20 November 2011

Homily on the Entrance of the Theotokos

Today we mark the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, to the Holy of Holies. There are some who would say that the Scriptures are silent about this Feast; but that is because they read the Scriptures in the way of the Sadducees, who read the book of Exodus again and again and never saw, in the story of the burning bush, a proof of the resurrection.
The Theotokos is the ark of God, foreshadowed by the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. Just as the Ark contained the tables of the Law of God, so she held within her womb the God who gave the Law. Just as the Ark was most holy, so also she is most holy.
In last evening’s Vespers service we heard three Old Testament readings. The first marked the setting up of the tabernacle, the tent of meeting. When Moses put the ark of the covenant into the tabernacle, the Lord’s glory filled the place and Moses himself could not enter. The second reading marked the completion of Solomon’s temple. We read, “And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place…and when the priests had come out of the holy place, the cloud filled the house, and the priests were not able to minister.” The final reading is Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Theotokos as the new and final Temple. But in Ezekiel, no ark is mentioned! Why? Because in the New Covenant, the Theotokos is both the Temple and the ark of God. She contains God within her womb.
What more natural place for the Ark of the New Covenant, then, but the Holy of Holies of the Old Covenant’s Temple? There, we are taught, the Mother of Light was led by the lights of the temple virgins up the steps of the Temple. She entered the Most Holy Place, as was fitting; and there she lived until the time she was given to Joseph.
And so in this feast, we mark the beginning of the end of the Old Covenant, and the beginning of the beginning of the New Covenant. The Old Testament types find their fulfillment in her: The Tabernacle of the Word enters the tabernacle; the Ark of the Word enters the most holy place. The Book of Life, who would receive the imprint of the living Word, comes to the place where the tables of the Law had been kept. And so we sing:
Today the Virgin is the foreshadowing of the pleasure of God,
and the beginning of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
Thou hast appeared in the Temple of God openly and hast gone before,
preaching Christ to all.
Let us shout with one thrilling voice, saying:
Rejoice, O thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.
What does this mean for us, then, beloved? For you young people, who ask yourselves, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?”—follow the Theotokos and learn to seek your fulfillment, not in the distractions and deceitfulness of the world, but in the holy place of God. You will not find God’s will for you in amusement and distraction, but by sitting quietly in his holy place. “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it,” just as did Mary.
And for us who are older, let us beware of wandering too far from the Temple. Let us occupy our minds and hearts with the Word of God and with prayer. Let us prepare a place within ourselves, that He whose first coming we remember in this season may find a fitting home when he returns in the glory of his Father with all the holy angels. Amen.

No comments: