the Mother of our Lord, the Mother of God, comes into the
We know the story. We know of Joachim and Anna, of their barrenness, of God’s gift in answering their prayer for a child, of their promise to dedicate that child, be it male or female, to the service of God, and of their honoring that promise on this day by taking the Theotokos to the House of God. At the tender age of three, they set the child on the ground, and she runs to the temple, not regarding the leaving of her parents as a loss, but even at the age of three seeing living in the presence of God as a gain. If only more of us had the wisdom of this three year old!
In Vespers, when we sing the Aposticha in Tone 3, the Theotokion which ends the Aposticha says, “By the will of the Father, without seed, of the Holy Spirit, you conceived the Son of God! He was born of the Father before eternity without a mother. But now, for our sake, He came from you without a father! Do not cease entreating Him to deliver our souls from harm.” In the Feast’s hymnology we proclaim the Theotokos to be a tabernacle, a living Ark and temple, pointing to her as the Ark of the Covenant, the place which from ancient times was seen as the seat of God, that which on earth could ‘contain’ Him.
we ponder all these words, we come to see that the Mother of God is a focal
point for all time. It is she who
divides that which comes in the eternity of Christ before He took on our flesh
from that which comes after He did so.
And in His being truly God, and therefore truly immortal and without
time, the Second Person of the Trinity existed fully at the Creation, in heaven
and eternally with the Father and the Spirit.
God in Trinity created all things by His Word, and the Word, as
We are confused by these kinds of terms, when we speak of things accomplished which have not yet happened, or things that have happened as if they are in the present. But this is the realm of God, and this is His means of providing for our salvation.
God provides on this day a 3 year old child. He will keep her for three times three, nine years, so that at the age of twelve she will be sent to be betrothed to a man whom God already has chosen to be her caretaker. In nine short years this child whom we come to honor today will speak with the angels, be taught by them, and literally be fed by their hands – both physically and spiritually. She will witness things of which men cannot speak. She will come to be so comfortable with the mingling of the temporal, the earthly, with that which is eternal that when the Archangel Gabriel comes to her to pronounce the beginning of our salvation by her taking God within her pure and virginal flesh, she will not be frightened by the angel's coming, by his pronouncement of the miracle, or by the prospects of what might come as a result. His arrival will seem a normal, natural thing to her. In these nine years within the temple, the Theotokos will come to accept God’s will as her own will. She will see no reason for her life not to conform totally to His requests of her. She will have no fear of the things God asks her to do, for at the tender age of twelve, she will already understand that God’s will should be and must be done.
As Orthodox Christians, we come to understand “things” differently from others. We come to understand things inside the Church as “holy” – set aside for God’s purpose, not for the use of people in general. We would never place the chalice onto a dinner table to be used for a common drink at a meal. In fact, we come to view the chalice as something holy in and of itself, so much so in fact that the un-ordained do not even dare to touch it, with the exception of venerating it when offered at the time of Communion.
Is there something different about the metal used to fashion the Chalice? The metal itself is common. Sometimes we attempt to make it appear to us to be more precious by coating it in gold, or by adorning it with jewels. But the metal remains common. The gold or jewels make it desirable to thieves, but not to God. The metal remains common until it is sanctified, set aside for use in holding the precious Body and Blood of our Lord. It is the association with the physical touch of Christ that makes the common metal into something uncommon, even unearthly – heavenly.
If the Body and Blood of our Lord does this to a piece of common metal, what does it accomplish within our own bodies? He did not come to ‘save’ common metal. He came, he took on our flesh, He brought about today’s uncommon child to be brought into His temple so that she, like the metal of the chalice, could be sanctified, set apart from that which is common for an uncommon purpose.
He has already accomplished this with the Theotokos. But He came to receive flesh from her body so that He might save all of us from our sins, and from that which is present in this world that seeks to keep us nothing more than “common” people. Jesus comes and calls us ourselves to be uncommon, to be holy, to be set aside from worldly things, to be consecrated, sanctified to His purpose and His will, in our lives, and in this world.
Within her virginal womb, the Theotokos will literally set in place the Body and Blood of our Lord. They are created for Him through her. If our communion is truly His Body and precious Blood, then they are truly present within her from conception.
That which is Holy, when it contacts something common, makes the common itself Holy. We are here today to become yet more uncommon ourselves, more holy. Like the Mother of God, we have come to our own temple. We have ascended to the place where God dwells even today in our midst. He is here - as simple and austere, and “common” as this building might seem to others. He is here to give to us the gift of being able to make ourselves have less in common with the world, and having more in common with that which is Godly, more holy. It is for this purpose that our Savior has set aside today this three year old child, to bring Himself into this world, exactly for this purpose, to save us from our sins.
As we contemplate this pure child, who in joy ascends the steps to the sanctuary, a child whose purity desires nothing more than to be in the presence of her God, let us attempt to share in that purity, and then in that love of God above all else, so that we also share in her desire to be in His presence – forever!
It’s a glorious Feast!