Luke 10:38-42 and 11:27-28
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” 28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We have come to the December of yet another fleeting year, and we greet the arrival of the Feast of the Presentation, a major feast day of the Church Year. This feast is also known as The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple and is observed November 21 Gregorian Calendar / December 4 Julian Calendar. The Presentation feast day provides us another opportunity to pause, to reflect and celebrate the revealed plan of God’s salvation within the annual cycle of major feasts of the Orthodox Church. The Feast of the Presentation commemorates the bringing of the toddler child Mary, the future Birth-giver of God, to the Temple in Jerusalem where she would live and serve until her betrothal to Joseph.
Mary was brought to the Temple by her parents, the righteous Joachim and Anna, who had been childless. In gratitude for God’s merciful reversal of Anna’s barrenness, she and Joachim dedicated their child, Mary, to the service of God. The Feast of the Presentation finds its source in Holy Tradition. No mention of this event is made in New Testament Scripture, yet one of the earliest sources of this tradition is from the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James.
The prescribed Gospel reading for this holy day is from Luke 10:38-42 and 11:27-28. This same Gospel reading is used for other feasts of the Holy Birth-giver of God, even though the feasts commemorate different events, such as her birth, her presentation, her dormition. While the Feast of the Annunciation and the feasts of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ have direct mention of their occurrence in the New Testament, the Feast of the Presentation is not mentioned in this passage from the Holy Evangelist Luke. In fact, the Holy Birth-giver of God is only referred to indirectly by the certain woman who exclaims “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” This statement, which exalts the mother of Jesus, is why this Gospel passage is applied to the other feasts of the Holy Birth-giver of God as well.The take-away of this holiday is what Jesus replies to the woman who praises his mother: “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” In saying this, Jesus is not deflecting praise from His mother. Rather, we might take it is a challenge to any one of us to rise to her level of devotion and service to God.
God’s plan of salvation unfolded thru time, and that plan is commemorated annually by the celebration of the Major Feasts of the Church as they occur throughout the year. Beginning with her birth, and continuing to her presentation to the Temple in Jerusalem, God graciously and uniquely prepared Mary to be His living Temple and Tabernacle, to be that virgin, prophesied by Isaiah, to give birth, in the flesh, to the Son of God.
The righteous ancestor of God, Anna, says, according to the Proto-Gospel of James "As the Lord God lives, whether I give birth to either a male or a female child, I will bring it as an offering to the Lord my God and it will be a servant to Him all the days of its life." (Protoevangelion of James 4:2) How many parents would be willing to make such a commitment to God? There were not many then, even fewer now. Nowadays, parents make commitments so that their children can attend sports and social activities which so often displace worship at Sunday Divine Liturgy. Neither the parents, nor the children in these instances, avail themselves the opportunity, to hear the word of God, let alone keep it! How can we then aspire to this blessedness if we make choices to neglect the worship of God? Jesus states elsewhere that we cannot serve two masters. Just like Martha in this festal Gospel passage, some parents “worr(y) and troubl(e) about many things.” These parents forget that ”one thing is needed, and … that good part, … will not be taken away.”
We conclude almost all our litanies with the petition: “Remembering our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, the Birth-giver of God and ever virgin Mary, together with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life, unto Christ, our God.” Indeed, this should be our goal in life. May God help us to make the good and proper choice if we are put to the test to choose between serving Him or something else. May that ‘good part’ never be taken away!
Fr. Oleh Hucul
Holy Ascension Parish