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.
Please click on the link below to access Father Julian's homily.
Please click on the link below to read Father David's homily for this feast.
Please click on the pdf attachment, below, to read Father Julian's homily for the service held on Saturday 31st July.
Here is Father Julian's homily for this week.
Click anywhere on this text to open the document.
Here is Father David's homily for the Sunday of All Saints
Please click on the link below to read Father Julian's homily for the 6th Sunday of Pascha.
(John 4: 5-42)
Please click on the link below to view the homily from Father Julian.
At this time we are fully in mind of the early witnesses of Our Lord’s great event; His Resurrection from the dead. Their witness is so important, they assure us firmly of the Resurrection. After our preparations in Lent, the intensity of Passion Week and the glorious celebration of Pascha, we can be easily left with a sense of deflation on the week following. We may even wonder what it was all about. Unlike Metropolitan Anthony we may not have experienced “the life transforming joy” which was his first encounter with the Risen Christ.
Last Sunday we thought of St Thomas and the great blessing he brought for us. Often, he is regarded as the doubting but for us we regard him as the blessed one. He was hardly more doubting than the others. When the Myrrh- bearing women, whom we remember today, came from the tomb saying they had seen an angel who informed them of Christ's rising, the Apostles did not believe them. They also were full of doubt, but the Myrrh- bearing women were jubilant, they had seen the empty tomb and rushed with excitement to tell the other disciples and Apostles; they believed and were the first witnesses.
Thomas was fortunately absent on the first visitation of Christ so that, by Our Lord’s will, a week later, he could be a great witness for us. He was not prepared to believe until he had seen for himself, but then he was able to make a very definite commitment, saying, “My Lord and my God!” To which Our Lord was able to reply: “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.” This is the blessing for us, by touching the wounded flesh, he cured the world of our disbelief. Through his doubting, and search for truth, he became a firm witness to the reality of the Resurrection.
Surely, all of us have doubts from time to time. It is easy to shout, “Christ is Risen!” but do we really believe this in our hearts so that our life is changed. Thomas saw and touched and said that not only he believed that Jesus, the earthly Jesus was Lord, but he also was able to say, in his heart, “You are also my God, a member of the Holy Trinity. Thomas then went on to be one of the greatest Apostles, travelling all the way to India to establish the Church there. We also should say, “Christ is Risen, my Lord and My God, now my life is to be definitely changed.
We may not like Metropolitan Anthony say that we have received “life transforming joy” which, like him we feel compelled to share with others. (He was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the Presbyterian Faculty of Theology in Aberdeen, “for preaching the word of God and for a revitalising effect on spiritual life in Great Britain”). But we too, if we reflect on our lives, will have had life changing experiences, when we have been certain that the Lord has been there with us. Perhaps we will have been aware of His presence, His guidance, His help when something has worked out better than we expected. Sometimes, others will have made a comment which we knew was from God. Then there are times when His presence in prayer or in the Liturgy seems very real. Many times, if we are careful to note them.
Christ’s resurrection appearances were not always immediately recognised. When the two disciples were on the way to Emmaus. Jesus walked with them several miles and they did not recognise him. Not until, at table, did they see him in the breaking of the bread. Then, they exclaimed, “Did not our hearts burn within us“ as He walked with us. Again, for our instruction. Like St Thomas, Cleopas and Luke, on the road to Emmaus, felt the heart burned within them at the presence of Our Risen Lord.
This is how Our Lord reveals Himself, even if we are no longer able to see Him. Metropolitan Anthony, our founding bishop, as a teenager, was no longer a churchgoer and did not believe. After an inspiring talk by a visiting priest, he decided to read St Mark's Gospel to see if there was any truth in it (he was rather of the opinion that there would not be). As he read, he was aware of another presence in the room, and he knew that this was the presence of the Risen Christ. From that moment his life was changed, he experienced “life-transforming joy” by this experience of Christ. Many have had a similar experience. One of our priests before ordination, had been estranged from the Cathedral for many years. Whilst listening to the broadcast Paschal Liturgy from the Cathedral one year and hiding in a boxroom so that no one would hear, he was suddenly aware of a presence, and knew this to be that of the Risen Christ. He re-joined the Cathedral and in due course was ordained a priest.
I have probably, before, told you of a friend of mine, a doctor. He and his wife did not leave their room in the morning until they were sure in their hearts that Christ was Risen! This could be a good intention for us also. When we say Christ is Risen, we should know in our hearts that this is true, and our lives are changing as a result. When our hearts burn within us, we should say with St Thomas, “My Lord and My God or with St Francis, “My God and my All”.
“Robed in sincere righteousness whiter than snow, let us exult in the Paschal celebration, remembering the day on which Christ, the Sun of Justice, rose. Risen from the dead, He allows us to rejoice in His immortal brightness” (vespers Thursday evening of the week of Thomas) and our lives are changed.
This is our blessing for Christ is Risen indeed.
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