THE ENTRY OF THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS INTO THE TEMPLE
BY HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP TIKHON
FIRST HIERARCH OF THE RUSSIAN TRUE ORTHODOX CHURCH
2021, Omsk, Siberia
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
With the entry of the Most Pure Virgin Mary into the temple, after a long wait – almost five thousand years – for the promise of God, a new time begins when the Son of God will take on human nature through Her. God works by grace, not by the will of flesh and blood, as Holy Scripture says. The Most Pure Maiden is the Image of a human being who has accepted this gift of God’s grace in its entirety with gratitude. This from the very beginning became the foundation of Her life and Her faith in the midst of the prevailing pagan darkness of that time.
And the steps of the Jerusalem Temple, on which the Most Pure Maiden ascended, are an image of how humanity has been walking for five long millennia to meet God. The holy and righteous Joachim and Anna (it is no coincidence that their names are always heard at the dismissal [of Church services]), as if on behalf of all people who seek God, hand over their little Daughter to the priest for spiritual education. They humbly return their only, most precious Child — the gift of God for their incessant prayers throughout their lives — to God.In the house of the Lord, where the Most Holy Maiden will grow up, She will have the opportunity to receive the treasure of the Tradition of David, which has been passed down from generation to generation. The time will come when Christ, in turn, will learn from Her in humanity. From Her mother’s mouth, the God-Child will listen with great reverence to the first prayers, which She will teach Him as soon as He begins to pronounce the first words. Today it is appropriate to remember that we, too, participate in the life of humanity, in the life of Christianity. We also accepted the gift of faith from our ancestors, who kept it and passed it on as a treasure from generation to generation. And we have an accountable duty to preserve this heritage – our Orthodox Faith, in order to pass it on through our children and loved ones to other generations.
In our time, when an open war is going on throughout the world against Christ and His Holy Church, against the family, we must do our best to preserve and increase what we have been given. The enemy of the human race wants to break the connection between generations in the hope that the old generation will die out, not having time to transfer the faith to their descendants, so that the new one will be corrupted. And I must say that, unfortunately, he succeeds in this. But we must do everything to preserve the Orthodox faith intact, so that the spirit of prayer and love is present in our Orthodox families.
The wonderful Entrance into the Temple of the three-year-old Maiden Mary tells us about the great importance for all of the Temple of God as a welcome haven, where our soul must seek to escape the storms and hardships of life. As long as we have this opportunity, as long as it is not taken away from us, we should visit it as often as possible. For only the Lord knows how long we will be able to take advantage of such a happy opportunity, since time is deceitful, nowmore than ever, and we very acutely feel this.
This feast should also encourage all pious parents to constantly bring their children to the Temple of God, because their future lives depend on the religious direction of their childhood. What a person learns[badly] to do in his youth is difficult not to drag with him into old age. “His bones,” says the righteous Job, “have been filled with vigour of his youth, and it shall lie down with him in the dust” (Job 20:11 LXX). And on the contrary, blessed is he who loved the Lord from his youth and devoted himself to Him from childhood, like the Mother of God, Mary. So there is only one conclusion – to take your children to the Temple of God more often, so that the young souls of our children stock up on spiritual capital as the best antidote to everyday dirt and vulgarity, which they will certainly encounter, some sooner, some later.
Parents who pray with their children can more easily find access to their hearts. And children will never forget the help of their parents in teaching them how to pray, and how important it is to have recourse in all circumstances to the intercession of the Mother of God.How grateful they should be to those who taught them to pray when they were very young. Without a doubt, this is the best inheritance that can be left to a person. The sad circumstances of our time, when families are breaking up and children are drifting away from the Church, require from us exceptional responsibility and hard work.
The Feast of the Entrance reminds us that parents, like the righteous Joachim and Anna, should reverently behold the will of God for their children. Especially when they begin to show signs that God is calling them to dedicate themselves to His service. It would be good to pray to the Lord for this gift, to wish it for your children, because this is not deprivation, but the greatest honor and the greatest joy for Orthodox parents.
Naturally, parents love their children in an exceptional way, they love more than all other people, and there are no stronger ties than those that exist between parents and children. It is our sacred duty to honor our parents and honor those who gave us life. We love and are attached to our parents. And the loss of them is a deep suffering for us. Despite this, the Lord makes it a condition for His followers to love Him more than our parents and our children. Who among men can demand such total affection for himself? The Lord’s words would be an exaggeration, and we could reject them if He were just a man, because no man can demand that other people put him above natural human ties.
But these words take on a completely different meaning as the Son of God. God alone is higher than man. We can and should love Him alone more than the people most dear to us. We see what it means when young people follow the call of Christ to leave everything and follow Him — in monasticism or the priesthood. However, it often happens that parents strongly oppose this. They are afraid of losing their child, they are not ready to make this sacrifice to God. And for someone who hears the call of the Lord, there comes a moment of difficult choice between following the Lord and attachment to their parents. But life shows how God rewards parents for such a sacrifice. Many parents would testify that they did not lose their child in this case, but on the contrary, they received a great reward. Their sacrifice became God’s blessing for them.
On this feast, which heralds the Nativity of Christ, thinking about the temple, about children and about ourselves, the words of the Lord are remembered:“unless ye be turned about and become as the little children, in no wise shall ye enter into the kingdom of the heavens” (St. Matthew 18:3). And you and I, as Orthodox Christians — children of God, born again through holy Baptism, today we learn that our path to God lies in the mystery of obedience. Through sin, which is always disobedience to God, man fell away from God, submitted to evil and is subject to death. And now, only through obedience to God’s commandments, the Gospel, the Church, our spiritual mentors, we again find the opportunity to enter into communion with God and inherit salvation. This is the saving significance of obedience. Where, then, can we learn saving obedience, if not in the temple of God, if not from the holy saints of God?
Today’s holiday reveals to us that the Most Holy Maiden surrenders Herself to obedience to God, desiring nothing but the infinite love of God. True obedience in all its grace-filled fullness means love, it is born of love and leads to love. And those who do not have love cannot bring true obedience to God. This is the secret of today’s feast – obedience, which is a manifestation of love for God and accompanied by humility.
So, today God’s Chosen Lady is introduced into the temple, in Whom the purification of human nature has reached that inexpressible height at which the Son of God can come to the human race and unite with it.
How can the Church not celebrate this event? The Most Holy Virgin enters the Temple of God, and now the Lord Himself can come to people, and, running ahead, mentally we already anticipate the joy of the day when with all of mankind we will soon be able to sing: “Christ is born; glorify Him!”
That is why the Church today on this feast glorifies the Mother of God, and, as on the feast of Her Nativity, honors Her parents – Holy and Righteous Joachim and Anna. We know that she is now at the right hand of her divine Son in glory – the first of the human race, with a host of saints following Her. Let us lift up our fervent prayers to the Most Pure Virgin on this feast, so that through Her intercession we can make our entry into the place where the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will be our Temple.