FEASTS AND SAINTS CELEBRATED TODAY:
The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple
Η ΕΝ Τῼ ΝΑῼ ΕΙΣΟΔΟΣ ΤΗΣ ΥΠΕΡΑΓΙΑΣ ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΗΣ ΗΜΩΝ ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ.
READINGS FROM THE BIBLE:
The Reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56
In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name." And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 1.39-49, 56
Ἐν ταῖς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, ἀναστᾶσα δὲ Μαριὰμ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις ἐπορεύθη εἰς τὴν ὀρεινὴν μετὰ σπουδῆς εἰς πόλιν ᾿Ιούδα,καὶ εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον Ζαχαρίου καὶ ἠσπάσατο τὴν ᾿Ελισάβετ.καὶ ἐγένετο ὡς ἤκουσεν ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετ τὸν ἀσπασμὸν τῆς Μαρίας, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ αὐτῆς· καὶ ἐπλήσθη Πνεύματος ῾Αγίου ἡ ᾿Ελισάβετκαὶ ἀνεφώνησε φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξὶ καὶ εὐλογημένος ὁ καρπὸς τῆς κοιλίας σου.καὶ πόθεν μοι τοῦτο ἵνα ἔλθῃ ἡ μήτηρ τοῦ Κυρίου μου πρός με;ἰδοὺ γὰρ ὡς ἐγένετο ἡ φωνὴ τοῦ ἀσπασμοῦ σου εἰς τὰ ὦτά μου, ἐσκίρτησε τὸ βρέφος ἐν ἀγαλλιάσει ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ μου.καὶ μακαρία ἡ πιστεύσασα ὅτι ἔσται τελείωσις τοῖς λελαλημένοις αὐτῇ παρὰ Κυρίου. Καὶ εἶπε Μαριάμ· Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον καὶ ἠγαλλίασε τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου, ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὐτοῦ. ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσί με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί· ὅτι ἐποίησέ μοι μεγαλεῖα ὁ δυνατὸς καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. ῎Εμεινε δὲ Μαριὰμ σὺν αὐτῇ ὡσεὶ μῆνας τρεῖς καὶ ὑπέστρεψεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς.
The Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 9:1-7
BRETHREN, the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.
Πρὸς Ἑβραίους 9:1-7
Ἀδελφοί, εἶχεν ἡ πρώτη σκηνὴ δικαιώματα λατρείας, τό τε ἅγιον κοσμικόν. Σκηνὴ γὰρ κατεσκευάσθη ἡ πρώτη, ἐν ᾗ ἥ τε λυχνία καὶ ἡ τράπεζα καὶ ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἄρτων, ἥτις λέγεται ἅγια. Μετὰ δὲ τὸ δεύτερον καταπέτασμα σκηνὴ ἡ λεγομένη ἅγια ἁγίων, χρυσοῦν ἔχουσα θυμιατήριον, καὶ τὴν κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης περικεκαλυμμένην πάντοθεν χρυσίῳ, ἐν ᾗ στάμνος χρυσῆ ἔχουσα τὸ μάννα, καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος Ἀαρὼν ἡ βλαστήσασα, καὶ αἱ πλάκες τῆς διαθήκης· ὑπεράνω δὲ αὐτῆς Χερουβὶμ δόξης κατασκιάζοντα τὸ ἱλαστήριον· περὶ ὧν οὐκ ἔστιν νῦν λέγειν κατὰ μέρος. Τούτων δὲ οὕτως κατεσκευασμένων, εἰς μὲν τὴν πρώτην σκηνὴν διὰ παντὸς εἰσίασιν οἱ ἱερεῖς, τὰς λατρείας ἐπιτελοῦντες· εἰς δὲ τὴν δευτέραν ἅπαξ τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ μόνος ὁ ἀρχιερεύς, οὐ χωρὶς αἵματος, ὃ προσφέρει ὑπὲρ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ τῶν τοῦ λαοῦ ἀγνοημάτων·
The Reading is from Luke 10:38-42, 11:27-28
At that time, Jesus entered a village; and a woman called Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve you alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her." As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
Κατὰ Λουκᾶν 10.38-42, 11.2
Τῷ καιρῷ ἐκείνῳ, εἰσῆλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς κώμην τινά· γυνὴ δέ τις ὀνόματι Μάρθα ὑπεδέξατο αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτῆς. καὶ τῇδε ἦν ἀδελφὴ καλουμένη Μαρία, ἣ καὶ παρακαθίσασα παρὰ τοὺς πόδας τοῦ ᾿Ιησοῦ ἤκουε τὸν λόγον αὐτοῦ. ἡ δὲ Μάρθα περιεσπᾶτο περὶ πολλὴν διακονίαν· ἐπιστᾶσα δὲ εἶπε· Κύριε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου μόνην με κατέλιπε διακονεῖν; εἰπὲ οὖν αὐτῇ ἵνα μοι συναντιλάβηται.ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ ᾿Ιησοῦς· Μάρθα Μάρθα, μεριμνᾷς καὶ τυρβάζῃ περὶ πολλά· ἑνὸς δέ ἐστι χρεία· Μαρία δὲ τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα ἐξελέξατο, ἥτις οὐκ ἀφαιρεθήσεται ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς. ᾿Εγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ λέγειν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ἐπάρασά τις γυνὴ φωνὴν ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου εἶπεν αὐτῷ· μακαρία ἡ κοιλία ἡ βαστάσασά σε καὶ μαστοὶ οὓς ἐθήλασας.αὐτὸς δὲ εἶπε· μενοῦνγε μακάριοι οἱ ἀκούοντες τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ φυλάσσοντες αὐτόν.
READINGS FROM THE SYNAXARION:
Τῇ ΚΑ' τοῦ αὐτοῦ μηνός, Μνήμη τῆς ἐν τῷ Ναῷ Εἰσόδου τῆς Θεομήτορος.
Ἔνδον τρέφει σε Γαβριὴλ ναοῦ, Κόρη,
Ἥξει δὲ μικρὸν καὶ τὸ Χαῖρέ σοι λέξων.
Βῆ ἱερὸν Μαρίη τέμενος παρὰ εἰκάδι πρώτῃ.
Ταῖς τῆς Θεοτόκου πρεσβείαις, ὁ Θεός, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς. Ἀμήν.
According to the tradition of the Church, the Theotokos was brought to the Temple at three years of age, where she was consecrated to God and spent her days until she was fourteen or fifteen years old; and then, as a mature maiden, by the common counsel of the priests (since her parents had reposed some three years before), she was betrothed to Joseph.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Σήμερον τής ευδοκίας Θεού τό προοίμιον, καί τής τών ανθρώπων σωτηρίας η προκήρυξις, Εν Ναώ τού Θεού τρανώς η Παρθένος δείκνυται, καί τόν Χριστόν τοίς πάσι προκαταγγέλλεται, Αυτή καί ημείς μεγαλοφώνως βοήσωμεν, Χαίρε τής οικονομίας τού Κτίστου η εκπλήρωσις.
Today is the prelude of God's good will and the heralding of the salvation of mankind. In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, and she proclaimeth Christ unto all. To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud: Rejoice, O thou fulfilment of the Creator's dispensation.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
Ο καθαρώτατος ναός τού Σωτήρος, η πολυτίμητος παστάς καί Παρθένος, τό Ιερόν θησαύρισμα τής δόξης τού Θεού, σήμερον εισάγεται, εν τώ οίκω Κυρίου, τήν χάριν συνεισάγουσα, τήν εν Πνευματι θείω, ήν ανυμνούσιν Άγγελοι Θεού, Αύτη υπάρχει σκηνή επουράνιος.
Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.
Νους ανθρώπινος δεν μπορεί να συλλάβη το έργο της θείας οικονομίας, τί έκαμε δηλαδή και τί κάνει η αγάπη και η σοφία του Θεού για τη σωτηρία του ανθρώπου. Το έργο αυτό πραγματοποιήθηκε από τον Σωτήρα Κύριο στον κόσμο, παραδίδεται από την Εκκλησία και κηρύσσεται στη θεία Γραφή από τους Ευαγγελιστάς και τους Αποστόλους, και οι πιστοί το δέχονται "δια της πίστεως", όχι σαν ιστορική γνώση και σαν φυσική ανακάλυψη, αλλά σαν αποκάλυψη Θεού και ιερή παράδοση της Εκκλησίας. Μέσα σ' έναν τέτοιο κόσμο θείας αποκαλύψεως και ιερής παραδόσεως της Εκκλησίας, που τον θεωρούμε και τον ζούμε "δια της πίστεως" τοποθετείται η σημερινή εορτή των Εισοδίων της Υπεραγίας Θεοτόκου. "Αγνείας γαρ έχει υπόθεσιν και του κοινού γένους των γυναικών καύχημα το τελούμενον", γράφει στον εγκωμιαστικό του λόγο, τον αφιερωμένο στη σημερινή γιορτή της Θεοτόκου, ο άγιος Πρόκλος.
Τὰ Εἰσόδια τῆς Θεοτόκου
Ἡ Ἄννα, μητέρα τῆς Θεοτόκου, ἐπειδὴ πέρασε ὅλη σχεδὸν τὴ ζωὴ της στείρα, χωρὶς νὰ γεννήσει παιδί, παρακάλεσε προσευχόμενη τὸ Θεό, μαζὶ μὲ τὸν ἄνδρα της Ἰωακείμ, νὰ τοὺς χαρίσει παιδί. Καὶ ἂν γινόταν αὐτό, ἀμέσως θὰ τὸ ἀφιέρωναν στὸ Θεό. Καὶ πράγματι, ὁ Θεὸς εὐδόκησε καὶ ἡ Ἄννα γέννησε τὴν Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκο Μαρία. Ὅταν αὐτὴ ἔγινε τριῶν χρονῶν, τὴν πῆραν οἱ γονεῖς της καὶ ἀφιέρωσαν τὴν θυγατέρα τους στὸ Θεό, ἀφοῦ τὴν πῆγαν στὸ Ναό. Τὴν παρέδωσαν στὸν ἀρχιερέα Ζαχαρία, ὁ ὁποῖος ἀφοῦ τὴν παρέλαβε, τὴν εἰσήγαγε στὰ Ἅγια τῶν Ἁγίων, ὅπου μόνο ὁ ἀρχιερέας ἔμπαινε μία φορὰ τὸ χρόνο. Ἀλλὰ ὁ Ζαχαρίας γνώριζε δι᾿ ἀποκαλύψεως τί ἔμελλε νὰ συμβεῖ διὰ τῆς κόρης αὐτῆς. Ἐκεῖ ἡ Παρθένος ἔμεινε δώδεκα χρόνια. Βγῆκε τότε, ὅταν ἦλθε ἡ στιγμὴ νὰ συμβάλει στὴ σάρκωση τοῦ Σωτῆρα Χριστοῦ, ποὺ εἶναι «ὁ ἀγαπήσας ἡμᾶς καὶ δοὺς παράκλησιν αἰωνίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα ἀγαθὴν ἐν χάριτι». Ὁ ὁποῖος, δηλαδή, μᾶς ἀγάπησε καὶ μᾶς ἔδωσε παρηγοριὰ ποὺ δὲ θὰ ἔχει τέλος, ἀλλὰ θὰ εἶναι αἰώνια, καὶ μᾶς χάρισε ἐλπίδα ἀγαθῶν οὐρανίων.
The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple in Jerusalem.
When the holy and most pure child Mary (Mariam or Miriam in Hebrew) reached the age of three, her parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, fulfilled the vow they had made to dedicate her to God. Going in procession with a company of maidens carrying torches, they presented their child at the Temple in Jerusalem, where Zecharias the High Priest took her under his care, blessing her with these words: The Lord has glorified thy name in every generation; it is in thee that He will reveal the Redemption that he has prepared for his people in the last days. He then brought the child into the Holy of Holies something completely unheard-of, for under the Law only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy Place, and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
(In the icon of the feast, the maidens who accompany the Theotokos are shown bare-headed, as was customary for unmarried girls; but the Theotokos herself, though only three years old, wears the head-covering of a married woman to show her consecration to God.)
The holy Virgin lived in the Temple for the next nine years, devoting herself entirely to prayer. In this time she attained the utter purity of heart befitting the destined Bearer of the Most High; she became in her own person the fulfilment and condensation of all of Israel's faithfulness. Saint Gregory Palamas says that, when the Theotokos entered the Holy of Holies, the time of preparation and testing of the Old Covenant came to an end for Israel, which was now ready, in the blessed Virgin, to bring forth the Savior.
When Mary approached marriageable age, she was entrusted to the chaste widower Joseph to guard her. (The Prologue says that a life of intentional virginity was unknown among the Hebrews, so the righteous Joseph undertook the forms of marriage so as not to cause scandal among the people.)
"Wherefore the Church rejoices and exhorts all the friends of God for their part to enter into the temple of their heart, there to make ready for the coming of the Lord by silence and prayer, withdrawing from the pleasures and cares of this world." (Synaxarion)
The Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God happened, according to the preserved accounts of Holy Tradition, in the following manner. The parents of the Virgin Mary, Righteous Joakim and Anna, in praying for a solution to their childlessness, gave a vow that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.
When the MostHoly Virgin reached three years of age, the holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. Having gathered together their kinsfolk and acquaintances, and having dressed the All-Pure Mary in Her finest clothes, and with the singing of sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands they carried Her to the Jerusalem Temple. There the high-priest with a throng of priests met the maiden of God. In the Temple, the stairway led up fifteen high steps. The Child Mary, so it seemed, could not Herself make it up this stairway. But just as they placed Her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly made it up over the remaining steps and ascended to the highest. Then the high-priest, through an inspiration from above, led the MostHoly Virgin into the Holy of Holies, and herein of all people it was only the high-priest that entered one time a year with a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.
Righteous Joakim and Anna, having entrusted their Child to the will of the Heavenly Father, returned home. The MostBlessed Mary remained in the domicile for girls, situated near the Temple. Round about the Temple, through the testimony of Holy Scripture (Exodus 38; 1 Kings 1: 28; Lk. 2: 37), and also the historian Josephus Flavius, there were many living quarters, in which dwelt those dedicated to the service of God.
The earthly life of the MostHoly Mother of God from the time of Her infancy to the time of Her ascent to Heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. "If anyone were to ask me, -- said Blessed Jerome, -- how the MostHoly Virgin spent the time of Her youth, -- I would answer: that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian".
But in the Church tradition there were preserved accounts, that during the time of the stay of the All-Pure Virgin at the Jerusalem Temple, She grew up in a community of pious virgins, read diligently the Holy Scripture, occupied Herself with handcrafts, prayed constantly and grew in love for God. In remembrance of the Entry of the MostHoly Mother of God into the Jerusalem Temple, Holy Church from ancient times established a solemn feastday. The decretals for the making of the feast in the first centuries of Christianity are found in the traditions of Palestinian Christians, where mention is made that the holy Empress Helen built a church in honour of the Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God.
In the IV Century there is mention of this feast by Sainted Gregory of Nyssa. In the VIII Century Saints Germanos and Tarasios, Constantinople Patriarchs, delivered sermons on the feastday of the Entry.
The feast of the Entry into the Temple of the MostHoly Mother of God -- foretells the blessing of God for the human race, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ.
DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY
OF OUR IMMACULATE LADY MOTHER OF GOD
INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES
by Sainted Gregory Palamas, ArchBishop of Thessalonika
If a tree be known of by its fruit, and a good tree beareth good fruit (Mt. 7: 17; Lk. 6: 44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself and the Birth-Giver of Eternal Beauty incomparably more excellent than any good, situated within the world of the natural or the supernatural? Wherefore the Co-Eternal and Immutable Image of the goodness of the Transcendent Father -- the Word Praeternal, Praexistent and Beyond-All-Goodness, through His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, aspiring to take our image upon Himself, so as from uttermost hades to draw up our nature unto Himself, and so as to renew this corrupted nature and take it to the heights of Heaven, -- for all this to find that most-good Servant, and Ever-Virgin, Whom we glorify, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple -- into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages to the salvation and uplifting of our kind: She was chosen from amidst the ranks of the chosen of the ages and the glorified both through verymost piety and prudence, and through God-pleasing word and deed.
The once author of evil -- the serpent, exalting it over us, did also entice us into its abyss. Many a reason impelled it to rise up against us and enslave our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, trickery, slyness, and in addition to all this, also the death-bearing power within him, which he begat, being the first to fall away from true life. The author of evil was jealous of Adam, having seen him aspiring from earth to Heaven, from which through just cause he was cast down, and filled with envy, with a terrible fierceness he pounced upon Adam, he wanted even to attire him with the garb of death. But jealousy -- the begetter not only of hatred, but also murder, which this indeed hater of mankind accomplished over us, with evil having set upon us, whereby with utmost injustice he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruination of a creature, created in the image and likeness of God. And since he did not possess sufficient boldness to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit, and having assumed the appearance of a sensual snake, he turned himself to the earth-born, like a friend and useful counsellor, this indeed terrible enemy and malevolent, imperceptibly he passes over into action and by his God-opposing advice and with his own especial death-bearing power, like a venomous poison, he injects it into man.
If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the Divine commandment, then he would have rendered himself the vanquisher of his enemy and would have come out on top of the deathly defilement. But since, from the one side, he voluntarily gave in to sin, whereby he underwent defeat and was made a sinner; and from the other side, being the source-root of our race, he begat us as still death-bearing offshoots, -- then in order for us to annihilate within ourselves the death-bearing venomed poison of soul and body and find for ourselves eternal life, it was absolutely necessary for our race to have a new tap-root. It was necessary for us to have a new Adam, Who not only would be sinless and absolutely come out the victor, but Who also would be able to forgive sin and set free from the punishment those subject to it. And not only would He be embued with life, but also the capacity to restore to life, so as to make partakers of life those, which cleave to Him and belong to His lineage, and not only those present in the subsequent generations after Him, but also those, which already had died before Him. Wherefore Saint Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, doth exclaim: the first man was alive in soul, but the second Man was in spirit life-creating (1 Cor. 15: 45).
But except for God, no one is without sin, nor life-creating, nor able to remit sin. Therefore the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God, so that He Himself through Himself would be with life, with wisdom, and truth, and love, and mercy, and altogether with every good for this -- to bring the old Adam into renewal and restoration to life by mercy, by wisdom and truth, set forth in opposition to those means whereof the author of evil has caused death for us.
Thus similar is the contrast in this, how that primordial man-killer did lord it over us with envy and hatred, and how the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] on account of His immeasurable love for mankind and His goodness. He intensely desired the salvation of His creation, which salvation consisted in this -- to bring anew the creation under Him. In contrast to this the author of evil wanted to bring to ruin the creation of God, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as that one gained himself the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so likewise the Liberator gained Himself the defeat of the author of evil and renewed His creation by means of truth, justice and wisdom.
It was a deed of perfect justice so that our nature, which voluntarily was enslaved and struck down, should itself again enter the struggle for victory and overthrow from itself voluntary enslavement. Wherefore it pleased God to take upon Himself of us our nature, in miraculous form co-uniting with it Hypostatically. But the union of the Most-High Nature, the purity of which is incomprehensible for our reason, -- was impossible for a sinful nature before it purify itself. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bearer of purity, it was necessary that there should be a Virgin perfectly Immaculate and MostPure.
We now celebrate the memory of this, -- that once formerly was co-operated this Incarnation. Wherein He in nature God, God the Word and Son Co-Eternal and Co-Without-Beginning for the Transcendent Father, is co-actualised with the Son of Man, with the Son of the Ever-Virgin. "Jesus Christ yesterday and today, He is forever" (Heb. 13: 8), immutable in Divinity and immaculate in humanity, He alone only, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, "doeth not iniquity, nor is deceit found on His lips" (Is. 53: 9), -- He alone was not conceived in iniquity, and His birth was not into sin, in contrast to which regarding himself and every other man the Prophet David gives testimony (Ps. 50 : 7). He alone was perfectly pure and even had not the need of cleansing for Himself: but rather for our sake He took upon Himself suffering, death and resurrection.
God is born of the Immaculate and Holy Virgin, or even better said, of the All-MostPure and All-Holy. This Virgin is not only above every fleshly defilement, but also even above every impure thought, and Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the MostHoly Spirit. When the Virgin lived completely remote from people and dwelt in prayerful contemplation and spiritual joy, She declared to the announcing Angel: "Behold the HandMaiden of the Lord: be it unto Me according to thy word" (Lk. 1: 38), and having conceived, She gave birth. And so, in order to render the Virgin worthy for this sublime purpose, God from before the ages predetermined from amidst the number of the chosen and at the beginning of time did choose Her, She now praised by us as the Ever-Virgin. Turn your attention then, whence began this choice. From the sons of Adam was chosen by God the wondrous Seth, who through his decent temperament, through being the image of good sense and utmost virtue, did show himself inspired by Heaven, wherefore also he was granted to be chosen, and from whom the Virgin -- the God-like chariot of the Coelestial God -- was needed to give birth and thereof to summon the earth-born to the Heavenly sonship of filiation. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were named "sons of God": wherefore the Son of God did possess this lineage to be born from; and thus also the name of Seth signifies a getting-up or resurrection (from the dead), which spoken specifically, -- is also the Lord, promising and giving life immortal to believers in His Name. And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4: 25); and the Son of the Virgin, Christ, born for us in place of Adam, Whom likewise through jealousy the author of evil killed. But Seth did not resurrect Abel: since he served but as a foretype of resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is for the earth-born the Life and the Resurrection, for which also the descendents of Seth are vouchsafed, through hope, of filiation to God, being called the children of God. And that afterwards in consequence of this hope they were named sons of God, this indicates first suchlike a calling is through inheritance, and receiving this chosenness was the son of Seth -- Enos, who by the report of Moses, first hoped upon this, in order to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4: 26).
By such manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes through the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage. When the chosen time was come, then from the house and fatherhood of David there was chosen by God -- Joakim and Anna, who although they were childless, were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all, descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought the resolving of their childlessness and promised to dedicate to God the offspring, -- then from Her very childhood, then the Mother of God was proclaimed and given them by God, as a Child, -- so that from such many-virtued parents was conceived the All-Virtuous and All-Pure Virgin. Thus in suchlike manner, it was a conception chaste in unity with prayer, and the All-Pure co-operated as the Birth-Giver of virginity, in the flesh imperishably giving birth to Him Who before the ages was born of God the Father. And when Righteous Joakim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish and that the Divine promise to them was realised in fact, then they from their end as true lovers of God hastened to fulfill their vow given to God: they have now led into the Temple of God this in truth Child Virgin Mother of God, having just been weaned from milk. And She, in spite of Her tender age, was imbued with Divine gifts and more than the others She comprehended what was being done over Her, and by all Her manner She appeared -- not that they were leading Her into the Temple, but that She Herself through a particular was arriving into the service of God, as though on self-sprouted wings striving towards the sacred and Divine love, being convinced that Her Entry into the Temple -- into the Holy of Holies and dwelling in this Her wished-for destiny. Therefore also the high-priest, seeing that upon the Maiden, more than anyone else, there dwelt Divine grace, wanted to set Her within the Holy of Holies, and he convinced everyone willingly to concur with this. And God assisted the Virgin and sent Her through His Angel mysteried food, thanks to which She was strengthened in nature and was made more pure than the Angels, having for this Heavenly spirits in attendance. And not only once was She led into the Holy of Holies, but was accepted by God for dwelling with Him during the course of Her youthful years: since through Her in due course the Heavenly Abodes were opened and are given for an eternal habitation to believers in Her miraculous birth. Herein is the meaning of why the Chosen amongst the chosen from the beginning of time came to be within the Holy of Holies. Having Her body purer than the most pure by virtue of the spiritual, such that it was able to accept the Hypostatic Word Himself Who is of the Father Without-Beginning, -- the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, through inheritance now is placed into the Holy of Holies, so that at the necessary time, as it were, to serve towards its enriching and worthy adornment. Wherefore, Christ God also doth glorify His Mother, both before birth, and also through birth.
We however, contemplating the co-operating of salvation for our sake through the MostHoly Virgin, do render Her thanks and praise. And truly, if the thankful woman (about whom the Gospel tells us), having heard some saving words of the Lord, did render thankfulness to His Mother, her voice rising above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ: "Blessed is the womb that beareth Thee, and the paps Thou hast suckled" (Lk. 11: 27), -- then beyond this even moreso ought we as Christians, who have the imprint of the words of eternal life in our hearts and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and through them the restoration from death of our nature, and the ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise to us of immortal life and unfailing salvation, -- then after all this ought we not all the more to glorify and unceasingly to bless the Mother of the Author of Salvation and the Bestower of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth and now Her Entry into the Temple -- into the Holy of Holies. We shall move on, brethren, from the earthly mountain, we shall transfer from flesh to spirit, by preference a perpetual not an temporal desire. We shall give up the needed scorn of fleshly delights, which serve as allurements against the soul and soon wilt pass away. Let us desire spiritual gifts, which exist imperishably. Let us avert our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise it to the Heavenly sublimity -- to the Holy of Holies, where now the Mother of God doth reside. Wherefore in such manner our song and prayers with God-pleasing boldness and profit will reach Her, and we in gratitude for Her intercession, together with the present blessings we do co-opt the inheritance of future everlasting blessings, through the grace and love for mankind born for us of Her -- our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and majesty, honour and worship together with His Father Without-Beginning and His Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
THE PROLOGUE FROM ORCHID:
1. The Entry into the Temple of the Most-holy Theotokos
When the Most-holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise. It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem but, traveling to do a God-pleasing work, this journey was not difficult for them. Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the Most-holy Virgin, led on one side by her father and on the other side by her mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the ``King's daughter, the Bride of God'' (Psalm 45:13-15). Following them were many kinsmen and friends, all with lighted tapers. Fifteen steps led up to the Temple. Joachim and Anna lifted the Virgin onto the first step, then she ran quickly to the top herself, where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, who was to be the father of St. John the Forerunner. Taking her by the hand, he led her not only into the Temple, but into the ``Holy of Holies,'' the holiest of holy places, into which no one but the high priest ever entered, and only once each year, at that. St. Theophylact of Ohrid says that Zacharias ``was outside himself and possessed by God'' when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain-otherwise, his action could not be explained. Mary's parents then offered sacrifice to God according to the Law, received the priest's blessing and returned home. The Most-holy Virgin remained in the Temple and dwelt there for nine full years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often, especially Righteous Anna. When God called her parents from this world, the Most-holy Virgin was left an orphan and did not wish to leave the Temple until death or to enter into marriage. As that would have been against the Law and custom of Israel, she was given to St. Joseph, her kinsman in Nazareth, after reaching the age of twelve. Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.
HYMN OF PRAISE
Saints Joachim and Anna
The parents of the Holy Virgin
Lead her to the holy Temple,
And according to their promise
They give her to the Lord.
They lead the Temple to the Temple,
While angels chant,
And chant with joy
To the young Virgin in purest attire.
The virgins accompany our Virgin,
With hymns and tapers;
Zacharias leads her
To the Holy of Holies;
And into the Holy Place he takes her,
Where the awesome mystery is hidden.
Where the Ark of the Covenant is,
Where the golden lampstand is,
Where the staff and the manna are,
Into the guarding place of all mysteries;
There the pure Virgin is led-
The Mystical Ark of the Living Christ.
Submit yourself to the will of God and do not pry too closely into God's judgments, for you can lose your mind. The judgments of God are innumerable and unfathomable. A monk in the wilderness, imagining that he had attained perfection, prayed to God that He would reveal to him His various judgments in the lives of men. God put the thought in his mind to go to a distant place to inquire of a spiritual elder concerning this. However, while the monk was on his way, an angel of God in the form of an ordinary man joined him, saying that he too wanted to go to that elder. Thus traveling together, they came upon the house of a God-fearing man, who treated them well, giving them to eat from a silver platter. When they had eaten, the angel took the platter and threw it into the sea. The monk found this both amazing and unjust, but he remained silent. The second day they came upon the house of another hospitable man who cordially received and treated them as kinsmen. Before leaving, that man brought out his only son for the travelers to bless. The angel of God then took the child by the throat and strangled him. The monk was greatly angered and asked the angel who he was, and why he had committed such misdeeds. The angel meekly replied to him: ``The first man was pleasing to God in all things and had nothing in his house that was attained by injustice except that silver platter. By God's judgment, I threw that stolen platter away, so that the man would be righteous before God in all things. The other man was pleasing to God and had nothing in his house that would bring down the wrath of God except his son, who-had he matured-would have become a great criminal and a demonic vessel. Therefore, by God's judgment, I strangled that child in time to save his soul, for the sake of his father's goodness, and to save the father from many miseries. Behold, such are the mysteries and the unfathomable judgments of God. And you, elder, should return to your cell and not strive vainly by inquiring into that which is in the authority of the One God.''
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
1. How God created man from the dust of the earth;
2. How He breathed the spirit of life into his nostrils;
3. How man became a living soul.
on the faithful as one body and one spirit
…There is one body and one spirit (Ephesians 4:4).
The Holy Apostle counsels the faithful to strive to be one body and one spirit. By one body is understood ``one Faith,'' without divisions, without heresies and without self-will: the whole Church is one body of which Christ is the Head. By one spirit is understood ``love,'' the ardent love of all the faithful for Christ, from which proceeds mutual love. The many become as one; many men become as one man. This is the miracle of the Christian Faith and Christian love. There is no power in the world which can be a stronger bond among men: not the same blood, or the same language, or the same hearth, or the same parents, or any type of common material interests. None of these is even nearly as powerful a bond as Christian faith and love. By this powerful, irresistible bond, all the members of the Church are bound to each other. The Church of God stands as one man, in time and in eternity-one body and one spirit. There is nothing more contradictory to this wondrous unity than the pride of individual men. Pride distorts faith, cools love, creates heresies, divides the Church, and sacrifices the good of the whole for individual satisfaction. Pride, in essence, is the absence of both faith and love. Brethren, may God save us from pride, the primal infirmity of the human race, that we may always be one body and one spirit in our Lord Jesus Christ.
To Thee, O Lord Jesus; to Thee, the Head of the Church, be glory and praise forever. Amen.