Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Entrance of the Theotokos

On November 21st of every year, the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple.  The Feast commemorates the entrance of the Virgin Mary into the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years of age.  Having been dedicated to God by her aged parents, Joachim and Anna, she remained in the Temple until she reached womanhood and was betrothed to the elderly widower, Joseph, who protected the Virgin chosen to be the Mother of God.  In a beautiful sermon, St. Gregory Palamas sets forth the Virgin Mary as an example of a healthy soul who attained to the heights of the spiritual life.  Here is an excerpt from that sermon:

"With profound understanding she listened to the writings of Moses and the revelations of the other prophets when, every Saturday, all the people gathered outside, as the Law ordained.  She learnt about Adam and Eve and everything that happened to them: how they were brought out of non-being, settled in paradise and given a commandment there; about the evil one's ruinous counsel and the resulting theft; about their expulsion from paradise on that account, the loss of immortality and the change to this way of life full of pain.  In addition, she saw that as time passed, life continued under the inherited curse and grew even worse, God's creature made in His image was estranged from the Creator and became more and more closely associated with the one who had evilly schemed to crush him.  (Alas for the evil one's power over us and his insatiable rage against us!  Woe to our insensitivity and our inclination to return to the earth!)  No one was capable of putting an end to this impulse which brings destruction on all men alike, or to the uncheckable rush of our race towards hell.  When the holy Virgin Maid heard and understood this, she was filled with pity for humanity and, with the aim of finding a remedy to counteract this great affliction, she resolved at once to turn with her whole mind to God.  She took it upon herself to represent us, to constrain Him Who is above compulsion, and quickly draw Him towards us, that He might remove the curse from among us, halt the advance of the fire burning men's souls, weaken our enemies, answer our prayers, shine upon us with light that never sets and, having healed our sickness, unite His creatures with Himself."

I highly recommend that Orthodox Christians read the sermon in its entirety for their edification.

St. Gregory Palamas, "On the Entrance into the Holy of Holies II," Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas, ed. by Christopher Veniamin (South Canaan, PA: Mount Thabor Publishing, 2005), 41.