Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21:
Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple

Our modern world… has become monotonous and feastless. Even our secular holidays are unable to hide this settling ash of sadness and hopelessness, for the essence of celebration is this breaking in, this experience of being caught up into a different reality, into a world of spiritual beauty and light. If, however, this reality does not exist, if fundamentally there is nothing to celebrate, then no manner of artificial uplift will be capable of creating a feast.

Here we have the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. Its subject is very simple: a little girl is brought by her parents to the temple in Jerusalem. There is nothing particularly remarkable about this, since at that time it was a generally accepted custom and many parents brought their children to the temple as a sign of bringing them into contact with God, of giving their lives ultimate purpose and meaning, of illumining them from within through the light of higher experience.

But on this occasion, as the service for the day recounts, they lead the child to the “Holy of Holies,” to the place where no one except the priests are allowed to go, the mystical inner sanctum of the temple. The girl’s name is Mary. She is the future mother of Jesus Christ, the one through whom, as Christians believe, God himself came into the world to join the human race, to share its life and reveal its divine content. Are these just fairy tales? Or is something given to us and disclosed here, something directly related to our life, which perhaps cannot be expressed in everyday human speech?

Here was this magnificent, massive, solemn temple, the glory of Jerusalem. And for centuries it was only there, behind these heavy walls, that a person could come into contact with God. Now, however, the priest takes Mary by the hand, leads her into the most sacred part of the Temple and we sing that “The most pure Temple of the Savior is led into the temple of the Lord.” Later in the Gospels Christ said, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” but as the Evangelist added, “he spoke of the temple of His Body” (John 2:19, 21).

The meaning of all these events, words and recollections is simple: From now on man himself becomes the temple. No stone temple, no altar, but man—his soul, body, and life—is the sacred and divine heart of the world, its “holy of holies.” One temple, Mary—living and human—is led into a temple made of stone, and from within brings to completion its significance and meaning.

- from Father Alexander Schmemann’s Celebration of Faith, Vol. 3 – The Virgin Mary, pages 26-27