vow Of Virginity

All the virgins of the Temple readily yielded obedience to the high priest’s order, except Mary who alone answered that she could not comply. She said, "It cannot be that I should know a man or that a man should know me." She assigned the following reasons for her resolve to remain a virgin: that both she and her parents had devoted her to the service of the Lord and that she herself had vowed never to lie with a man. Mary, evidently, did not believe that marriage was an end in itself.

Therefore, the high priest was brought into a difficulty. On the one hand, he did not wish to dissolve the maiden’s vow and disobey the sacred Scriptures which declare, "Make vows for yourselves and pay them to the Lord our God" [Psalm 75:11; Eccl. 5:4-6]. On the other hand, he did not wish to introduce a new custom among the people.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa comments that Mary had bound herself to virginity and that "it would be akin to sacrilege if a man were to become master of a gift sacred to God." The priests then thought to espouse Mary to someone who would ensure the custody of her virginity; for Mary felt obliged "to remain untouched and to entirely dedicate her flesh as a sacred offering to God."

The priests met in council and said, "Behold, Mary is of age! For fear lest the holy place of the Lord our God be defiled, what shall we do with her?" While they were all engaged in prayer, the high priest entered into the holy place and offered prays concerning Mary. Then behold, an Angel of the Lord stood by Zacharias, and said unto him, "Zacharias, Zacharias, go forth and call together all the widowers among the people and have each man bring his rod. And he by whom the Lord shall show a sign, shall be the husband of Mary. For the matter concerning to whom the Virgin should be given and be betrothed shall be resolved in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah, where he says, ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a blossom shall come up from his root" (Isaiah 11:1).

The lot was then cast by the priests upon the Twelve Tribes, and the lot fell upon the Tribe of Juda. Then the priest announced that all eligible widowers of Juda be summoned, saying: "Let every man who has no wife come and bring his rod in his hand." Thus, the criers went out through all of Israel. And when the trumpet of the Lord sounded, all the people ran and met together.

There was at that time, the aged Joseph of Nazareth, then eighty years old, of the Tribe of Juda and of the royal house of David. After wishing to slight the order of the high priest, he put down his axe; for he was a carpenter by profession and lived honorably by the labor of his hands. He came forward bearing his rod in his hand with the other widowers of his Tribe.

His first wife, a pious and God-fearing woman, Salome, had borne him seven children; Iakovos, Jude, Simon, and Joses; and three daughters. The names of the daughters are Salome (she being the future mother of the Apostles Iakovos and John the Theologian), Esther, and a third girl whose name has been recorded with several appellations.

The rods were then handed over to the high priest who offered a sacrifice to the Lord God and inquired of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord then revealed to the high priest that tall the rods were to be placed into the Holy of Holies of God. They were to remain there and, the following day, the men were in return to receive back their rods. The sign that was to be shown was that out of whoever’s a flower bud forth… he was the man to whom the Virgin would be given and betrothed.

Returning to the Apocryphal account, the following day all assembled early. The high priest went into the Holy of Holies and brought forth their rods. However, when the rods had been distributed, no sign had appeared. The priest then put on the sacerdotal robes. Having entered the Holy of Holies, he made a burnt offering and poured forth prayers. The Angel of the Lord then appeared to him, saying, "There is here the shortest rod, of which thou has made no account. Thou didst bring it in with the rest but neglected to take it out with the others. When thou hast taken it out and hast given it to him whose it is, then the sign will appear of which I had spoken to thee." Indeed, the rod in question was Joseph’s. The elderly widower, acknowledging his great age and feeling that he presented its pitiful appearance, did not volunteer to request his rod back, lest perchance he should be enjoined to receive the young maiden.

When he was standing last of all, the high priest cried out to him with a great voice, "Joseph, come and receive thy rod; for we are waiting for thee." Trembling, because the high priest had called him, Joseph came forward. As soon as he laid hold of his rod, STRAIGHTWAY, FROM THE TOP OF IT THERE BLOSSOMED FORTH A BUD AND IT FLOWERED.

Then all the people congratulated the elderly man, remarking, "Thou hast been made blessed in thine old age. O father Joseph, seeing that God has shown thee worthy to receive Mary." The priests then said, "Take her, because of all the Tribe of Juda thou alone hast been chosen by God. Take the Virgin of the Lord and keep her for Him." But Joseph began bashfully to address them, saying, "I am an old man and have children. Why do you hand over to me this infant, who is younger than my grandsons? She is quite young, and I fear lest I should appear ridiculous in Israel."

Saint Epiphanios notes that "the Virgin was delivered to Joseph…and he was compelled to receive her. Saint Germanos adds that "the righteous Joseph drew the lot and by this means did the Virgin leave God’s Temple. Thus, Mary was given to the fatherly care of a proper guardian. Actually, in the case of Mary, as the sole heiress of her father’s property, regardless of its value, the law insisted that she be betrothed only to a man from her own city and Tribe to prevent the transfer of property to another Tribe since the landed property was carefully guarded. Thus, Mary fulfilled this obligation of the law.

Saint Ambrose, commenting on the just character of Joseph, says that Joseph considered that the purpose of the marriage ws the preservation of Mary’s good name, "for the Lord preferred that some should doubt His own origin, rather than the chastity of His Mother" –that is, should take Him for Joseph’s son. Saint Ambrose also upheld the view of Saint Ignatius of Antioch than Satan ws then kept in ignorance of the virginal conception.

Saint Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople, also gives his opinion that she was betrothed "IN ORDER TO MOCK THAT ANCIENT AND ORIGINAL SERPENT, SO THAT BEING BETROTHED THAT SERPENT WOULD NOT ATTACK THE IMMACULATE DAUGHTER, BUT WOULD PASS HER BY…" (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)


"Glory Be To GOD
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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: