Sacred treasury of the glory of God

The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple

The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple

Today is the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. The following wonderful sermon was preached by Metropolitan Panteleimon of Antinoes (under the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria, Egypt), and has been translated from the original at Ορθοδόξη Πίστη. The little footnotes are mine.

(A “good sermon” is, in my view, not one that makes you think. It’s one that makes you pray.)

TODAY’S feast of the glorious Panagia, more than blessed, of our Lady, Mother of God, and Ever-Virgin Mary, is a great and universal one. The whole Orthodox Christian world in every part of the world celebrates the feast of the Entrance into the Holy of Holies of the Mother of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Men and angels gather and rejoice together. Earth is glad and celebrates, and the faithful are eager to honour with every piety the Mother of Lord, praised everywhere. Christians run with faith to kiss her holy icon.

Those in distress turn their prayers to her with contrite hearts, to speak their pain, to seek her patronage and help. All the faithful bless her, sing hymns to her, glorify her, in every age. Mary the Mother of God is the source of sanctification and of salvation for all, small and great.

The Entrance of the Mother of God completed the preparatory phase of the salvation of the human race. She entered into the Holy of Holies, which the High Priest alone would enter, once in the year [1]. The prophet Zacharias, father of John the Forerunner [2], met her, and lamp-bearing virgins accompanied the Virgin and holy daughter of Joachim and Anna, just three years old.

She, who in holiness surpasses all the ranks of the the angels, entered the Holy of Holies. She entered the Holy of Holies, like a golden censer , she who in a mother’s inward parts received the fire of the Godhead. She entered the Holy of Holies, like the golden pitcher which contained the Manna, she, who bore the heavenly bread, Christ. [3] She entered the Holy of Holies, who would nourish the creator of all things.

Mary, the Mother of God, was made Mother of the Son and Word of God. This is why the prophets prophesied concerning her holy personality. Moses saw her, in the bush that burned but was not consumed by the fire. Jacob, in the ladder, which joined heaven and earth. Habakkuk, in the dewy fleece [4]. Daniel, in the holy Mount strangely cut [5].

The Ever-virgin maid, Mary the mother of God, today enters the most holy part of the earthly temple of God, and is made worthy to become the surpassingly bright Temple of the Saviour, Christ. She departs the world, and enters to the Kingdom above. Angels and men accompany her. And the mother of the Lord is present as a Queen “clothed in golden raiment, marvellously woven” [6].

Many names of great women have gone from human history into the abyss of forgetfulness. Many queens with great power have been erased and vanished away. But the name of the Ever-virgin Mary remains immortal to the ages. The name of the Mother of God touches, consoles and saves those who run to her with faith.

The Church of God from every point of the globe sings praises and hymns to her greatness. The faithful’s prayer of petition is heard. The prophetic word concerning the mother of God, “for behold, henceforth all generation shall bless me”, is fulfilled.

The glory and greatness of the Mother of God is found in her great humility. Anyone who would share in the glory of God must first tread the narrow road of humility. The Mother of God, despite her greatness, did not boast. She was the humble daughter, the obedient mother, who for the sake of her Son assumed all her responsibilities for the sake of the salvation of the human race. She was a mother martyred and grief-stricken, who tasted the bitterness of unjust suspicion on Joseph’s part.

The birth, surpassing nature, of her Son, was accompanied by Herod’s pursuit to destruction, and she fled to Egypt. There followed, hard on the miracles and the acclaims of the people, the cunning denigrations and flatteries of the scribes and Pharisees, designed to fuel the bitter poison in her mother’s heart.

The harsh and dishonourable death of her Son  brought her to martyrdom. She saw her child upon the cross, bloodied and wasting away in death. She saw him dead, naked, unburied. What pain and grief rent her mother’s heart! Then did the prophecy of Righteous Simeon, that a double-edged sword would pass through her heart, come true. But the Virgin was not shaken, nor faint-hearted, nor did she resent the unjust slaughter of her son. She patiently endured his martyrdom as if it were her own martyrdom.

The All-holy Virgin shows us by her example the way to glory. Her humility lifted her up to heavenly glory. The Entrance of the Mother of God is the preface of salvation, which opened the gates of heaven. She came forth as the most precious jewel of the heavens, for she has become the gate of heaven. She was the faithful servant of the Lord, who endured the pains of the soul so that the Saviour of the world might bear those things he bore. She is the refuge of the afflicted.

Today, we should be inspired by the whole personality of the Ever-virgin Maid. In our prosperities and difficulties, in our joys and sorrows, in our pain and puzzlement, let us have aid and protection in this champion and General.

The surpassingly glorious Mother of God, more holy than the holy angels, calls upon us to enter into the Holy of Holies too. She calls us to enter, accompanied by the lamp-bearing virtues, and be established as living temples of her Son. In our holy life, we should honour today’s feast. May the Entrance of the Mother of God become for us the prompt to live our own Entrance into the temple of the virtues.

Notes

[1] Only for the Day of Atonement sacrifice in the autumn.

[2] I.e. John the Baptist.

[3] There were just such a censer and pitcher in the Temple. See Heb 9:4.

[4] I can’t find this in Habakkuk. The only story I know comes from Judg 6:33-40, where the fleece is a divine oracle of coming salvation. But I may have missed something.

[5] Dan 2:31-36, where a rock cut “without hands” from a mountain destroys the idols of the worldy powers. I’ve put “strangely cut” for αλλατόμητο. Mary is the mountain, Christ the stone “cut without hands” from her.

[6] Ps 44:13. The Psalm is “a song concerning the beloved”, which can be read as a prophecy of Christ and the Virgin.

**

Apolytikion. Tone 4.

TODAY is the foreshadowing of the good-pleasure of God, and the proclaiming of the salvation of mankind. In the Temple of God the Virgin is revealed, and beforehand she announces Christ to all. To her let us also cry aloud with mighty voice: Hail, the fulfilment of the Creator’s dispensation!

Kontakion. Tone 4. Lifted up on the Cross.

THE all-pure Temple of the Saviour, the precious Bridal Chamber and Virgin, the sacred Treasury of the glory of God, is being brought to-day into the house of the Lord; and with her she brings the grace of the divine Spirit; of her God’s Angels sing in praise: She is indeed the heavenly Tabernacle.

From the Feast. Translations from Anastasis.

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