November-December 2023

The first hymns which look forward to theNativity of Christ are heard during Orthros forthe feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into theTemple. There is nothing exceptional in this –several feasts look forward to the next one in theyearly cycle, indicating a connection betweenthem. For example, during the ninth hour of theGreat hours of the Nativity we sing: “WE adoreYour Nativity, O Christ. Also show us Yourdivine Epiphany.” Christmas and Epiphany (orTheophany) are connected in history (as bothevents were celebrated on the same day in theearly Church) as well as in their meaning in ourLord’s work of salvation: at Christmas, we beholdGod taking human form, while at Theophany, thesinless One take on our sins.The connection between the Entry of theTheotokos and Christmas is the Theotokosherself. When the first Jerusalem temple wasconsecrated, the glory of the Lord descended anddwelt in it. That did not happen at theconsecration of the second temple. However, thefullness of the Godhead would later come to dwellwithin the Theotokos, so that we call her “theSavior’s most pure and hallowed temple.” In thisfeast she is brought to the temple. In the next, shehas become the Temple and fulfills that whichGod’s glory in the temple prefigured – Goddwelling among men. In between, the VirginMary was in the temple, being prepared for herunique role in the history of humanity.All this happened according to God’s plan for thesalvation of mankind. But it should be noted thatall this happens with the voluntary cooperation of  human beings. Saints Joachim and Anna bring

Mary to the temple joyously, offer her to God

from Whom they had received her as a gift. And

the Theotokos offers her assent to the

archangel Gabrier saying “be it done unto me

according to your word.” These are by no means

insignificant, meaningless details. Rather, they

are examples of what happens when human

beings work with (not against) God’s grace.

In our lives, many of us, too, can be Joachim or

Anna. If we have children, we can offer them to

God cheerfully; bring them to the temple,

ensure that they learn the Scriptures, and show

them by our own example how to follow God

and do His will. We can also become like Mary,

for even though she carried Christ within

herself in an unrepeatable manner, each one of

us is called to become a Christ-bearer, having

Christ dwelling within us and being able to say

with St. Paul that “it is no longer I who live, but

Christ who lives in me.”

I hope the few words I wrote here remind you

that the feasts of the Church and the lives of the

saints are always there for us to meditate on

and to draw inspiration from for our own lives –

not just in their miracles and sufferings, but in

the ways that they lived their daily lives

faithfully. And here, at the beginning of the

Nativity fast, we have the example of Ss.

Joachim and Anna set before us. Let us honor

them and celebrate the Entry of the Theotokos

into the Temple in the first week of the fast.