Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple
Celebrated on November 21
According to Holy Tradition, the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple took place in the following manner. Her parents, Sts. Joachim and Anna, praying for an end to their childlessness, vowed that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God. When the Most Holy Virgin reached the age of three, her parents decided to fulfill their vow. They invited their relatives and acquaintances, and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple. There the High Priest met the handmaiden of God. In the Temple, fifteen high steps led to the sanctuary, which only the High Priest could enter. (Because a Psalm was recited on each step, Psalms 119/120-133/134 are called “Psalms of Ascent.”) It seemed that the child could not make it up this stairway. But just as She was placed on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly went up the remaining steps and ascended to the highest one. The High Priest led the Most Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest entered once a year to offer a purifying sacrifice of blood. All those in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual event. After entrusting their child to the Heavenly Father, Joachim and Anna returned home. The All-Holy Virgin remained in the rooms set aside for virgins located near the Temple.
The earthly life of the Most Holy Theotokos is shrouded in deep mystery. However, there are accounts in Church Tradition that during the All-Pure Virgin’s stay at the Temple, She grew up in a community of pious virgins, diligently read the Holy Scripture, occupied Herself with handicrafts, prayed constantly, and grew in Her love for God.
From ancient times, the Church has celebrated the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Indications that the Feast was observed in the first centuries of Christianity are found in the traditions of Palestinian Christians, which say that the Empress Helen built a church in honor of the Feast of the Entry. In the fourth century, St. Gregory of Nyssa also mentioned this Feast. In the eighth century, Sts. Germanus and Tarasius, Patriarchs of Constantinople, delivered sermons on the Feast of the Entry.
The Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple foretells God’s blessing for the human race, the preaching of salvation, and the promise of the coming of Christ.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
Today is the preview of the good will of God,
of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.
The Virgin appears in the temple of God,
in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.
Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice,
0 Divine Fulfillment of the Creator's dispensation.
Kontakion (Tone 4) –
The most pure Temple of the Savior;
the precious Chamber and Virgin;
the sacred Treasure of the glory of God,
is 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.”
By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (www.oca.org)