February 2, 2010

Origins of the Feast of the Reception of Christ

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Speaking about the spread and celebration of Christmas, St. John Chrysostom says: "Magnificent and noble trees when planted in the ground shortly attain great heights and become heavily laden with fruit; so it is with this day." So it is with the day of the Reception of our Lord in the Temple.

In the beginning this day was discussed among Christians but the solemn celebration began from the period of the great Emperor Justinian. During the reign of this emperor, a great pestilence afflicted the people in Constantinople and vicinity so that about five-thousand or more people died daily. At the same time a terrible earthquake occurred in Antioch. Seeing the weakness of man's ability to prevent these misfortunes the emperor, in consultation with the patriarch, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire empire. And, on the day of the Reception itself, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages that the Lord might show compassion on His people. And truly, the Lord did show compassion; for the epidemic and earthquake ceased at once.

This occurred in the year 544 A.D. Following this and from that time on, the Feast of the Reception began to be celebrated as a major feast of the Lord. The tree, in time, grew and began to bring forth-abundant fruit.

By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

The feast of the Reception, according to George Kedrenos, was instituted to be celebrated in the time of Emperor Justin I the Thracian (518-527), and until that time it was not celebrated. According to Theophanes in his Chronikon, it began to be celebrated in the fifteenth year of the reign of Justinian, the nephew of Justin, who reigned from 527 to 565, therefore it began to be celebrated in the year 542, on the 2nd of February, although at first it was celebrated on the 14th of February, according to George the Sinner. Hence, Justin instituted the celebration for the 14th of February, while Justinian more accurately instituted for the celebration to take place on the 2nd of February.