“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I asked my children this question, and received various answers. Some want to be husbands and fathers; some want to be wives and mothers. One wants to be a writer. One wants to be a priest. All of them like tending gardens and animals. And one daughter informed me that she wants to “own a lot of cats” when she grows up.
When the virgin Mary was a child, did she realize who she would be when she grew up?
Today is a feast day for Orthodox Christians, when we celebrate the Entrance of Mary into the Temple. As a child, her parents Joachim and Anna brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem, dedicating her to God, and entrusting her care to the priests. The high priest then did something which astonished everyone. He led Mary to the innermost part of the Temple, and showed her the Holy of Holies. This was a sacred room, normally accessible only once a year by the High Priest.
The Holy of Holies was a place on earth where God manifested His presence (Lev. 16:2).
Mary herself was the chosen vessel of the Incarnation, where God would most fully manifest His Presence in the person of Jesus Christ, her son.
Thus, when the high priest showed Mary the Holy of Holies, it was as if to tell her,
“This is what you are going to be when you grow up!”
Mary herself was to become the Holy of Holies.
There are several sacred hymns for this feast,
some specifically referring to Mary as the true Temple of God:
Kontakion (Tone 4)
The most pure Temple of the Savior;
The precious Chamber and Virgin;
The sacred Treasure of the glory of God,
Is presented today to the house of the Lord.
She brings with her the grace of the Spirit,
Therefore, the angels of God praise her:
“Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.”
Troparion (Tone 4)
Today Anna bequeaths joy to all instead of sorrow
by bringing forth her fruit, the only ever-Virgin.
In fulfillment of her vow,
Today with joy she brings to the temple of the Lord
the true temple and pure Mother of God the Word.
Kontakion (Tone 4)
Today the universe is filled with joy
At the glorious feast of the Mother of God, and cries out:
“She is the heavenly tabernacle.”
And according to tradition, Psalm 45 is recognized as prophetically proclaiming Mary’s entrance into the Temple:
Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father’s house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him. . . .
The royal daughter is all glorious within the palace;
Her clothing is woven with gold.
She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her,
shall be brought to you. With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought; they shall enter the King’s palace.
Instead of your fathers shall be your sons,
Whom you shall make princes in all the earth.
I will make your name to be remembered in all generations;
Therefore the people shall praise you forever and ever.
In the Old Testament, the Holy of Holies contained golden statues of angels, and was the place where God manifested His presence, in a cloud of glory.
In the New Testament, Mary received word from the archangel Gabriel, and God manifested His presence in her own womb, in the incarnation of Christ.
Mary herself became the Holy of Holies.
This homily was presented on Wednesday evening, November 20, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.