Temple Of God
The feast of the Entrance of the Birthgiver of God has profound implications for serious believers. In the vesperal hymnology for the holyday, we are advised "She will become a holy temple to our Most Holy God who by dwelling in her, sanctified all creation and made our fallen nature godly." The Church of God endows her mother, Anna, with praiseworthy lips, crying out to Zachary, the high priest: "Come, receive joyfully the one whom the Prophets of God announced by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Introduce her into the holy Temple that she may be brought up in purity, to become the throne of God, a palace of delight to the Lord of us all."
St. Paul had insight into this spiritual formation vital to the Birthgiver and certainly just as vital to us, when he reminds us, "Are you not aware that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy and you are that temple" 1 Corinthians 3: 16; "You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within - the Spirit you received from God. You are not your own. You have been purchased at a price, so glorify God in your body" I Corinthians 6:19.
There is no doubt the verses of the Old Testament Psalm 45 used extensively in the services of this feast provide great inspiration and insight for the celebration of Mary's consecration to the service of God in the Jerusalem temple, "Hear 0 daughter and consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father's house; the king desires your beauty. Since he is our Lord, bow to him ... The princess is decked out in her chamber with gold-woven robes, in many - colored robes she is led to her king, with her virgin companions, her escort, in her train. With joy and gladness they lead along, as they enter the palace of the king. Instead of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the people will praise you forever and ever Psalms 45:
Directly related to the Birthgiver are these words of prophecy, coupled with those in the grand tradition of St. Luke's gospel, always read on her feasts, "My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, hence forth all generations shall call me blessed; for the he who is mighty has done great things for man and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" Luke 1: 47 - 50.
Mary enters the temple and its sacred precincts to become herself a temple of God, to become an example by which all who are baptized and follow her Son must ascend and make themselves vehicles in which God's glory and Spirit rest and are manifest. We are to become living temples of God. Thus the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in her as a sure sign for each of us. "The dwelling place of God is with man" Ezekiel 37: 27 because He insists, "I will be their God and they shall be my people" Ezekiel 37: 27. Did not our Lord announce to us, "On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in your" John 14: 20? Even Solomon who built the temple in Jerusalem very well understood our God does not dwell in buildings made by human hands as much as in human hearts. Thus we celebrate the presence of God in the heart and soul and entire being of the Birthgiver. "It was Solomon, however, who constructed the building for that house, yet the Most High does not dwell in buildings made by human hands ... what kind of house can you build me ... what is my resting place to be like? Did not my hand make all these things" Acts of the Apostles 17:47 - 50?
So, if our fundamental vocation is to become temples of God, what is the dignity of this temple about which the Church speaks continually as an object of our vocation? We are created and made temples of God at our baptism. It is then up to us to retain, to maintain that awesome dignity.
A temple signifies a house or dwelling of our God, a building erected and set apart for the worship of the true God. First of all it is spoken of as that magnificent building erected at God's command by Solomon at Jerusalem. The glory of this temple is not in its dimensions because it was 150 feet in length and 105 feet in width. It was not in the beauty of its ornaments nor in the excellency of its construction although God's perfect prescriptions were followed. Its overlayments were rich in gold and costly. Its beauty was astonishing and inspiring. It succeeded in reminding man of the compelling glories of heaven.
What the main glory of this temple was not its physical appearance which was breath-taking. The extraordinary marks of its distinguishing divine favor were the presence there of the Ark of the Covenant within the holy of holies containing the manna from the desert, the rod of Aaron and the tablets of the Ten Commandments of which we are even presently reminded by our altar table. On it rests in our parish church the tabernacle within which is the golden bowl container of the Body and Blood of the Saviour, far superior to the manna as nourishment for body and soul. Instead of the Ten Commandment tablets is the Book of Gospels, whose message is written on our hearts and not engraved on tablets of stone along with the image of the cross always resting beside the Gospel Book which reminds us of the rod of Aaron which appeared dried out wood, but which blossomed into bud flowers of life just like the cross became the life-creating vehicle in our salvation. Thus was the temple of Jerusalem grandiose and sumptuous, as the place where the glory of God was manifested and made known.
By temple we also mean Christ's Body in which the fullness of the Godhead dwelled in the visibility of the temple. "Actually he was talking about the temple of his body" John 2: 21. "In Christ the fullness of divinity resides in bodily form. Yours is a share of this fullness" Colossians 2: 9.
By temple is also meant the Church of God of which we are communicants. "For the temple of God is holy and you are that temple" 1 Corinthians 3: 17. Collectively, all of us are called to form and make up that temple "Through him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord; in him you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit" Ephesians 2: 21, 22.
It becomes plain, then, why this feast is so important because it has the ability to inspire us to aspire after the great dignity which our God shares with us. We are not only to glorify our God in every way, including with our bodies, but we are, like the Birthgiver of God, to become living temples in which our God is glorified. We learn from this feast it is only in the temple, it is only here in our parish church that we can absorb the blessing, the grace from heaven to become what our human dignity expects of us, that is becoming true devoted servants of our God by the grace of Jesus Christ, in the very same way God called the Blessed Virgin to become the fullness of all she was destined to be.
Our baptism invites us, no, impels us to aspire after heaven's dignity so that we might share a place in heaven with Christ and the Birthgiver, together with all the saints who are glorified in those holy precincts. If we do not learn how to overcome life's challenges and remain temples of God, we are doomed to eternal perdition. To us is given in the sacramental Mysteries all that is necessary to be what we must be. To us is shown the pathway to never-ending salvation so we must seriously pursue it as did the Birthgiver of God. To us is given a gift beyond our grasp so we can come to terms with what our Creator God expects of us.
This feast shouts loudly and clearly how the Virgin Birthgiver is enriched and how likewise may become recipients of salvation if we but imitate the value, the intention, the spirituality and mentality of the Mother of God and permit God's love to inspire and guide us. May our God always be glorified and may the example, the impelling and compelling life of the Birthgiver of God transform us into faithful and devoted children in the grand procession of life to the eternal temple of the Blessed Trinity.