On November 21, we commemorate the Entry of the Mother of God into the Holy of Holies
Feast of the Hesychastic monasticism
On Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
There are feasts in which the power lies in the event being remembered; it is the event itself that is important, significant, and decisive for the destinies of men; this is true of the feast of the Nativity of Christ and the Feast of the Resurrection; the decisive thing is, respectively, that God became a human being on that day and was born on Earth, and that it was on that day that the Lord who had died on the cross for the sake of our salvation was risen from the dead.
There are also holidays, as well as icons, which tell us about some very special event, even if their historical context is not clear. Such is the feast of the Entry of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple. It is hardly possible that the event described in the liturgical hymn did indeed happen in ancient Jerusalem; but it tells us something more significant and important about the Mother of God than Her physical entry into the Holy of Holies, which was forbidden even to the High Priest other than on specific days. This is the day when the Blessed Virgin, who has reached her early maturity that makes a child capable of experiencing, perceiving and responding personally to the mysterious touch of grace, entered the Holy of Holies – not the actual Holy of Holies but rather the deep union with God, which the Temple stood for.
With what trembling should we read the words in the divine service book, which are attributed to Joachim and Anne with such tenderness and intensity: Go, child! Be the praise and sweet fragrance to the One who gave you everything. Enter the area to which there is no door; learn the mysteries and prepare yourself to become the abode of God Himself. How wonderful it is to think that a mother and a father can address their child with such words: Go into the depth, enter the mystery where no physical door leads, and prepare yourself to be an offering unto God, a sweet fragrance, a divine habitation…
This is how some Fathers of the Church and Saint Theophan interpret the meaning of this entry of the Mother of God into the temple, into the Holy of Holies. Not touched by sin, not desecrated by anything, but capable of responding to the holiness, the glory, the wondrousness of God with her pure heart, unblemished flesh, and her unmarred mind, the three-year-old Maiden is sent to these depths of prayerful, contemplative communion.
We read elsewhere in the same divine service that the Archangel Gabriel told her quietly that she was to open herself up for God and prepare herself to become the place of the Savior’s coming incarnation.
This is what the feast tells us: from the very first steps of her life, taught by her mother and father and guided by an angel, she enters into the depths of prayer, silence, awe, love, contemplation, and purity that make up the true Holy of Holies. Isn’t it amazing after all that we celebrate this day as the beginning of our salvation? The Blessed Virgin, the first of all creatures, enters these impenetrable, impregnable depths, enters into the fellowship with God that will grow and grow, untainted, unclouded, unblemished, unspoiled throughout her life, until, as one Western writer writes, she will be able, in response to God’s call, to utter God’s name with all her mind, with all her heart, with all her will, with all her flesh, and to give birth to God’s Incarnate Word by the Holy Spirit.
Yes, the day of this holiday is indeed the day when we witness the occurrence of this miraculous event, the beginning of this growth. At the same time, it gives us the idea of what we are called to – where the Lord calls us – the Holy of Holies. Yes, we are defiled; yes, our minds are blurred; yes, our hearts are unclean; yes, our lives are corrupt and unworthy of God. Still, there is repentance available to all, which can purify our minds, our bodies, our hearts; it can correct our will and make our lives righteous, so that we may also enter the Holy of Holies.
No doubt that this holiday, with the words that appear to be spoken by Joachim and Anna, which I’ve quoted, exhorts every mother and every father to say to our children from an early age – from the moment when a child can understand anything, or at least to feel it in his heart, to be sensitive, and to receive grace – the following words: Enter reverently, tremblingly into the area where no door – neither the church nor the mental or any other door – leads, except for the silent, trembling waiting before God. Go into that Holy of Holies and grow into the full measure of Christ, to become like the Mother of God and to turn into a temple, a place of residence for the Holy Spirit and the Lord in the Sacraments, and to become a child of our Heavenly Father. Amen.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds
“A brother came to Scetis to visit Abba Moses and asked him for a word. The old man said to him, ‘Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.’”
Having withdrawn from the palace to the solitary life, abba Arsenius prayed and heard a voice saying to him, “Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness.”
St. Seraphim of Sarov
Many explain that this stillness refers only to worldly matters; in other words, that during prayerful converse with God you must ‘be still’ with regard to worldly affairs. But I will tell you in the name of God that not only is it necessary to be dead to them at prayer, but when by the omnipotent power of faith and prayer our Lord God the Holy Spirit condescends to visit us, and comes to us in the plenitude of His unutterable goodness, we must be dead to prayer too.
The soul speaks and converses during prayer, but at the descent of the Holy Spirit we must remain in complete silence, in order to hear clearly and intelligibly all the words of eternal life which He will then deign to communicate. Complete soberness of both soul and spirit, and chaste purity of body is required at the same time. The same demands were made at Mount Horeb, when the Israelites were told not even to touch their wives for three days before the appearance of God on Mount Sinai. For our God is a fire which consumes everything unclean, and no one who is defiled in body or spirit can enter into communion with Him. (St. Seraphim of Sarov: A Spiritual Biography by Archimandrite Lazarus Moore, Chap. 8)
Saint Symeon the New Theologian 949 -1022 A.D
I know that the Immovable comes down; I know that the Invisible appears to me; I know that He who is outside the whole creation takes me within Himself and hides me in His arms, and then I find myself outside the whole world.
I, a frail, small mortal in the world, behold the Creator of the world, all of Him, within myself; and I know that I shall not die, for I am within the Life, I have the whole of Life springing up as a fountain within me.
He is in my heart, He is in heaven: both there and here He shows himself to me with equal glory.
Hymn 13, ed. Johannes Koder, vol 1
On Eschatology and Hesychasm
Fr. John Romanides 1928-2001
Those who really speak about the end times are those who practice hesychasm, not relaxation. Genuine Orthodox eschatology is hesychasm. (Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, Patristic Theology: The University Lectures of Fr. John Romanides, trans. Hieromonk Alexios [Trader] pg. 108)
We must strive to acquire the inner tranquility. Saint Paisios of Mount Athos
Building our Own House Churches: On the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. St. Luke Archbishop of Simferopol
The Mother of God in the Holy of Holies found the “deep heart” through her humble prayer and she began to intercede for the whole world. Fr Zacharias Zacharou
The Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom which is conducted on the morning of the Feast and preceded by a Matins (Orthros) service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: At Vespers: Exodus 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35; I Kings 7:51, 8:1, 3-4, 6-7, 9-11; Ezekiel 43:27—44:4. At the Matins: Luke 1:39-49, 56. At the Divine Liturgy: Hebrews 9:1-7; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28.
The 21st Day Of The Month Of November
The Entry Of Our All-Holy Mistress, The Theotokos & Ever-Virgin Mary, Into The Temple
Apolytikion For the Feast
Today is the prelude of God’s good pleasure, and the proclamation of humanity’s salvation. In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly, and in herself she announces Christ to all. Let us, then, with a great voice cry aloud to her: “Rejoice, you are the fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.”
Kontakion of the Feast.
Mode 4. “Having been lifted up…”
The most pure temple of the Savior, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasury of the glory of God, is on this day brought into the house of the Lord, bringing with her the grace that is in the divine Spirit. To her do the angels of God chant the hymn: She is the heavenly tabernacle!
Ikos: Beholding the grace of the ineffable and divine mysteries of God made plainly manifest in and filling the Virgin, I rejoice; yet I know not how to understand this strange and ineffable image. How hath the pure one alone been shown to be above all creation, visible and noetic? Wherefore, desiring to praise her, I am greatly in awe in mind and word; yet, making bold, I proclaim and magnify her, saying: She is the heavenly tabernacle!
The angels, beholding the entry of the all-pure one, were amazed to see the Virgin enter into the Holy of holies.
Irmos: May the hands of the profane in nowise touch the Theotokos, the animate ark of God; but let the lips of the faithful, unceasingly chanting the cry of the angel, joyfully cry out: Truly thou art more highly exalted than all, O pure Virgin!
O my soul, magnify her who is greater in honor and in glory than the armies of heaven.
For us who faithfully hasten * to your compassion for refuge, * O Virgin Mother of our God, * and who piously worship * your Son as God of all the world * and Master, entreat Him now most fervently * that He save us from injury and dangers * and temptations of all kinds.
Glory…, Now and ever…, the composition of Leo Magister, in Tone II
Today the most immaculate Virgin is brought to the temple, to the habitation of God, the King of all, the Nourisher of our whole life. Today the most pure and holy one, is led to the Holy of holies like a heifer three years of age. Let us cry out unto her like the angel: “Rejoice, thou who alone art blessed among women!