In Those Days…

In Those Days…

Today the Church celebrates the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, were both elderly when God granted their prayer request for a child. And, as Hannah did for her miracle baby, Samuel, these precious parents took Mary to the Temple in gratitude for the answered prayer.

And, just like Samuel, Mary was raised in the Temple. You might ask why would parents do this, and that makes perfect sense. But think about it, Joachim and Anna are elderly. They knew they wouldn’t live long enough to raise the child. They even went to their friend Joseph, a widower near them, and betrothed him to Mary so he could watch after her once she became of age when she had to leave the Temple. Once Mary became a young woman of childbearing age, she would have had to leave the custody of the Temple. These parents were being faithful to the promise they made and the love they had for their special daughter.

Look at our lesson today in Luke 1:39-49, 56:

In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.

And now Mary has been visited by the Archangel Gabriel and told she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Every Jewish woman born in the nation of Israel of the tribe of David wondered if her son was called to be the Messiah. And now the Promise has been fulfilled that a virgin would bear a son (Isaiah 7:14). And Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was already 6 months pregnant with a miracle baby of her own. St. John the Baptist would be born from her and when the voice of the Theotokos was heard by Elizabeth, St. John lept in her womb! Talk about proof of the personhood of a baby before it’s born!

Notice how Elizabeth greets Mary: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! Elizabeth is said to be “filled with the Spirit” when she said this! So the Lord reveals to this faithful woman that her cousin is going to be the mother of the Messiah. She rejoices and speaks the truth about Mary. And then she adds a question that is filled with import and meaning IF we have the courage to see it. Elizabeth calls Mary “the mother of my Lord.” Now Elizabeth is the wife of a priest. Her husband, Zecharias, is serving in the Temple. These are pious Jews who follow the Law. Elizabeth would never use this kind of language flippantly. She is calling Mary the mother of God! She sees what we Christians have proclaimed for 20 centuries! The Baby in Mary’s womb is God Himself taking flesh for our salvation and the salvation of the whole of Creation!

No wonder we celebrate the beginning of the formation of Mary in the Temple to become, herself, the very Temple that God would enter and take His flesh so He could come among us and be “Emmanuel: God with us.”

Today, don’t take a back seat to a modern world that has forgotten to glorious Mystery of God’s salvation and love for His creation. Don’t succumb to the smallness of this present darkness by ignoring the Feast that reminds us of the season we are preparing for and the celebration of God becoming like us so that we can become like Him! Be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Today, the most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasure of God, enters the house of the Lord, bringing the grace of the Divine Spirit. The Angels of God praise her. She is the heavenly tabernacle.

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Comments (3)

  • Steve Price Reply

    What a wonderful feat day!

    November 21, 2022 at 5:38 pm
  • KM Reply

    Fr. Barnabas –
    First off: this may be more suitable for a private email response if your time permits — I’ll let you be the judge!

    Reading your post reminded me of two things I’ve been wondering about a lot lately:
    (1) Is there any good evidence for the non-Scriptural stories about Mary and Joseph being anything more than later Christian legends and embellishments, mostly meant to elevate Mary to a near-divine level of holiness?
    (2) Why do we interpret Elizabeth’s “the mother of my Lord” as referring to God rather than the anticipated human King and Savior (like Saul or David) of the people? That’s one thing I’ve wondered about all through the Gospel accounts — if I were reading the story of Jesus for the first time, most of it would seem to suggest Him as a sort of holier priest-king successor to David and Moses, not “God the preexistent Son, begotten not made, etc.”

    I don’t mean any of that sarcastically, just so you know — just an honest desire to better understand and to be able to better articulate what I believe.

    November 30, 2022 at 1:06 pm
    • Fr. Barnabas Powell Reply

      Dear KM,

      1. Yes. The non-canonical writings of the early centuries of the Church are not wholly unreliable, and they offer evidence of the piety of the mother and foster father of Christ. But the primary resource for the Church is Her liturgical life. The consistency of this piety and prayer is so very consistent that it nearly drowns out any dissent. For we Orthodox, this liturgical continuity holds great strength, as it should. The Faith is a praying Faith and the very concept of Holy Tradition assumes the direct leadership of the Holy Spirit to preserve the fullness of the Faith through the centuries.

      2. Elizabeth is the wife of Zacharias, a Jewish priest in the Temple. Hence, her direct relation to the theological and cultural formation of the Torah would be equal to her husband’s. Their household is “kosher” and their piety and the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age are driving forces in her piety. For her to refer to her cousin, Mary, a woman much younger than her at the time as “the mother of my Lord” is tantamount to a confession of the deity of Christ in the womb. No pious Jew would use such language except for the Divine.

      Of course, we are far removed from such a cultural formation as Second Temple Judaism, and we live after the corruption of scriptural understanding by modernity and so-called “textual criticism” which all too often assumes the Scriptures are “unreliable” or in need of “de-mysticism.” The rationalistic tendencies of modernity blind us to the centuries-old understanding of the Faith and so your questions are not unexpected and I certainly don’t take them as sarcasm. Thank you for asking.

      December 7, 2022 at 11:15 am

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