Entry of the Theotokos to the Temple
When the Most-Holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise. It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem but, traveling to do a God-pleasing work, this journey was not difficult for them.
Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the Most-Holy Virgin, led on one side by her father and on the other side by her mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the “King’s daughter, the Bride of God” (Psalm 45:13-15). Following them were many kinsmen and friends, all with lighted tapers.
Fifteen steps led up to the Temple. Joachim and Anna lifted the Virgin onto the first step, then she ran quickly to the top herself, where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, who was to be the father of St. John the Forerunner. Taking her by the hand, he led her not only into the Temple, but into the “Holy of Holies”, the holiest of holy places, into which no one but the high priest ever entered, and only once each year, at that. St. Theophylact of Ochrid says that Zacharias “was outside himself and possessed by God” when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain – otherwise, his action could not be explained.
Mary’s parents then offered sacrifice to God according to the Law, received the priest’s blessing and returned home. The Most-holy Virgin remained in the Temple and dwelt there for nine full years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often, especially Righteous Anna.
When God called her parents from this world, the Most-holy Virgin was left an orphan and did not wish to leave the Temple until death or to enter into marriage. As that would have been against the Law and custom of Israel, she was given to St. Joseph, her kinsman in Nazareth, after reaching the age of twelve. Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.
St. Nikolai Velimirovich
Know and remember, that the matter of your salvation is always near to the heart of the Theotokos, the Mother of God, for it was for this that the Son of God, by the favour of the Father, and the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, chose Her out of all generations and was incarnate of Her in order to save the human race from sin, the curse and the eternal death, or everlasting torment. As the matter of our salvation is near to the Saviour, so likewise it is near to Her. Turn to Her with full faith, trust, and love.
Father John of Kronstadt, Spiritual Counsels
Great Martyr Katherine
The daughter of King Constus, she lived with her mother in Alexandria after her father’s death. Her mother was secretly a Christian and, through her spiritual father, brought Katherine to the Christian faith.
In a vision, St. Katherine received a ring from the Lord Jesus Himself as a sign of her betrothal to Him. This ring remains on her finger to this day. Katherine was greatly gifted by God, exceptionally well-educated in Greek philosophy, medicine, rhetoric and logic, and added great physical beauty to this.
When the wicked Emperor Maxentius offered sacrifice to idols and ordered everyone to do the same, St. Katherine came with daring before him and denounced his idolatrous errors. The Emperor, seeing that she surpassed him in wisdom and learning, summoned fifty of the wisest men, to dispute with her about faith and put her to shame, but Katherine was wiser than they, and put them to shame. The furious Emperor commanded that all fifty wise men be burned. These wise men at St. Katherine’s prayers, all confessed the name of Christ at the moment of death, and proclaimed themselves Christians.
When the martyr was in prison, she brought Porphyrius the general, with two hundred of his soldiers, to the Faith, and also the Empress, Augusta-Vasilissa. They all suffered for Christ. At St. Katherine’s martyrdom, an angel of God appeared to her, stopping and breaking the wheel on which she was being tortured, and after that the Lord Christ Himself appeared to her, strengthening her. After many tortures, Katherine was beheaded with the sword at the age of eighteen, on November 24th, 310. Milk flowed from her body in place of blood. Her wonder working relics are preserved on Sinai where Ioustianos built a monastery in her honour. She gave all her education, wisdom, nobility, beauty and we remember and honour her still in the year 2017.
Note: According to the ancient usage, Saints Catherine and Mercurius were celebrated on the 24th of this month, whereas the holy Hieromartyrs Clement of Rome and Peter of Alexandria were celebrated on the 25th. The dates of the feasts of these Saints were interchanged at the request of the Church and Monastery of Mount Sinai, so that the festival of Saint Catherine, their patron, might be celebrated more festively together with the Apodosis of the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos. The Slavic Churches, however, commemorate these Saints on their original dates.