Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple

There are feasts in which the power lies in the event being remembered; it is the event itself that is important, significant, and decisive for the destinies of men; this is true of the feast of the Nativity of Christ and the Feast of the Resurrection; the decisive thing is, respectively, that God became a human being on that day and was born on Earth, and that it was on that day that the Lord who had died on the cross for the sake of our salvation was risen from the dead.

There are also holidays, as well as icons, which tell us about some very special event, even if their historical context is not clear. Such is the feast of the Entry of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple. It is hardly possible that the event described in the liturgical hymn did indeed happen in ancient Jerusalem; but it tells us something more significant and important about the Mother of God than Her physical entry into the Holy of Holies, which was forbidden even to the High Priest other than on specific days. This is the day when the Blessed Virgin, who has reached her early maturity that makes a child capable of experiencing, perceiving and responding personally to the mysterious touch of grace, entered the Holy of Holies – not the actual Holy of Holies but rather the deep union with God, which the Temple stood for.

With what trembling should we read the words in the divine service book, which are attributed to Joachim and Anne with such tenderness and intensity: Go, child! Be the praise and sweet fragrance to the One who gave you everything. Enter the area to which there is no door; learn the mysteries and prepare yourself to become the abode of God Himself. How wonderful it is to think that a mother and a father can address their child with such words: Go into the depth, enter the mystery where no physical door leads, and prepare yourself to be an offering unto God, a sweet fragrance, a divine habitation…

This is how some Fathers of the Church and Saint Theophan interpret the meaning of this entry of the Mother of God into the temple, into the Holy of Holies. Not touched by sin, not desecrated by anything, but capable of responding to the holiness, the glory, the wondrousness of God with her pure heart, unblemished flesh, and her unmarred mind, the three-year-old Maiden is sent to these depths of prayerful, contemplative communion.

We read elsewhere in the same divine service that the Archangel Gabriel told her quietly that she was to open herself up for God and prepare herself to become the place of the Savior’s coming incarnation.

This is what the feast tells us: from the very first steps of her life, taught by her mother and father and guided by an angel, she enters into the depths of prayer, silence, awe, love, contemplation, and purity that make up the true Holy of Holies. Isn’t it amazing after all that we celebrate this day as the beginning of our salvation? The Blessed Virgin, the first of all creatures, enters these impenetrable, impregnable depths, enters into the fellowship with God that will grow and grow, untainted, unclouded, unblemished, unspoiled throughout her life, until, as one Western writer writes, she will be able, in response to God’s call, to utter God’s name with all her mind, with all her heart, with all her will, with all her flesh, and to give birth to God’s Incarnate Word by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, the day of this holiday is indeed the day when we witness the occurrence of this miraculous event, the beginning of this growth. At the same time, it gives us the idea of what we are called to – where the Lord calls us – the Holy of Holies. Yes, we are defiled; yes, our minds are blurred; yes, our hearts are unclean; yes, our lives are corrupt and unworthy of God. Still, there is repentance available to all, which can purify our minds, our bodies, our hearts; it can correct our will and make our lives righteous, so that we may also enter the Holy of Holies.

No doubt that this holiday, with the words that appear to be spoken by Joachim and Anna, which I’ve quoted, exhorts every mother and every father to say to our children from an early age – from the moment when a child can understand anything, or at least to feel it in his heart, to be sensitive, and to receive grace – the following words: Enter reverently, tremblingly into the area where no door – neither the church nor the mental or any other door – leads, except for the silent, trembling waiting before God. Go into that Holy of Holies and grow into the full measure of Christ, to become like the Mother of God and to turn into a temple, a place of residence for the Holy Spirit and the Lord in the Sacraments, and to become a child of our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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