On 4 December, we celebrate the great feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. We commemorate her dedication as a young child for the service of God. Her righteous parents Joachim and Anna had been praying to God to give them a child and promised to surrender her to His service. They took her to the Temple when she was about three years of age. The High Priest met the Holy Virgin at the gate and she ran towards him. She grew up at the Temple for the next nine years, when the priests and elders betrothed her to Joseph.
We are celebrating the feast at the beginning of the Nativity Fast. We look forward to the Incarnation of Christ, celebrated by the Feast of the Nativity on 7 January. The feast is also a good occasion to reflect on our relationship with the Lord and the meaning of our lives as Christians.
As the church tradition holds it, the High Priest of the Jerusalem temple led her into its Holy of Holies, and let her pray there at any time. In the Holy of Holies, the God of the Old Testament was residing, hidden from His people behind the veils. Under Jewish law, only the high priest could enter it just once in a year. Through the Theotokos, the separation between man and God ended, and His presence in our lives was restored.
In the hymn of our services, we glorify the Most Holy Theotokos: “More honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim”. Even the angels were amazed at the magnitude of the change.
The change in people’s lives was no less spectacular. The icons of the Holy Theotokos show woman, a human being just like us, but one who is filled with peace, because she chose not to look away from Him. Our inner peace is our treasured reward for living in the Lord.
During yesterday’s vespers service, we venerated her as the “most pure temple of the Saviour” and “the precious chamber”. Likewise, Apostle Paul elevates us in his epistles to being the temples of the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Theotokos, the bearer of God, we have been asked to become the bearers of His Holy Spirit. To us, this means living in God’s love and illuminating with it the lives of our neighbours, and acquiring a peaceful spirit so thousands around us will be saved.
Not only are we called to be the temples of the Spirit, but we are also commanded to make our families into domestic churches. They are places where we honour God, live by His law, pray jointly, and transmit virtue by word and example. Into them, we will bring our children so they will grow in God and to live meaningful lives in His grace.
May we all be worthy bearers of the Holy Spirit, and live our lives in such a way so that the spirit grows, and bears much fruit. May God would dwell in us, with us, and through us.
Many years have passed since Belarus was freed from fascism. But we hold close the memory of those who did not live to see the Victory. In our fast-paced world everything changes, but the truth. It is therefore important that the memory remains.
Christian denominations, including many Western Orthodox Churches, prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ (Christmas) on the 25th of December. However, in Belarus Christmas is celebrated on 7th January.