Today we celebrate the Feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple in Jerusalem.
One of the twelve great feasts in the life of the Orthodox Church. Here is what one of the recent saints, St. John of Kronstadt said about this feast:
“On this day, my brethren, the holy Church celebrates the solemn Entry into the temple in Jerusalem of the three-year-old child, Mary—the blessed daughter of righteous parents, Joachim and Anna—to be instructed in the Lord. Zacharias—the elder and high priest—meets her with priestly splendor; and as he was instructed to do by the Spirit of God, he brings her, accompanied by young maidens, into the most interior part of the temple, the Holy of Holies, where the high priest himself enters but once a year, and where the Holy of Holies, the Lord Himself dwelt—for she was to become the Mother of His flesh.
How did the most blessed Virgin spend her time in the temple? Taught the Hebrew written language and prayer by the Holy Spirit through the maidens, she spent her time in prayer, reading of the word of God (as you can see on the icon of the Annunciation), in divine contemplation, and handiwork. Her love for converse with God and for reading the word of God was so great that she forgot about food and drink, and an Archangel brought her heavenly food at God’s request, as the Church sings in the stichera for today’s feast.
What an excellent example for fathers, mothers, and their children; for Christian maidens and youths!….” He continues saying, “May her children by grace be of one spirit with Her! Let them learn from her how to love the Lord, our Creator, more than anything else in the world, more than father and mother, more than anyone dear to us; how to avidly study the word of God—something unfortunately not seen amongst the disciples of Jesus Christ; learn with what warmth of heart and love we must pray to the Lord; how we must dedicate ourselves to him wholeheartedly; how to entrust our fate to His wise and all-good Providence; with what purity, meekness, humility, and patience we must always clothe and adorn ourselves and not with the vain embellishments of this adulterous and sinful world which knows no bounds of luxury and elegance in bodily clothing; how to love a life with God and the saints “more than to dwell in the tents of sinners (Ps. 83:11).”
We understand the feasts of the Church not simply as commemorations of events that happened in the past but as events that relate directly to us and to our salvation. Mary was dedicated to God from her youth. Her parents dedicated her to God from her youth. We are called to live in imitation of her parents Joachim and Anna, dedicating ourselves and our children to loving and serving God. Their love of God had a powerful effect. It led to their child becoming the vehicle for the salvation of the whole human race. We are called to also be and to raise vehicles for the salvation of the world around us.
When do parents get to stop dedicating themselves to raising godly Christian children? Is it when the children are weaned and begin to eat solid food? Is it when the children begin to take their first steps and walk? Is it when children begin puberty and become teenagers? No. One might argue that to stop focusing at this stage of their lives is akin to gross negligence. We are to dedicate ourselves and our children to God perpetually. We do this by jealously guarding their hearts and minds. To be clear let me say that smartphones and computers are the cause of the majority of the spiritual, and psychological problems that our teens have or will have. Dads, man up and be responsible as leaders in your homes. Moms, lead by example. Whatever care you take in being diligent with your raising your children now, will be accounting as a blessing to you both in this life and forever when you meet the Lord in the kingdom. Set limits and rules and stick to them as if your life or the lives of your children depend on them…because in the truest sense, they do.
All of this requires patience. The world wears us down with distractions and shiny things. We find ourselves living in pleasure and comfort and it’s really easy for us to get complacent and neglect our duties, but the Church teaches us that we are to continuously live with our minds and hearts directed to God.
St. John Chrysostom tells us that the home is to be a little church. So in a real sense, our homes are to be temples where we live and serve God. Practically speaking that means less electronics, less entertainment, and more quality time for family conversation and shared activities, more time for reading and more dedicated time for prayer together. Because our days are numbered and our lives belong to Christ.
We were each dedicated to God just like the Mother of God was dedicated in the Temple. You were dedicated on the day of your baptism. You belong to Christ and your life can be a witness to God’s goodness and love. Your life can also be a path and conduit of grace, healing and salvation that God uses in the lives of many others. What is required of us is to trust God with our lives and our most prized possessions such as our minds, our time, our attention and our children so that He can bless them and return them to us. This is what Joachim and Anna did with their most precious possession, a beautiful 3 year old girl. And God has not ceased to bless us and the whole universe richly through their act of sacrificial dedication, faith and love. Glory be to God forever AMEN.