We recently published our winter newsletter which included a reflection by Mother Theodora about her recent life profession. Due to limited space in the newsletter, she wanted to share more of her personal reflections about the correlation between the liturgical prayers for the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple and the profession service. Here they are!
In the Narthex I laid aside my customary habit and was clothed in the Vlasyaniysa, a white robe similar to the baptismal robe. I took a deep breath and thought, “This is it. How did I make it to this moment?” I knew that it was only through sheer grace. I entered barefooted into St. John Cathedral as the Troparion of the Prodigal Son was being sung:
Haste! Open Your fatherly arms to me,for I have lived like the Prodigal.O Savior, do not despise my impoverished heart,that heart that gazes upon the fathomless wealth of Your mercy.For, I have sinned against Heaven, and before You!“That’s me” (the prodigal), I thought, as I walked down the aisle to make my life profession as a nun—a woman—broken, unworthy and sinful—yet irresistibly drawn by my Bridegroom to become His bride for eternity. I ached almost three years for this moment and with each prostration, I was filled with an increasing awe at the reality I was entering into.
There were a number of correlations between the liturgical prayers and the profession service. We sang verses from the Aposticha: O virgins, carry candles and lead the way for the entrance of the ever Virgin. Sister Julie and Jessie, who walked before me carrying candles, were the virgins leading my way into the temple. When Anna, which means grace, was graced with the pure and ever Virgin Mary, she presented her into the temple. Mother Anna escorted me down the aisle, covering me with her Mandyas, as she prepared to present me to Bishop John. Today the Theotokos…is being escorted with gladness into the Temple of God, and Zechariah receives her. It was not Zechariah the high priest, but Bishop John who received me before the Royal Doors. Let Joachim be glad and let Anna rejoice exceedingly, because they have offered to God the immaculate Queen as a three year old child. It had been almost three years since this monastic adventure was initiated.
As I stood fully robed before an icon of Christ the Bridegroom, I closed my eyes and was overwhelmed with an indescribable sense of peace and joy. I do not know how long I basked in that state, but I was content to remain in it. When I opened my eyes, I was startled at the fact that I was standing in the front of the Cathedral before hundreds of witnesses. For a moment I thought, “How in the heck did I get here?” At the end of the long service, I turned around to be greeted by everyone and when I gazed at all the people present who have journeyed with me, I was filled with an edifying gift of love and thought, “Aaaah, they are how I got here.”