Posted by: Fr Chris | November 21, 2020


Russian Icon - Presentation at the Temple of the Virgin Mary

The Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple, also called The Entrance of Our Lady into the Temple, is one of the Great Feasts of the Byzantine Rite, celebrated on November 21.

One of the earliest sources of this feast is the non- canonical* Protoevangelium of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James, composed in Syria around 150 AD. In this legendary story, Mary was solemnly received in the Temple by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was supposedly led inside, accompanied by virgins, to live inside the Holy of Holies, to prepare her to become the living sanctuary of God when she would conceive the Divine Child. She was fed by the angels, until the age of twelve when she was betrothed to Joseph, who was an old man. This so-called gospel was written with scant  knowledge of Judaism and its practices. So why commemorate liturgically something which we know , through biblical archaeology and Jewish studies, to have never taken place?  Here is the primary meaning:  the symbolism of today links the Holy-of-Holies in the Temple with the womb of Mary which will become the living chamber of the Most High God.Also it emphasizes the specialness of Mary as a person: she is indeed an all-pure and all-holy virgin.  St. Gregory Palamas preached:

God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it done unto Me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.

Thus we solemnly commemorate the fact that Mary was a pure and sinless person all her life; was a virgin at the time of the Annunciation to her; and that she remains a virgin today.

Theotokos's Entry into the Temple (The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Mosaic.c ...

Greek Catholic priests in Slovakia give children a special blessing at the church on this feast day. The prayer used is from the Book of Numbers, chapter 6, vv 24-26, the blessing which God tells Aaron and his successor priests to use on  children. Thus, this is one of the most ancient rituals done from the Bible, and it finds a comfortable home in our Byzantine Catholic Church which is filled with Scripture and rites which are often rooted in Judaism. The fact that the giving of this blessing is restricted to only priests – and not parents – continues the Jewish tradition of it being a part of the Temple ritual celebrated by the priests.

At the ambon prayer of the Liturgy, the priest reads this biblical blessing from the Book of Numbers, chapter 6, vv. 24-26, and blesses the children with holy water:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.”

Then the Dismissal of the feast is sung as usual, including the verse “presented today in the holy temple” after the commemoration of Our Lady.

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