Sermon given on the 21st Nov:
Entry of the Theotokos sermon
~ by Rev Fr Leslie Kostoglou
We are in the close of the year and from the 15th we began the fast of Christmas. The lent of Christmas, just like the lent of Pascha, but not as strict.
Today we celebrate the entry of the Theotokos into the temple. The fact that we call her ‘Theotokos’ (God-bearer) makes us aware of what is to come at Christmas. Her entry into the temple, as our example, makes us think of how we enter the temple? How do we enter the church?
At thirteen years old the Virgin Mary conceived God. But at three, her parents presented her to the Jewish temple, where she would become the veil weaver. We have kept this in our icons, for you will see that she holds knitting needles and a deep cherry wool in her hands. This was the colour of the veil surrounding and separating the Holy of Holies. This is the veil that is referenced to at Easter, at the crucifixion, when "the veil was torn in two". But there is a lot of interpretations about that.
The Theotokos, with her knitting needles, occupies the royal gates to the altar in our church. This is because, through her, God came to earth. She is that bridge. That same bridge that we too make when we come to church and pray.
How do we enter the church? How do we come to church?
With what body do you come to church? With what mind do you come to church? With what heart do you come to church? With what soul do you come to church? These are the questions we must ask ourselves.
We are not to be perfect. I often get, "Fr, when I have it altogether...I'll come to church". But they have it all wrong.
You can not heal yourself, one hundred percent. You can not help yourself, one hundred percent. You can not get it together by yourself. If you excuse the terminology, that is God's "job". Our "job" is to come to church in whatever stage and reality of your life that you find yourself in. If you feel you are in the pigpen like the prodigal son. Or if you feel like you are wearing the best robe in the mansion. If you feel you are at negative one hundred. Or if you feel you are at positive one hundred: you bring that to the church.
Whatever you are going through. Whatever is going through your head or your heart - bring it to church. We tend to be too hard on ourselves. There is also a tendency that we have a false humility and an authentic pride. We come to church even if, we knowingly or unknowingly, have a false humility or authentic pride - and God makes them right. He will work on you, so that those things are reversed and you have an authentic humility and false pride. He puts us in our right mind and the prayers in the Liturgy speak of this.
The Theotokos, is our example in three ways:
One: She said "yes". Without hesitation, she said "yes" to the Archangel Gabriel to bear God.
Two: Is that she had the freedom to say "no". If she had said "no", it would have been accepted. There would not have been any questions. The angel would have gone somewhere else to complete God’s plan.
3. Her freedom. And this is where you can tell the difference between those who are sincere or false, between those who have an authentic humility or an authentic pride. Cults are those who restrict freedom and take it away.
When every year closes, we think about how the years have passed and how they fly by faster and faster. And just when we think we have worked things out in our thoughts, our bodies make us stop and say "enough is enough". From next week you will notice that the hymns will change to that of Christmas, preparing us for that big and great day of Dec 25th: of the Incarnation of our God. Today, the Theotokos points us to this day of Christmas. She is at the beginning of our journey as our example. The Theotokos was dedicated to the temple and so must we also be.