Christ is in our midst!  He is and ever shall be!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

“Today is the prelude of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind,” so the Church sings on this glorious feast (Festal Troparion).  And, in so doing, she anticipates that most glorious hymn of all the heavenly hosts sung “while shepherds watched their flocks by night”: “’Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Lk. 2:14).  From this “preaching of the salvation of mankind” we are assured that God has nothing but goodwill toward us sinners.  He wills nothing but our good and desires nothing more than peace for us fallen sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, “frail children of dust, and feeble as frail” that we are (O Worship the King).  “Today” is the liturgical reality of what once was.  But, it is more: it is the present reality of what has been, is, and will be: “Today is the prelude of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.” 

But, how is this “prelude,” this “foreshadowing” announced – this “preaching of the salvation of mankind”?  It is announced in the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple and proclaimed as she pierces the Holy of Holies.  She is “the most pure Temple of the Saviour; the precious Chamber and Virgin.”  She is “the sacred Treasure of the glory of God, . . . presented today to the House of the Lord.  She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, therefore, the angels of God praise her: ‘Truly this woman is the abode of Heaven’” (Festal Kontakion).  She, beloved, is the woman foretold by God to Eve whose seed would one day crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gn. 3:15).  And, as such, she is both the living sign of our salvation and its preacher in the very act of her entrance into the Holy of Holies.  She who is full of grace is full of the Holy Spirit of God.  And so, she is named “the living Temple,” “the living Ark of God.”  She who is herself the living Holy of Holies enters now into the Holy of Holies of the Temple of God.  Thus, “all the powers of Heaven [stand] amazed, seeing the Holy Spirit dwell in [her]” (“Lord, I Call” Theotokion).  Thus, all the bodiless powers of Heaven and the whole mystical Church sing her praises, “’Truly this woman is the abode of Heaven!’”  For she and she alone according to the time of God will bear the very God in her womb!  He Who is beyond containment will be by His divine will contained in that most sacred of wombs. 

Our Lady and most holy Theotokos is very much enshrined, if you will, a living relic full of the grace of the Spirit of God.  She is presented to the old priest Zacharias, the future father of the Forerunner and Baptizer John, who, by divine revelation, leads her into that most sacred place where only the High Priest is permitted to enter, and that but once a year on the Day of Atonement.  And he does so, not without blood offered for himself or the congregation’s sins of ignorance (Hb. 9:1-7).  The Tabernacle – and later the Temple – are inseparable from this little one who is but three years of age, according to the Tradition.  Like the Prophet Samuel long before her, she, too, is consecrated early on by her parents to the total service of God – a holocaust sacrifice, if you will, a living whole-burnt offering unto the Lord – and she is placed among the Temple’s virgins (1 Kg. [1 Sm.] 1:1-2:11; Rm. 12:1-2).  Like her Son, her food is the will of God – to do the will of God (Jn. 4:34; Lk. 2:49; 10:38-42; 11:27-28) – and her holy work is that of prayer in the very Presence of the true and living God.  She comes into the Temple, not to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit as we might do, but rather she brings that grace already dwelling in her with her into the House of God.  And there she is further purified and distilled to be the sweet nectar of the divine salvation of all sinners.  All that the Tabernacle and the Temple foreshadow as God among men, as once in the ancient days of Eden, living among us and communing with us, she fulfills.  For she is “the living abode of Heaven,” as we sing.  What Eve lost by her disobedience, this woman – the woman prophesied by Moses, the New Eve – has re-gained for us sinners through her perfect cooperation with God.  For upon this woman, beloved, though she is still a child, dwells the Shekinah Glory of God, that cloud of divine Presence leading, guiding, illuminating, enlightening, filling the House of God!  Thus, she is rendered wholly unto the Lord, His consecrated and virginal womb that will be perfectly fit for the King of Glory to enter therein (Ek. 43:27-44:4). 

Today is a mystical feast to be relished and savored by Heaven and earth.  For us and for our salvation this child of three years has been offered up to be the Queen of all angels and the Mother of our God.  “Today the Holy of Holies rejoices greatly, and the choir of angels mystically keep feast.  With them let us also celebrate the festival today, and let us cry aloud with Gabriel: ‘Hail, thou who art full of grace: the Lord is with thee, He Who has great mercy.’”  “For the preordained Queen of all has opened the Kingdom of Heaven unto us.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, ye peoples’” (Litya stichera).             

Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

VIGIL PROPERS:                               PROPERS:

Ex. 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35                            Hb. 9:1-7

3 [1] Kg. 7:51; 8:1, 3-7, 9-11                         Lk. 10:38-42; 11:27-28      

Ek. 43:27-44:4