I have to admit, I am struggling with today’s blog. Not because I have nothing to say, but rather because I have too much to say. The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, which we celebrate today, is one of my favorite feasts because of the richness and depth of its imagery. There are so many interconnections between hymns, scripture and liturgical traditions that I can’t possibly say everything that I want about this magnificent feast. Let me try to keep things as simple as I can.
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior — Luke 1:46
Today we read Luke 1:46 twice — once during Orthros in the morning Gospel and once during the Liturgy as the Prokeimena for the Epistle. It is the opening line of the Magnificat — the hymn Mary sings when Elizabeth greets the Theotokos after the Annunciation. It is based upon the Song of Hannah at the beginning of the second chapter of Samuel (1Kings in the LXX). The opening line parallels Luke 1:46:
My heart exults in the Lord; the horn of my strength is exulted in my God — 1Sam 2:1 (1Kings 2:1 LXX)
Hannah sings this as she presents her son Samuel to God. Having been barren, she had promised Samuel to God and gave him into the care of the high priest Eli when Samuel was three years old. According to the Church, Mary was also born from a barren womb:
Today barren Anna bears a handmaid of God, pre-selected out of every generation as a habitation for the King of all, Christ God, the Creator. — Stichera from Vespers of the Nativity of the Theotokos
The Theotokos is also presented to God at the age of three into the care of the priest Zechariah (the father of St. John the Baptist and the Zechariah martyred between the altar and the sanctuary mentioned in Luke 11:51).
Samuel goes on to become a prophet and anoints David as King. Mary, a descendent of David, gives birth to the Anointed One — the Christ. We are called to look forward to the Nativity of Christ, because today we begin to sing the Katavasiæ of Christmas. These, in turn, ask us to sing the Song of Hanna:
To the Son begotten without flux of the Father before the ages, and who was lately made incarnate of the Virgin without seed to Christ God now let us cry aloud, “You have exalted the horn of our strength, only You are holy, O Lord.” — Ode iii, Katavasia for Christmas, First Canon