It is obvious that the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple is a very theological feast in Orthodoxy. Few historians would give it any factual credibility and recently even some Orthodox scholars acknowledge its importance is far more theological than historical. It is a theological meditation on the incarnation of God, and all of the events which led to the incarnation. Many Orthodox writers and saints through the centuries have treated it as a historical event, but that isn’t what makes the Feast significant.
So consider somethings we can glean from this Feast as well as from other Feasts of the Theotokos and the Lord:
Long before Mary was conceived on earth, God had conceived of her – for God’s plan for all humanity involved the incarnation, which means it required a woman to be mother to the God who entered into the world. God conceived of a Mary, chose motherhood and willed her existence before the world was made. Before God created anything, God knew the need for a mother, Mary, to fulfill His plan for humanity. From all eternity God knew what was needed for our salvation. The incarnation is not an after thought, a reaction to sin, but rather the plan hidden from all eternity revealed in Jesus Christ(Ephesians 3:9-13, Colossians 1:25-27). If there was to be an incarnation in which God became fully human, there had to be a mother in which the incarnation would occur.
God knew His plan of salvation, knew He needed a mother to make the incarnation possible, and God planned this salvation before Mary was ever born.
Mary, for her part, carried the Word of God in herself long before she conceived God in her womb. She heard God’s Word growing up in a pious Jewish family, and so was prepared to recognize God’s voice and to obey God’s Word.
Mary longed for God’s Word with all her heart, which is why she found favor in the eyes of God and why she was chosen to be the mother of God’s son. God saw His plan for the salvation of humanity realized in a woman who was capable of being the Mother of God. Mary is, after all, the one conceived of by God to bring His plan of salvation to fruition. She is the one God needed to carry God’s Word on earth. She is the temple God wished for Himself to dwell on earth from the beginning.
As it turns out, the temple in Jerusalem was a mere foreshadowing of Mary who became the temple of God on earth, the one in whom heaven was united with earth to become the dwelling place of God. The feast of the Entry is thus much more a celebration of what happened theologically, than what happened historically. The temple was real and historical, and Mary is real and historical. Their relationship is a theological truth to which the Feast draws our attention.
And for those who believe in God and God’s plan for our salvation – we are God’s people, God’s vineyard. God plants His vineyard, cultivates and nurtures it, so that it would bear fruit for Him. God chose His people and for centuries prepared them to be the location for His dwelling on earth. Mary is the choice fruit of God’s vineyard. She is the best product of God’s people, for in her God’s plan is fulfilled, and brought to fruition. God comes to dwell in His people, and begins that in the Virgin’s womb. The Feast of the Entry is simply making for us the connection between God, the temple and our salvation.
We fulfill our task by completing the words of our Lord Jesus:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:4-7)
We should ask ourselves, on his Feast Day, what am I going to do today that is distinctively Christian? What am I going to do today that non-believers aren’t going to do or can’t do or won’t do?
As Christians we need to think in those terms.
Like the Virgin Mary, we too have a distinct vocation in the world. We are God’s chosen people. It is up to us to hear God’s Word and incarnate that Word in our hearts and minds, in our lives, in our homes and families and in our parish community, so that the rest of the world has a chance to hear God’s Word and see God’s light.
We are the living temple of God and when we live our faith, others in the world are given opportunity to find God as well.