The Entrance of Theotokos into the Temple: Making the Past, Present

The Entrance of Theotokos into the Temple: Making the Past, Present
By Archpriest Steven Kostoff (Master of Divinity ’81)

The festal cycle of the Church sanctifies time. By this we mean that the tedious flow of time is imbued with sacred content as we celebrate the events of the past now made present through liturgical worship. Notice how often we hear the word “today” in the hymns of the Feast chanted at Vespers:

Today let us, the faithful dance for joy … “

Today the living Temple of the holy glory of Christ our God, she who alone among women is pure and blessed …”

Today the Theotokos, the Temple that is to hold God is led into the temple of the Lord…

Again, we do not merely commemorate the past, but we make the past present.

We actualize the event being celebrated so that we are also participating in it. We, today, rejoice as we greet the Mother of God as she enters the Temple, “in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.”

Can all—or any—of this possibly change the “tone” of how we live this day? Is it at all possible that an awareness of this joyous Feast can bring some illumination or sense of divine grace into the seemingly unchanging flow of daily life? Are we able to envision our lives as belonging to a greater whole: the life of the Church that is moving toward the final revelation of God’s Kingdom in all of its fullness? Do such questions even make any sense as we are scrambling just to get through the day intact and in one piece, hopefully avoiding any serious mishaps or calamities? If not, can we at least acknowledge that “something” essential is missing from our lives?

SB_Theotokos_Entrance_NOV17I believe there are a few things we can do on a practical level that will bring the life of the Church and its particular rhythms into our domestic lives. As we know, each particular Feast has a main hymn called the Troparion. This Troparion captures the over-all meaning and theological content of the Feast in a somewhat poetic fashion. As the years go by, and as we celebrate the Feasts annually, you may notice that you have memorized these Troparia, or at least recognize them when they are sung in church. For the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, the festal Troparion is:

Today is the prelude 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, O Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation!

A great Feast Day of the Church is never a one-day affair! There is the “Afterfeast” and then, finally, the “Leavetaking” of the Feast. So this particular Feast extends from today, November 21, until Saturday, November 25. A good practice, therefore, would be to include the Troparion of the Feast in our daily prayer until the Leavetaking. That can be very effective when parents pray together with their children before bedtime, as an example.

Perhaps even more importantly, within a family meal setting, would be to sing or simply say or chant the Troparion together before sitting down to share that meal together. The Troparion would replace the usual prayer used, presumably the Lord’s Prayer. All of this can be especially effective with children, as it will introduce them to the rhythm of church life and its commemoration of the great events in the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Do you have any Orthodox literature in the home that would narrate and then perhaps explain the events and their meaning of the Great Feast Days? Reading this together as a family can also be very effective. A short Church School session need not be the only time that our children are introduced to the life of the Church. The home, as we recall, has been called a “little church” by none other than St. John Chrysostom!

We must remember that Orthodox Christianity is meant to be a way of life, as expressed here by Fr. Pavel Florensky:

“The Orthodox taste, the Orthodox temper, is felt but is not subject to arithmetical calculation. Orthodoxy is shown, not proved. That is why there is only one way to understand Orthodoxy: through direct experience … to become Orthodox, it is necessary to immerse oneself all at once into the very element of Orthodoxy, to begin living in an Orthodox way. There is no other way.—The Pillar and Ground of the Truth)


NOTE: Father Steven is the pastor of Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit Orthodox Church, in Norwood, Ohio. Special articles and resources on the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos and all the Great Feasts are available on that parish website: www.christthesavioroca.org.

Sermon on Luke 12:16-21 (The Rich Fool)

Sermon on Luke 12:16-21 (The Rich Fool)
By Daniel VanderKolk

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today God calls someone a word that no one ever wants to hear: “fool“!

How scary is the thought of being called a fool by God!

Why does God call this man a fool? The man was rich. He worked his land well. He saved his extra crops. God even blessed his soil and gave this rich man good harvests.

So why is this rich man called a fool by God? Is it a sin to work hard, budget for the future, and save our resources?

No. Hard work is the virtue of diligence. Budgeting for the future is the virtue of prudence. Saving our resources is the virtue of frugality. So why is this rich man a fool?

Because this rich man fooled himself into thinking that all he had in life was his own. The man who wisely managed his goods, foolishly managed his thoughts. This rich fool said to himself: “I am the author of my life, my goods are my own”. This rich fool wrote God out of his life.

He separated himself from God who said, through the words of Saint Paul, that those rich in this present age should be rich also in good works. They should be ready to share. They should be generous. They should store up treasure for themselves in heaven.

This rich fool did not see himself as a steward of God’s treasure. He thought that by ignoring God’s command to feed the poor he would have more of the good things in life. He thought that he would have more joy and fulfillment by following his own will and ignoring God’s will.

parable of the rich fool_2017The rich fool forgot that God gives us all good things in life. The rich fool forgot that God wants us to be filled with joy by accumulating an abundance of virtues. The rich man only sought to please his own stomach, never once thinking about how to please God. His body lacked no physical food, but his soul was starved for virtue.

God gave the rich man treasuries of food so that the rich man would cultivate love in his own heart by being charitable to his neighbor. But the rich man chose the fleeting joy of an overfull stomach rather than the eternal joy of supporting the poor. God wanted this man to be rich in virtue.

This man’s stomach wanted him to be starved for virtue. God knows that we easily love our stomachs more than we love His commandments. Thankfully, God easily loves us more than we love our stomachs.

God loves us so much that He gave His only-begotten Son to a humiliating crucifixion. But Christ’s life did not end with death. Christ conquered death, ascended into Heaven, and reigns at the right hand of the Father.

So too, our lives do not end with death. After death, we will be judged. And after the judgment we hope to behold our Lord in heaven. We hope to feed on the joy that comes from eternal communion with God. As we sing in the Troparion for the Departed: “Give rest to the soul of thy servant O Savior, preserving it in the blessed life which is with Thee, who lovest mankind.”

Because of Christ’s victory over death, we no longer fear death. Because of Christ’s victory over death, we look with joy to the life to come. We steward well the treasures God gives us in this life. We eagerly hoard good deeds and virtues, because they are the only things we can take with us into the next life.

On the 26th of December, 1782, Vassily Drozdov came into this world. He grew up in the town of Kolomna, near Moscow. God gave Vassily many gifts. He was able to study in some of the finest schools in Russia.

He never once thought that he deserved or earned his good things in life. He was grateful to God for all of the treasures he received. Vassily knew that he was partner, with God, in all of his endeavors in life. When God, in His love, gave Vassily learning and understanding, Vassily, with deep gratitude, wanted to return God’s love.

Out of love for God, Vassily chose to use his intellectual gifts to pursue virtue, for God’s glory. Vassily taught at seminary, considering the professional duties of a teacher of utmost importance. He cared for his seminarians, spent time with them, prayed for them, and loved them.

Vassily also used his intellectual gifts to feed the sheep outside of his seminary. Late at night, when Vassily was tempted to eat, drink, and be merry, he called his own stomach a fool and chose to be rich toward God. He labored at night, writing edifying words for his Orthodox brothers and sisters.

Vassily loved his neighbor. Vassily loved God. Vassily loved virtue.

On the 6th of November, 1808, Vassily, the seminary professor was tonsured Philaret, the monk. “Philaret” means “he who loves virtue”. Truly, St. Philaret, the Metropolitan of Moscow, loves virtue with all his heart.

Emulate his love. Practice the virtue of thankfulness today. As you sit down to eat dinner tonight, pause for a moment.

Think of all the hard work that went into your meal. Think of the people who labored over your food. Think of the good favor God showed you in allowing the farmer’s crops to grow and produce the food that you are now eating.

Think of God’s love in supporting our economy, the economy that allows you to purchase such good food. Think to yourself that although God implants in us the need to nourish ourselves with food, He also allows us to enjoy our food and derive pleasure from fulfilling our daily needs.

And then say aloud: “The poor shall eat and shall be filled. Those who seek the Lord shall praise Him; their hearts shall live forever.”

And as you eat your dinner, fill your mind with nutritious thoughts. Think of how St. Philaret enjoyed eating food but did not obsess over his stomach. Think of how St. Philaret loved virtue more than he loved food. Think of how St. Philaret was a good steward of the treasures God gave to him, because St. Philaret knew that all good things in life come from God.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Seminarian Daniel Vanderkolk is a 3rd-year Master of Divinity student, from the Diocese of the Midwest, Orthodox Church in America. Prior to coming to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, he taught 10th-grade Latin Language and Literature at Oakdale Academy in Waterford, MI. This homily was given on Sunday, November 19, 2017, at Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, New Haven, CT, where Seminarian Vanderkolk is a student intern under rector, Archpriest Michael Westerberg. On that Sunday the Orthodox Church also commemorated the repose of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow.