The following is my homily for the Feast of the Entrance (or Presentation) of the Mother of God into the
Today I’d like to say something about history, or rather, salvation history, which is not exactly the same thing. History, at least from a kind of journalistic perspective, deals with events and the facts that constitute these events (though even the most "objective" historical accounts are seldom free from interpretive reporting). Salvation history also deals with events, but insofar as they reveal something about the intervention of God within these events, and hence the most profound meaning of these events. Divine intervention and spiritual significance are the keys to the proper understanding of salvation history.
Therefore, for example, in the account of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the event of the parting of the Red Sea (astounding as that was) and the trek to the Promised Land are not recounted merely to preserve a record of what happened in those days, but to celebrate what God had done on behalf of his people. What happened was that the Red Sea parted,
Similarly, in the New Testament, we might read, for example, the account of the darkening of the sun at Jesus’ crucifixion as mere history, an interesting solar phenomenon, perhaps a total eclipse. But from the perspective of salvation history, that is not what it means. Theologians and hymnographers will tell you that it is an apocalyptic sign of the advent of the Day of the Lord, a symbol of the mourning of all creation over the death of the Son of God, etc. The meaning of the event is valued much more highly than the mere accounting of its details. I don’t think you’ll ever find a liturgical hymn that reads: “O Lord, the moon, following its established orbit, happened to pass between the earth and the sun, momentarily darkening the land, which coincidentally occurred while You were crucified, and then continued its orbit just like any other day, until the calculations of astronomers inform us that such a rare, though natural, phenomenon will happen again. Glory be to You!”
We ought to look at the mystery of today’s feast from the perspective of salvation history—the intervention of God and the spiritual significance of the event. The historical event is that of young Mary of Nazareth being brought to the
The essence of the feast is found in these lines: “Today the living temple of the holy glory of Christ our God, Mary, the pure and blessed one, is presented to the
In the Tent of Meeting in the desert and in the
For this living temple to be brought to the
According to the liturgical text I quoted earlier, the entrance of God into the temple that is Mary (which is his foreordained response to the entrance of Mary into the Temple of God) accomplishes first the Incarnation of Christ for the salvation of our souls, but then two fruits of this incarnation are mentioned: the sanctification of creation and that of fallen human nature. Both humanity and the whole universe are at least potentially sanctified by the very fact of the Incarnation. By uniting the uncreated divine nature to the created human nature, especially in the material aspect of the body, God has immeasurably ennobled creation and especially man. This intimate, inseparable union of God and man in Jesus Christ is the fountainhead of all sanctification of matter and hence is the source of grace for the sacraments, the icons, and every way that grace can be communicated through a created medium. The mystery of Christ’s transfiguration is a visible manifestation of this power of the Incarnation, for the divine glory was seen shining through the created medium of the body, the humanity of Christ.
All this, by extension, is what we celebrate today in prefigurement and prophecy. Because Mary was set aside to be the living temple of the glory of God; because God chose her to be the one through whom the eternal Son and Word of God would become man for our sanctification and salvation, the whole mystery of uncreated grace communicated through created matter would begin to unfold. It is no coincidence that Our Lady, as the living
I think that historically we can’t assume that Mary was aware all this (or perhaps any of this, for at the time of her entrance into the
So let us, who have entered this temple to worship God and honor Our Lady, allow the incarnate God, the Son, to enter the temple of our souls and bodies in Holy Communion. And may He take us to the veiled places where we can learn the mysteries of God and thus make it the vocation of our lives to be living temples of Jesus Christ our Lord.