The Feast of the Entry of Mary, to be the Mother of God, into the Temple is of great importance to us. In 1994, as many of us were preparing to enter the Orthodox Church, it seemed most relevant. The Holy Liturgy had been served in Chesterfield in September and soon would be served monthly in St Mary’s in the Lace market from January. At this mid point we also were preparing to enter the Temple.
During this time, Fr John Lee from the Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens, London had been visiting us every month to give us instruction and then we would be received into the Orthodox Church by chrismation at Pascha and Pentecost in1995. All of us separately had the experience that we were coming home, COMING HOME, and our entry into the Temple of the Holy Orthodox Church enabled us to stand more securely in the fullness of the Great Christian Tradition.
Mary’s entry into the temple is recorded in The Evangelion of St James the Just, the brother of Our Lord. It was not considered appropriate to include this in the Canon of Scripture when the books of the New Testament were being decided, rather, it continued as oral tradition. It was probably not written by St James but he may have contributed to the tradition, through what he had learned from his grandparents, Johakim and Anne, the parents of Mary. Of course, there may have been elaboration as early Christians were keen to demonstrate that Mary was of the prophetic revelation of God in the Old Testament. The importance of the story, however, is this. Mary was a very special child who, with others was placed in the care of the Temple as a young age. This enabled her to preserve her childhood innocence and purity and enabled her to be soaked in payer to become a most prayerful person as she grew up. Her attentiveness to God was such that He delighted in her and felt, at last, He now had one to whom He could safely and confidently ask to become His mother on earth. She had all the qualities, including a thorough understanding of the Jewish Scriptures with which she could encourage her son to be sound in his development. When the time was right God could ask Mary to cooperate with Him in His plan of Redemption. Without her cooperation this could not happen, hence, the importance of this Feast.
What Mary, the Mother of God teaches us is full prayerful attendance to God so that we place ourselves fully in His service and discern and learn to do His will. Like Mary, we have to be prepared to say,” Be it unto me according to Thy Word`”.
Perhaps, of all the saints, Saint John Maximovich can help us into this attitude of prayer.
St John repeatedly affirmed that the “veil” separating us from the divine is very frail and can be breached. Although this doesn’t happen often enough Breached by God is a great blessing, or breached by our own will. When this happens it is worth all the effort and as the Mother of God discovered, it is life changing. The Holy Spirit is always waiting for us to make this effort and to help us along. It is only when we don’t make the effort that God seems absent. St John, as with all Fathers and Mothers, stresses that this effort on our part must be sincere. We must be like children, innocent and genuinely honest with self and with God, as was Mary.
St John’s guidance for prayer is strict forward. He would isolate himself from the world when preparing to pray. Just prior to Liturgy, he would make sure that everything was calm and with the right atmosphere and focus. Next, he would never hurry during prayer. There is no value standing in ‘earth time’ with all its rushing about. St John created a prayerful atmosphere about him. Then as he prayed he would focus on the words, waiting, letting each phrase come to him as he experienced the Holy Spirit’s direction as he stood, aware, that he was standing in the celebration of Mother Church. And he never left church after services without first saying thank you in the form of the Post Communion Prayers. All this is guidance for us and comes to us forcefully when we realise it to be the path of prayer persued by the Mother of God. It is only when we accept and appreciate her importance, her prayer which allowed God’s plan to come into existence through the Incarnation of her son.
Catholic saints receive the stigmata but Orthodox saints glow. St John, when he prayed and preached, his head and shoulders would sometimes glow with uncreated light. This must also have been so when Mary, in preparation to be the Birthgiver and Mother of God, as she was standing in the Temple in prayer. How glad we are that we have come home.
This mainly contains homilies and messages from our priests, although there is some scope to share thoughts and interesting articles which we may want to share with others