Saturday, November 21, 2009

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today Christians East and West, at least the ones who use the Gregorian calendar, commemorate the Blessed Virgin Mary's Presentation in the Temple at Jerusalem, her being led by the High Priest into the Holy Holies, according to tradition, in anticipation of her body becoming the Holy of Holies. The following is from a homily given on the Feast of the Entry of our Most Pure Lady Theotokos into the Holy of Holies given by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica in the 14th century:

"The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

"If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.

"It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, 'the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit'" (1 Cor. 15:45).

To do all this, Christ required a clean vessel in which to be conceived, carried, and born. So, Mary is truly God-bearer. In her womb, with her full and free cooperation, God planted a new root for our race- His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom we become children of God.

To help bring home the beauty of this memorial, my venerable brother deacon, Greg Kandra, posts prayers from the Melkite Liturgy over on The Deacon's Bench.

In an unrelated note, I draw your attention to my latest piece for Il Sussidiario- Abbas’ resignation would raise serious concerns for both Palestine and Israel.

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