Luke 10:38‑42; 11:27‑28
In the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, brothers and
sisters, we celebrate The Entrance of the Theotokos Into the Temple. This is,
in many places, an almost forgotten feast. Certainly outside of Orthodoxy it's
almost unknown, and even among the Orthodox it's barely known; it's not considered
But this is a feast about
holiness because the Theotokos was holy not because she was made holy but
because she chose to be holy. The Lord chose her because of her character.
In America and Europe now,
basically in so much of the world, we don't understand these ideas. We don't
understand that someone can be venerated ‑‑ a human being
because of their holiness ‑‑ because we are such
egalitarians. "You're not better than me!" - that's sort of the
creed of America, Europe and all over the world now. There's such intense
pride in our lives, and I don't think that was as present in the ancient world
because in the ancient world someone could say to you, do this, and you had to
do it and you had no choice. You had no lawyer. You had no government that
was going to do some frivolous suit for you. You were on your own. And people
that were stronger than you, they were stronger, and you had no say about it.
Nowadays we think we have a say. We're very proud. And that is why I think this
feast is in many ways forgotten.
I've thought about this a
lot actually, to be honest with you. This feast is about holiness, that a
human being can be holy. This is something that we don't understand because we
are not holy. But we should understand that it's possible. We should
understand that we're called to it, and we should understand that the Theotokos
shows us how we should pursue it.
The reading in the Gospel
is not about the Theotokos. It's about another Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and
Martha, another sister. But it's just by coincidence that the name is the
same. The Church has taken this coincidence and sort of made it into almost
like a pun. It's taken two portions of the Scripture that are separated from
each other by a good number of lines and concatenated them together.
The story is about Mary
and Martha and about how Martha says to the Lord, "won't you tell Mary to
help me because I am serving and I don't want to serve alone", and the
Lord rebukes her, and says, "Martha, Martha,
thou art careful and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needful,
and Mary has chosen that good part."
Then we skip quite a few
lines until it comes to where in a totally separate incident that has nothing
to do with where they were eating dinner at Lazarus' home, where a woman is in
the crowd and says, "Blessed is the womb
that bare thee and the breasts which thou has sucked," and then He
says, "Yea, rather, blessed are they
that hear the Word of God and keep it."
Now, to understand this,
you must understand the figure of speech that's being used. He says "yea,
rather," and it sounds like He is contradicting, but actually this is a
way of emphatically saying "yes" and saying "and in addition,
something else is even more true." Yes, blessed is the womb that bare
the Lord. But even more so, blessed are those who hear the Word of
God and keep it.
The inference here that
the Church understands, and the reason why these two parts of Scripture are
concatenated together for every Feast of the Theotokos is because the
Theotokos epitomizes this person that hears the Word of God and keeps it. And
that is why she's blessed.
And the Lord knew that she
would do this because of course He knows all things. He didn't make her do it,
as the Latins would think. He didn't make her to be something that we are
She's as human as we are.
You can see in the Scriptures that she was confused too just like we would be.
She wasn't always sure about things in the Scriptures, but she was holy. All
she cared about was God. And so, when the Word of God came to her through the
archangel, she believed it and did it.
And all the rest of her
life, as the Word of God came to her ‑‑ and by the way, it
comes to us all the time, not necessarily through angels; it comes through the
Holy Spirit within us ‑‑ When she heard the Word of God, she
We should be in awe that a
human being, flesh and blood, could obey God so completely and so totally. Let
us not make her into something she is not. She was not made to be holy. She
chose to be holy. So can we. If we had her focus on holy things, we would be
holy. It is certainly possible to become holy. But among all that are born of
women, the Theotokos ‑‑ that is, mortals born of women ‑‑
the Theotokos is the greatest, of course. And we recognize her as such, and we
extravagantly praise her as such in this Service.
And every Service
basically, no matter how small, includes something in praise to the Theotokos,
in obedience to her words, which were in Luke" "every generation
shall call me blessed. So we call her blessed."
Most of Christendom or a
good portion of Christendom does not really call her blessed, and she's not
special to them. And I believe with all my heart that the reason for this is
because we don't recognize holiness; we don't understand it. In our hearts do
we know that the Lord came so that we could become perfected, and that the
Theotokos is an example of this perfection which is possible?
If you look to the saints
and don't see your own perfection, as in a figure sort of, let's say through
the glass darkly, then you don't understand why we praise the saints. We
praise the saints because it is possible to become holy. And the saints show
us these various paths of becoming holy. One truth but various ways because
some were bishops, and some were deacons, and some were martyrs, and were
cobblers, and some were farmers. All different paths but one truth. And the
overriding principle for all of them was they heard the Word of God and they
kept it, and this is why we celebrate the Theotokos so much in our liturgical
life, because she is the best example of that.
There's not much amazement
anymore in our world about people. There's a certain sense that everybody is
equal, and we are a part of this society. This is part of our world too. We
have this infection in us. And even though the world is full of all kinds of
hero worship, whether it be a rock star or some entertainment figure or
somebody in sports, there's still the fundamental thing that they're no better
than me. Well, you know what? The Theotokos is a lot better than me. A lot
better than you too because she chose to be better.
We've hardly any idea how
to become like she is. But the Lord has called us to holiness. And somehow
it's going to happen. I don't know how because I look at my life and I see so
many things that are so discordant, so wrong. But there is that sure and
certain hope in my heart also that the Lord won't abandon me.
He won't abandon you
either if you struggle for holiness and if you have the humility to recognize
that there are people who are better than you ‑‑ the Theotokos
for certain and all of the saints ‑‑ and that we should strive
to emulate them and look in our hearts and see where there is this kind of
spirit of the age, this egalitarianism, that you're‑not‑better‑than‑me
kind of idea.
Really, if you look at it,
if you look at the way you behave, so much of our behavior is because we figure
you're not better than me. How dare you cut me off in traffic; you're not
better than me. How dare you slander me so that I don't get a promotion at
work; you don't deserve it more than me. How dare you be rude to me or ignore
me, or whatever. So much of our sin is because we worship ourselves more than
we worship God.
And if you look for when
the Theotokos began to be forgotten in so‑called Christendom, it was
really when such pride came up from humanism and from the so‑called
enlightenment, that age has now progressed to be a cancer over all the world,
so that we don't recognize what holiness really is.
Holiness is humility.
Holiness is turning the other cheek when someone slaps you, giving them your
coat when they ask for your cloak, and when they force you to go one mile, going
with them two. This is foreign to modern sensibility.
I guess you have to say
the Theotokos is as anti modern as it gets because she is just pure and holy
and humble and just heard the Word of God and kept it. And she is far above
us. And yet, the Lord wants us to join her and all the saints with Him. It is
certainly possible, but we must change the way we think.
This is why feasts of the
Theotokos are very, very important. Even those so‑called, in people's
minds, a "minor feast". Of course, this is one of the Twelve Great
Feasts, but people don't think of it as very great. They think, okay, I've got
to go to Nativity and I've got to go to Pascha and maybe Pentecost, maybe
Dormition. But these other feasts of the Theotokos are not so well known.
Every time that we have a
feast like this, in my heart I think how wonderful it is that a human being
could become so holy, could accept God's will so completely. And then my next
thought is why don't I do that? I don't really know, to be honest with you,
why I don't do that. I mean, I know there are passions in me that keep me from
doing those things. But why are those passions there? I know the truth.
Don't you know the truth too? Why do we do it? This is a mystery to me, why
we sin so completely, so often.
But if we focus on the
holy ones, the saints, and preeminently the Theotokos, then we could be
inspired by them. And of course, they pray for us. It says, "the
effective and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," so much more
one who has "fought the good fight" and "finished the
course," such as the Theotokos and all of the saints. Of course they hear
our prayers, and they pray for us in a way that we can't even imagine, with a
focus and a holiness that we don't understand, and the Lord hears their
Let us rejoice that a
human being could become so holy as the Theotokos, of her own will and with
God's grace helping her. And may God help us to attain to this holiness also.
Transcribed by the handmaiden of God Helen. May God save her and her