November 21, 2020
The Panagia Chapel of the Metropolis of Atlanta Diakonia Center
Salem, South Carolina
Your Eminence Metropolitan Alexios, dear brother in Christ,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Today we continue our spiritual journey on this most sacred day of the Entry of the Virgin into the Temple. I do not say the Temple of Solomon, for the First Temple of King Solomon was destroyed by Ναβουχοδονόσορ (Nebuchchadnezzar), six hundred years before the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Temple that the Virgin entered on this day was the Second Temple, the one that had been fortified and adorned by the very same Herod who sought to murder our Lord shortly after His Birth. It was a Temple that was wonderful to look at, rich with beauty, as even the Lord’s Disciple noted:
“Teacher, look! Such stones! And such buildings!” [*]
Yet, it was a Temple destined to fall in complete ruin, as the Lord replied:
“Do you see these magnificent buildings? There will not even be one stone in this place that will not be utterly destroyed; not one stone left on top of another.” [†]
But before the catastrophe that brought down all of Jerusalem in 70 AD, when the Romans laid a siege that destroyed the Second Temple, this sacred space, erected at the highest point of the City of David, fulfilled its ultimate purpose. It received the Holy Theotokos as a child, a three-year old, and she whose Womb would become a living temple of flesh and blood for Her Son and God, was escorted into the Holy of Holies, to fulfill every prophecy of the Old Covenant.
You see, my beloved Christians, God dwells everywhere, even in buildings made by human hands. But He desires to dwell in the human heart, in the space where love is possible, if we will but choose it.
Our Orthodox Temples, adorned as this one with holy Icons and sacred relics, are indeed sanctified, but their holiness is a means to an end, much like the Second Temple that the Virgin entered on this day. They exist to reveal – not simply their beauty, but for us to gather as the ᾽Εκκλησία, and for us to manifest the Divine Beauty of faith, hope, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and above all – love. That is why the Virgin entered the Temple, there to remain for nine years being fed by the hand of an Angel. She entered to show the “most excellent way” of love, as the Apostle Paul says. [‡]
The Holy Theotokos did not enter the world as a perfected person. But she was presented to the Temple and housed in the Sanctuary of the Lord so that she could grow in every grace and understanding of the Divine Plan of God. Her achievement was to purify herself through the virtues that we are called to attain, so that she could receive within her own Body the fullness of the Godhead, in the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And do we not do the same? Every time we receive Holy Communion? We receive the total Body and Blood of the Lord, the fullness of the Godhead bodily when we commune, just as the Theotokos was communed with manna by the hand of the Angel. She is our exemplar, our model, for every aspect of our lives.
She lived in purity, and we are called to do so as well. She rejoiced in the presence of God, and we are called to find God in every aspect of our lives. She followed her Son to the Cross, and we are each called to carry our own cross. And she passed from death to life by her Holy Dormition, and we are called to live and die in the hope of the Resurrection.
My beloved Christians,
Today, we rejoice with great gladness in this most beautiful feast of the Virgin, and we honor and venerate her sacred icon.
May we always be found worthy to commune of the Bread of Heaven and become ourselves temples of the living God, through the prayers of our Holy Theotokos – Παναγία Βηματάρισσα, and all the Saints. Amen.