Temples of the Living God

"She enters the Holy of Holies to become herself the 'animated Holy of Holies'" (icon of the Entrance of the Virgin and the Annunciation). Photo credit: Temple Gallery

During the first days of the Christmas fast the Church celebrates the feast of the entrance of the child Mary into the Jerusalem temple… The spiritual story tells how, coming into the temple, the child Mary is led into the Holy of Holies by the priest Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, there to be nourished by angels in preparation for her virginal conception of the Son of God…

In the festival of the entrance of Mary into the temple we have seen how Christ’s mother is continuously hymned as the “living temple of the holy glory of Christ our God.” She is praised as the “living ark which contained the Word which cannot be contained.” She is glorified as “the temple that is to hold God,” consecrated by the Spirit to be the “dwelling place of the Almighty.” She enters the Holy of Holies to become herself the “animated Holy of Holies,” the one in whom Christ is formed, thereby making her, and everyone who is one with her in faith, the “abode of heaven.”

…As we go the way of the Winter Pascha the choice placed before us is clear. We can follow the “narrow way” that leads to life, or we can go on the “broad way” that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13-14). We can, like Mary, cleave to the Lord and become His dwelling place in the Spirit. Or we can through immorality and sin choose the death of the nothingness which we are unless the Lord Himself lives within us. “But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him” (1 Cor 6:17)…

"Christ comes from heaven; go to meet Him!" (detail from icon of the Nativity of our Lord). Photo credit: Temple Gallery

The feast of the entrance of Mary into the temple marks the first specific liturgical announcement of the birth of Christ. On this festival, for the first time in the season, the canon of the Nativity of Christ is sung at the festal vigil.

Christ is born; glorify Him!
Christ comes from heaven; go to meet Him!

Excerpt from The Winter Pascha by Fr. Thomas Hopko (SVOTS ’63), St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1984.

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