The Sunday Project
How Lovely is Your Temple, O Lord
The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple |
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!” But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
“…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” (Luke 11:28)
The Church, within the Byzantine tradition, offers us these words of Christ on the day we commemorate the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple. When she was a young child, according to the Protoevangelium of James, Mary was placed in the care of the High Priest, and spent a portion of her youth within the Temple in Jerusalem where the presence of God dwelt. Overshadowed by the presence of the Lord, her time in the Temple foreshadowed her calling to become the new temple in which the Word would dwell, become flesh, then be born, suffer, die, and rise for us.
St. Proclus of Constantinople said in a sermon on the Holy Virgin that “the Word…entered her by hearing.” Mary perfectly represents the calling of all the baptized; to hear the word of God and keep it. She heard the word of God, and the Word dwelt within her, not just in her thoughts or her feelings, but within her heart, her deeds, her soul and her body. She kept the Word by completely embodying the word. That is how the Lord desires to dwell, and in this way she foreshadows all of us; our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our bodies. Through her, we can glimpse the fulfillment of our invincible dignity; that we are wonderfully made.
Hear this and keep it close. Press it against your heart; know that your entire self is the temple of the Lord. Do not despair over what has been called good and altogether lovely. St. Basil the Great exhorts each of us to “learn well your own dignity” and to “not despise the wonder that is in you. For you are small in your own reckoning, but the Word will disclose that you are great.” This saint also tells us that when the Lord said, “Let us make the human being in our image and likeness,” the persons of the Holy Trinity deliberated in unity amongst themselves in order to “show you are perfect before God.”
The truth of our dignity is difficult to fully see. We are born into a world where it is easier to hurt than to heal, easier to be brutal than to be gentle, easier to curse than to bless, and so we are left wounded in the darkness of doubt and anxiety, struggling to see how wonderful we are in our particularness. In search of this wonder, to see what has been hidden in this current darkness, St. John of the Cross, in The Spiritual Canticle, wrote:
O crystal well!
Oh that on Your silvered surface
You would mirror forth at once
Those eyes desired
Which are outlined in my heart!
At this moment, we are sojourners in the night, and so we see things as in a mirror dimly, on a silvery surface. Be attentive and tenderly care for the light within you that it does not become darkness. What we will one day see face to face, we have already heard, and it dwells wonderfully within us. O Mother of God, our Crystal Well, show us the eyes which we desire, the eyes we have outlined within us, that we may come to see face to face the Inestimable Image, and know the Good Lord made us good.