Today the living Temple of the holy glory of Christ our God * Mary, the pure and blessed one, * is being brought into the temple according to the Law * to live in its holy precincts * Joachim and Anne and all the virgins * rejoice with her in spirit. * They sing hymns of praise to the Lord * and honor His Mother.
(Vesper Verse for the Feast)
We celebrate today the Feast of the Entrance of the holy Mother of God into the Temple. One of the first things we notice is the great joy there is in her and those around her. Mary will be dwelling in the Temple of the Lord as she is being prepared to be the Temple of the Lord – the God-bearer or the Birth-Giver of God.
When Anne, which means grace * was graced with the pure and ever-Virgin Mary, * she presented her into the Temple of God. * She called maidens to carry candles and walk before her as she said: * O child, go to be an offering * and a fragrant incense for the One Who sent you to me. * enter into the veiled places and learn the mysteries of God. * Prepare yourself to be a delightful dwelling place for Jesus * Who will give great mercy to the world. (Vesper Verse for the Feast)
As I was celebrating Vespers this evening and sang this verse, a thought came to me. I remembered when I was younger man going to my home Parish. And although my children will say, “Yes, Dad, we heard it all before; how you had to walk a mile up hill both ways in the snow to get to Church and back” but honestly, my home Parish was a mile up hill from the town on a curvy road. The one thing that I often marveled about was the older people from the Parish who would make this arduous journey for all the services. If you stopped to give them a ride, they would respond, “No thank you. This is my way of doing penance and preparing myself for today’s Service.” They would be praying as they walked. They understood the great privilege of entering into the Temple of the Lord and having a real relationship with God. And they made this sacrifice joyfully.
What about us? Do we even think about where we are going (if we are going) on Sunday? Do we take any time to prepare ourselves for the great privilege of entering into the Temple and having a real relationship with our God? Or do we go to Church, not to have this special relationship with the Lord, but only to “socialize” with our friends? Is it nothing more than a “social club” where we sit for an hour or so and can’t wait for the coffee hour and hope and “pray” that the priest’s sermon isn’t too long and that there will be enough cake left to go with our coffee?
Once upon a time, a man had everything his heart desired. His family was healthy, and good fortune smiled upon him. As was his custom - when he was in town, when the fish weren’t biting…. When he could manage to squeeze time in, when he was not too tired - he regularly went to Church.
And so vacation, camping weekends and days off came and went until much time had passed. The man’s health began to fail and one day, he noticed something strange: they did not come from the church to see him anymore. They did not even visit him while he was in the hospital. Being great of heart, he decided to forgive them once more and even go to church to see how they were doing in his absence.
But when he arrived, there was no church: a shopping center had been built where the church once stood.
”Where is the church?” he demanded to know.
“Dead”, was the reply.
“Oh!”, he mourned, “They shouldn’t have let it die!”
My dear friends, as we celebrate this major feast day of our Holy Orthodox Church, let us look into our own hearts and ask ourselves: Why do I go to Church? We shall always find the Lord waiting for us to come and have a real relationship with Him. We need only come, as Saint Anna tells us in the Vesper’s verse, and to want to learn of the mysteries of God. It is here that we share in the joy of His Mother as she and we enter into His holy Temple.