Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A feast that is perfect for the fast

November 21st is the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.  The tradition of the Church says that Joachim and Anna took Mary, at the age of three, to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their promise.

This is a perfect feast to celebrate in the midst of the current fasting period which is preparing us for the Nativity of Christ.  Theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann often said that Mary is not the great exception, but the great example.  In this feast, we commemorate Mary's entrance into the Temple in order to be prepared to become the Temple.  This is exactly what we are called to do during this fast: to prepare ourselves to become the Temple of the Incarnate God!  Jesus said, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (Jn 14:23)."  St. Paul also tell us, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)."

In his book, The Winter Pascha (which we recommend!), Fr. Thomas Hopko says, "Jesus Christ, the Son, Word, and Image of God, is physically and spiritually formed in the body of Mary so that He might be formed in us as well (see Gal 4:9)."

The liturgical prayers for the feast illustrate this for us:
"The holy and immaculate One is being led into the Holy of Holies by the Holy Spirit.  She is being nourished by angels, since she is the holy Temple of our holy God.  He has sanctified all creation because of her entrance, and He has deified our fallen human nature" (Stichera at Vespers). 
So what do we suggest for you on this feast?

  • Attend Divine Liturgy (or Mass) at your parish if you can
  • Reflect on one of the Scripture passages mentioned in this post
  • Pray at least one of the prayers/hymns from Vespers or Matins from the feast
  • Ask God to allow this Nativity Fast to prepare a place in you for Jesus!

This is also the second anniversary of Mother Theodora's tonsure as a stavrophore nun (her life profession).  Happy anniversary Mother!

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