"After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways .... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church." St. Philaret of NY 1985

Entry into the Temple


The Entry into the Temple of the Most Holy Virgin Mary 
A Homily by Saint Philaret of New York, 
the New Confessor, + 1985 A.D. 

 TODAY the Theotokos, the temple that containeth God, is led into the temple of the Lord, and Zacharias receiveth her.  Today the Holy of Holies rejoiceth.  

You and I have only just heard these words chanted, in which the Church depicts the festive event which we commemorate in today’s Great Feast.  Today the Holy or Holies rejoiceth, says the Church.  

And you and I know that in the Akathist to the Mother of God, in one of the blessings ascribed to her, we also say: Rejoice, Holy one, holier than the [Holy of] Holies, that is: Do thou rejoice, who art greater than the Holy of Holies!  The story of the festival tells us how the pious parents, Joachim and Anna, brought the three-year-old child, the little maiden Mary into the Temple of God, as they had promised, according to their vow, that there they might dedicate her to God; how virgins accompanied her with candles, and how when they finally entered the Temple of God, the High Priest Zacharias himself came forth to meet her.  And tradition informs us how she, even so young, only three years old, completely freely ascended the many steps towards him, and he, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, did what had never been done at any other time, and led her into the Holy of Holies, into that very place where in the mystic darkness the Lord Himself dwelt, where formerly the foot of man had never trodden, and where the High Priest alone entered in, when he had the right to do so, with prayer and censing on one day a year.  

One day a year!  And this was not that day.  Nonetheless, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the righteous Zacharias led the three-year-old Little One into the Holy of Holies, so that there she might be brought up.  In another Church prayer, it says “as one sanctified.”  And Church tradition tells us that she was often in the Holy of Holies; that the Angels appeared to her there; that the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her and brought her nourishment.  And so it is that when you and I read of that other solemn occasion which came to pass, the Annunciation to the Mother of God, the Gospel very precisely makes clear that when she saw the Archangel Gabriel the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was not disturbed because she had seen him, but she was disturbed by his message, because by then he was an old acquaintance of hers and had many times appeared to her in the Holy of Holies.  But, all the same, when she heard his unaccustomed greeting, Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou among women, it was this unaccustomed greeting which disturbed her, and she considered what such a greeting might mean. 

According to Tradition, after the entry into the Temple, she constantly lived in the Temple.  There she prayed, there she worked, and there, as has already been said, the Angels brought her nourishment. 

But how do we relate to God’s temple?  For the Christian the house of God should be just as it was in ancient times for the Psalmist, who wrote, I was glad because of them that said unto me: Let us go into the house of the Lord! (Ps. 121:1).  That is, I rejoiced hearing that they said unto me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord”!  Does this hap- pen with us?   Do we value the house of God?  Do we love the house of God?  Do we strive to be there as often as it is possible for us?  Do we, perhaps, overcome any and every obstacle?  You yourselves know that  it is a long way, - but a long way isn’t always that!  

In this particular case, they brought in the Most Pure Virgin Mary, they brought the young Maiden into the Temple; the Temple became her own for her.  There she abode; she always stayed near it.  But unfortunately, it now happens that our children rarely ever see the house of God.  Blessed are those children whose pious parents always bring them to church!  There is nothing of equal worth to that which a young child receives in church, in the grace-filled, radiant, hallowed and spiritual atmosphere of the church!  That which the young soul absorbs in those tender years of infancy will be a treasury for it, its spiritual capital, and the very best antidote to life’s banality and filthiness, to which it will very soon be subjected.  If only it could actually be that our holy churches were always filled with children!  But we continually see that it is not so, even when there are Great Feasts, - for instance, the church might have a sufficiently large number of people, but hardly any children. 
This is something which we must all reflect upon, not only parents, but educators, teachers, Christians, everyone, that the young might be given the possibility, however meagrely, to absorb in their developing, blossoming souls that spiritual capital to be found in the house of God.  This so that they might utilise it and so that it might be for them spiritual wealth, not only in the course of this life, but also in that to come.  Consider this, and strive to bring our children to church more often, so that they will come to love the church and constantly aspire to be therein.  There used to be - and indeed there now are some families - where the small children loved the house of God to such an extent, and were not over- burdened by the services, that it was not the parents that brought them to church, but they brought the parents!  “Quickly, quickly!”  Blessed is that family, in which things are like this.  Think about this, beloved brethren; take concern  that our children are brought up as Christians, as faithful children of the Orthodox Church, and that they love the house of God with its reverent and prayerful atmosphere.  Amen.   

Compiler’s Note:  It is undoubtedly an indication of the spiritual decline that we have witnessed since St Philaret reposed twenty-six years ago, that we need now to add something more to his wise words.  He speaks of children profited by being “in the grace-filled, radiant, hallowed and spiritual atmosphere of the church.” Of course, they will not benefit in this way if their parents allow them to behave in church as if they were in a kindergarten or playground. They have to be trained to be quiet enough and attentive enough to appreciate that “grace-filled, radiant, hallowed and spiritual atmosphere of the church.” Otherwise for them church will simply be a bore to be endured, and something they will escape from it as soon as they are old enough to be out of what used to be called “parental control.”