The Entrance of the Most-Holy Birthgiver-of-God into the Temple
On this day of the feast of the Entrance of the Most-Holy Birthgiver-of-God into the Temple, let’s review the details of this commemoration: Firstly, this feast is not present in the sacred scriptures, but has been preserved and revered by the Holy Church in the liturgy, iconography, and Holy Tradition. Secondly, the entire story is contained in an apocryphal book known as the Proto-Gospel of James, a book which contains this and many other stories about Christ and other biblical characters and saints, yet was never accepted in its totality as an inspired text by the Orthodox Church.
The parents of the Birthgiver-of-God, Joachim and Anna (whose names we also know only from Holy Tradition, not the Sacred Scriptures), took her to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill their vow that they would offer their only child, the much-awaited Ever-Virgin Mary, to the service of God. Mary was placed under the care of her uncle, the High Priest Zachariah, the father of John the Baptizer. She remained in the Temple until her betrothal to Joseph. She received her religious training and was reared like a dove and nourished by the hands of an angel as she grew in holiness and inner beauty. By living apart from the world, a mere creature is made ready to become the Mother of the Creator. The reference to doves is an analogy referring to the fact that the Israelites offered sacrifices of doves in the Temple. Mary is the Pure Dove that humanity offers to bear the Creator of All!
The poetic hymns of this feast often allude to the idea that Mary is the New Temple which will house the Only-Begotten Son of God. The Virgin Mary is the Holy Temple being reared in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Two Temples are remembered simultaneously: The living Temple and the one made out of stone; one will be destroyed and the other will be eternal. The Jewish Temple will be replaced by her, the Living Temple of the Most-High God. The Jewish Temple of stone was demolished in 70 A.D. The Ever-Virgin Mary is the Holy Temple and Tabernacle through which the Eternal Word of God became incarnate, thus enabling believers, through His saving work, to be temples of the Holy Spirit. The Ark of the Covenant is superseded by the New Ark which contained the Word of God Himself. She is the Bright Cloud filling the Temple with the Lord's Glory.
This feast should also contemplate the exceptional holiness of Joachim and Anna, the parents of the Birthgiver-of-God. They were childless for many years enduring the contempt of their contemporaries. Finally, God answered their prayers and fulfilled their dreams by blessing them with a child, a special child to be sure. Then, when she is only two years old, they are required to take her to the Temple in Jerusalem to be raised in the Holy of Holies. The pain of this unimaginable sacrifice is difficult to fathom. What icons of faith, trust, self-sacrifice and unquestioning devotion to God they are for all of us! It is no wonder that their names are so often invoked in the prayers of true believing Christians! May their sacrifice inspire and console us when we are called upon to make great sacrifices and bear heavy crosses in our lives. Our human will and agendas will always be superceded by God’s Divine Plan for all creation. The choice of humbly submitting, or resenting His Divine Plan is ours to make, and it can try us to our very limits. However, by accepting it in faith, hope and love, we are honored to be children of His Kingdom, and sustained in our earthly lives.
V. Rev. Dennis Kristof
St. Nicholas Parish, Lakewood OH