November 21, 2014

A First-Fruit Offering to the Temple of the Lord

By His Grace Bishop Epiphanios of Ledra,
the Most Reverend Abbot of the Monastery of Machaira

Entering the blessed period of the holy forty days of Christmas we are revived by the fast, and we are revived by the feast that has arisen and are gladdened by the protagonist of the celebration.

We are revived by the fast through the rich dishes that come with it, especially by the fish. We are revived by the celebration of the Entrance of the Mother of God that has arisen, and through the festival of the celebration schedules are compiled, and work is organized and conducted, in order to adorn the holiday. Apart from the above, the greatest, most primary, most joy creating, and especially most graceful, is the protagonist of the festival, the heart of our sweet love, the Most Holy Theotokos.

The fruit of holy parents in their old age, they dedicated this fruit of their love to the Lord Sabaoth, when their holy daughter was weaned, passing her over in the third year of her life. Until that day the parents of Mariam, with much nurture and diligence, raised their daughter to grow physically, also increasing in her heart the desire, the love and the eros for God.

When that blessed day arrived, they took their holy virgin daughter and went to the Temple of Solomon. Entering the Temple a chorus of young virgins greeted them, who also had been dedicated to the Temple by their parents, to receive their holy daughter and bring her to the High Priest Zechariah, the father of the Forerunner.

Then Saint Anna, who was holding Mariam in her arms, released her to the ground. These were her first steps on the earth since she came into the world, because her righteous parents out of reverence did not allow her to take steps before this, in order for her dedication to God to be complete, in both soul and body.

As soon as Mariam stepped on the ground, Saint Anna told her, as it is beautifully testified by the hymnographer: "Go, child, to Him Who gave you to me; to be an offering and a sweet smelling incense. Go into the inner sanctuary that none may enter: learn its mysteries, and prepare yourself to become the pleasing and fair dwelling-place of Jesus, Who grants the world His great mercy" (2nd Apostichon for the Feast of the Entrance).

The holy daughter, joyous and graceful, began to walk, and so much was the gladness in her heart, that she rushed in her steps and led the way for the other virgin girls to go to the High Priest, to surrender herself to God and become a chosen vessel for the salvation of the world.

For this reason we, even if we are inferior in intellect, weak in strength and short on words, we take courage in boldness as unworthy children of our Mother the Queen and Theotokos, to bring our childhood stammering as gifts and offerings to the measure of our weakness, taking hope in the love of our Mother the Theotokos, and standing before her holy and sacred icon, let us say:

You are the preaching of the Prophets, the glory of the Apostles, the boast of the Martyrs, the protection and joy of the Venerable Ones, and the renewal of all those upon the earth, Virgin Mother of God, through you we are reconciled to God. Therefore we honor you, as we come to the Temple of the Lord, and with all the Angels, we chant to you "Rejoice!", reverently crying out, we who are saved by your intercessions.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.