12 - Entrance of Theotokos Nov 20, 2022

Ephesians 2.4-10

Luke 12.16-21

This morning we prepare for the Entrance of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple. As She who would conceive in a manner beyond human understanding the Second Person of the Holy Trinity so that He became bone of Her bones and flesh of Her flesh, She is revealed to be the Heavenly Temple, the true Holy of Holies of which the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon were the copies and the shadow. From Her pure blood, the WORD of God wove our human nature into His own garment. Clothing Himself in our nature, He became man of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin; and, as man, the God of all was made able to taste the death that corrupted our nature at its root, in the heart, and so He was made able to become a partaker of our human nature. He became one with us even in our death.

The Blessed Virgin is not a Goddess. She is truly human. She is the daughter of Joachim and Anna, conceived and born according to the laws of nature; except for this: Joachim and Anna, like Abraham and Sarah of old, were barren, and they were past the age of child-bearing. Like Abraham and Sarah, they were as good as dead. It was by the power of God that Anna conceived and gave birth to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that the Blessed Virgin, as was Isaac, is in Her own person a flesh and blood image of the Resurrection of Christ, the Seed of Abraham. Her conception, Her birth, and Her Entrance into the Temple means that the flesh and blood Lamp that will glow with the salvation God has prepared before the face of all nations has appeared in the earthly Temple of Israel. It means that the Light the darkness cannot overcome has come into the world; it means that the divine, uncreated, eternal Life of God that cannot die has clothed Himself in our biological, mortal life that has been crippled at its root with the sting of death. That can only mean that the destruction of death and the overthrow of the devil has dawned on the eastern horizon of creation because the eternal God now fills our nature like New Wine in old wineskins. And so it is that Her very entrance into the Temple announces ‘the salvation of man; for the Virgin, prophesied by Isaiah (7.14), has appeared in the temple of God. Her very person proclaims the coming of Christ, Her Son and our God.  

Born of Joachim and Anna who were ‘as good as dead,’ the Mother of God is Herself the image and likeness of Her Son’s death and resurrection. But, again, She is truly human. She is not a Goddess. We see in Her what it is to be truly Man created in the image and likeness of God. It is to receive God, to be kindled with the uncreated Fire of God and to become ourselves all Fire. It is the fire of our elemental desire and love burning with the uncreated Fire of the love of God, so that we become ourselves a bush that burns and is not consumed; we become ourselves the Temple of God in whom God dwells so that, filled with His Glory, we open out into the deep beyond all things and into the bosom of the Father (Jn 1.18).

The Feast of the Entrance of the Virgin into the Temple, then, isn’t just about the Virgin. It’s about what it is to be human; it’s the revelation of what salvation is – to become one with God. It’s a ‘Theophany,’ for it reveals the God of the bible who is rich in mercy who, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins and trespasses, emptied Himself and spun a garment of flesh for Himself from the pure blood of the Virgin so that He could become man and become bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh even to the point of sharing with us in the death that holds us captive and separates from God in the inmost, secret chamber of our heart. He suffered all this so that by His death He could destroy our death and raise us from death to life and make us alive not in and by ourselves but in communion with Christ, raising us up with Christ making us to sit together with Christ even in the heavenly places.

In the Theotokos and in Her Entrance into the Temple, it is revealed that to be man is to live in God; it is to live in the uncreated life of God that has healed our life and raised us from death and united us with God so that we become bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh not by anything we have done – for how can a corpse make itself alive? – but because we are His creation, His workmanship. And He created us for no other purpose than to live and to thrive in Him as partakers of His own divine nature.

The Feast of the Theotokos’ Entrance into the Temple, then, because the Blessed Virgin is truly human and is not a Goddess, brings into view the great Treasure that we hold in the earthen vessels of our mortal bodies. The contrast between the temple of God our body can become, and is meant to be, and the barns built by the man in our Gospel parable this morning to hold his earthly riches, is the difference between day and night, life and death, wisdom and foolishness. If Christ is in us, God is in us. Christ is the wealth and wisdom of God. If Christ is in us, we hold the wealth and wisdom of God that do not leave us when we die. For they are the eternal riches of God’s uncreated glory that we inherit when we die and pass over from this life into the Heavenly Life of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.

When we descended into the baptismal Font, we died because we were baptized into Christ’s death. But lo! A great treasure is hidden in the mystery of that death: Christ’s Holy Resurrection. Our biological life is a burning fire of desire and love; but when the fuel that feeds the fire of our love is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life our fire goes out when we die because the body disintegrates into dust and ashes. But if we have been baptized into Christ’s death, we have been baptized into the Fire of His love that destroys death, His great Love that the dust cannot extinguish. The uncreated Fire of His great love becomes the fuel that feeds the fire of our love.

When we immerse the fire of our heart’s love into the uncreated Fire of His love, we find ourselves taken up into an eternally raging Fire that consumes all our dross, all our corruption, all our death and all its fruits. And we are not consumed, because we are not dross, or corruption or death. We are men and women created in the image and likeness of God. We are fire created in the uncreated Fire of God. We are love created in the eternal love of God. We are men and women called to become partakers of the divine nature of the very God who, out of His great love with which He loved us, became a partaker of our human nature. When we are taken up into the raging Fire of God’s great love, we are not consumed because we become who and what we really are.

In the baptismal font, when we were united to Christ in the likeness of His death, there was poured into the old wineskins of our flesh the New Wine of Christ, and our old wineskins burst. The water that now flows in the well of our heart is the New Wine of the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. The root of our life now is the Theotokos, the New Eve. From Her blessed womb, God the WORD, the Vine bursting with clusters of living grapes, germinated from Abraham’s seed out of the soil of our nature and blossomed from the Theotokos, the Rod of Jesse. Christ, the New Adam, is our Life, and He dwells among us in His Holy Temple, the Theotokos. When we were immersed in the Font, we died in Christ; we died to this world, and we began living in God. St Paul tells us how to walk in this life so long as we remain in our ‘mortal bodies,’ this ‘body of death.’ Don’t let sin and its desires be your master anymore. You are not under Pharaoh but under the LORD. Your life is now an Exodus from the Font to the Kingdom of Heaven. Now, your purpose in this life is to master your will and, with God’s help, turn your mind, your soul, your body away from sin that destroys you and set your face toward the Face of Christ in the Light that now shines in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the Glory of God (2 Cor 4.6), so that you begin to live in the death of the LORD Jesus who now lives in your heart so that the Life of Christ becomes manifest in your mortal body (2 Cor 4.10-11).

The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, then, proclaims the LORD’s Pascha. Anna, and the Theotokos Herself urge us, in the joy of the Feast, to enter with Her into the place none may enter, the mystery of our own heart, and learn its mysteries and to prepare ourselves to become just like our Mother, the Theotokos: a pleasing and beautiful dwelling place of Christ our God in the mystery of His Holy Pascha. Amen!