The Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple

The Entrance of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple,
fresco, Protaton Monastery, Mount Athos

Today is the prelude of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: “Rejoice, O Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.” (Troparion of the Feast)

It is fitting today to pause and awaken from the turmoil of our lives, worries, work, and concerns, and properly honor the Mother of God as we celebrate her Entrance, at the age of three, into the temple from Jerusalem to be prepared to become the Mother of the Son of God. This episode is not included in the Holy Gospel, nor is the Nativity of the Mother of God found there because the Gospel refers mainly to the Savior. However, the Tradition of the Church resumed by the Holy Fathers (St. Epiphanius of Cyprus, St. John of Damascus, St. Maximus the Confessor, and later by St. Gregory Palamas) speaks of this moment. So, after the wonderful birth of the Mother of God to Saints Joachim and Anna—as the fruit of the long, earnest prayer of these holy, righteous, and divine parents—when she reaches the age of three, they both fulfill their promise to God to dedicate to Him the child He offered them. Today the promise of Saints Joachim and Anna is fulfilled. They dedicate the Virgin Mary at the temple in Jerusalem.

One of the Festal Matins hymns says thus: Today the living Temple of the great King enters the temple to be prepared as a divine dwelling-place for Him. O people, rejoice exceedingly. So, the living Church, that is, the Virgin Mary goes to the temple to be prepared to become the Mother of the Son of God. This is the church that God wants, this is the church in which He finds rest. Not just anywhere, but in the pure soul of man, in the sanctified soul of His creation. The Virgin Mary is a Holy and Most Holy Church, in whom God is well pleased to rest. God could not incarnate any which way. This entire dispensation of His was a long preparation of mankind, as the whole history of the Old Testament shows through the righteous men, the falls of the people, their digressions, their distancing from God, but also their return. By all this, He brought mankind to this fruit called the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Such purity, such spiritual beauty cannot be described. Her soul is a living Church, which spreads a special fragrance not only in the temple in which she enters today, but in the whole universe. The whole of creation rejoices in the presence of the Mother of God.

Our souls are as such—they emanate a scent. You see what a pleasure it is to be around special, distinguished people. It is a privilege to be around them. Great, authentic people, as can be noticed, have a particular modesty which veils their gifts. In any case, near them we also feel privileged, and we like to be there. Just imagine what it must be like being close to the Mother of God … The whole creation wants to be near her. Her soul spreads such a wondrous fragrance, the most beautiful incense, like a candle of pure wax. We use metaphors, but we truly cannot put into words her beauty and the perfume that her soul emanates. It is very difficult to depict shyness, humility, propriety, delicacy of soul. They all make up the Mother of God’s well-pleasing fragrance. She had them all. It is the same with our saints; they all spread a fragrance that is pleasing to God.

So, the Mother of God is this living Church filled with divine fragrance. And, of course, we are called to follow her. The Mother of God did not say much, but she accomplished a lot. She is a role model through all she did. Let us take, for example, her dedication to God. All the gifts, everything she had, she placed them at His feet: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1.38). This is a great model for us, that all the gifts God bestowed upon us we should give back, put them in His service. And especially, we should become a fragrant church in our inner selves.

We are also called to sanctify our souls, to be a good fragrance. We notice this when we are around various people. With some we feel better, with others less so. Because everyone emanates something without speaking. His state of soul is transmitted. As such, let us not be people around whom it is not pleasant to be. Let us be people pleasing to God and to our fellow men, giving them rest.

May today’s feast be an exhortation to cleanse ourselves of sin through repentance, through tears in prayer. And in this way, let us also long to become living temples, abounding in good fragrance and dedicated to God. Amen!

Protosyngellos Ieremia