ByzCatholic, Feasts

Entrance of the Theotokos – Feast Day Exploration

The Entrance of the Theotokos (also called the presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary), is November 21st. This feast, which is one of the twelve major feasts, is an early tradition based on writings we have from the Church. There is some evidence that this feast was celebrated in the 400s, but the most solid evidence shows that it was at least celebrated in the East by the 8th century, and universal in the East by the 9th. Western Catholics started celebrating this feast in the 1300s, and it is now celebrated throughout the whole church.

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So what does the Entrance of the Theotokos celebrate? Well based on Tradition (and sourced primarily in the Protoevangelion of James), when Mary turned three, Joachim and Anna presented her to the Temple in Jerusalem. She went to the temple by following a group of girls holding beautiful torches/lanterns (as arranged by her father, Joachim). Joachim was worried Mary wouldn’t want to be separated from her parents; however, by the time the maidens reached the Temple, Mary ran and passed them, running into the arms of her Uncle Zachariah (father to John the Baptist). Zachariah led Mary through the temple, and at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, brought her into the Holy of Holies. From this day she lived in the temple, serving as a Temple virgin until the time of her betrothal to St. Joseph.

This feast is an example to us of joyful obedience (Mary obeys her parents who offer her to back to God). And it is an example of the joy of religious life, especial for those who dedicate themselves to become sisters/nuns.

Icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos

The Icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos parallels the icon of the presentation of Jesus in many ways. First of all, Zachariah is reaching out to Mary in the same position as the Prophet Simeon is in the icon of the Presentation of Christ.  The temple background is typically the same (both including the Holy of Holies), and Joachim and Anna stand in the same way that Mary is in the icon of Christ.

Other images sometimes featured in the icon of the Entrance of the Theotokos include the maidens with torches/lanterns, and an angel of the Lord attending to Mary in the Holy of Holies.

How to Celebrate the Entrance of the Theotokos

  • Pray for religious vocations, and especially for religious vocations for the youth.
  • Read the Bible readings of this feast.
    • Exodus 40:1-35
    • 1 Kings 7:51-8:11
    • Ezekiel 43:27-44:4
    • Hebrews 9:1-7
    • Luke 10:38-42
    • Luke 11:27-28
  • And pray the troparion and kontakion of the feast as listed below. You can say these during your icon corner time, and during Divine Liturgy.
  • Have lit candles at your table during meals to represent the lanterns that the Theotokos followed into the Temple.
  • Also, use a blue table cloth or other blue decor to represent Mary for this Marion feast.

Prayers and Tropars

Troparion: (tone 4)
Today is the prelude of the good pleasure of God, and the proclamation of salvation for the human race. In the Temple of God the Virgin is clearly revealed, and beforehand announces Christ to all. To her, then, let us cry aloud with almighty voice: Rejoice fulfilment of the Creator’s plan.

Kontakion: (tone 4)
The Savior’s pure temple, the precious bridal chamber and Virgin, the sacred treasury of the glory of God, is brought today into the house of the Lord; and with her she brings the grace of the divine Spirit. God’s angels sing in praise of her: She is indeed the heavenly dwelling place.

Prokeimenon: (tone 3)
My soul magnified the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

Irmos: (tone 4)
Seeing the entrance of the pure one, angels marvelled in wonder how the Virgin could enter the Holy of Holies. Let no hand of the profane touch God’s living ark, but instead let the lips of those who are believers sing out ceaselessly. As in the words of the angel, crying out with great joy to the Mother of God: O pure Virgin you are truly higher than all.

The Byzantine Life

If you enjoyed this week’s article, check out our article on Resources for the Nativity Fast (it is never too late to get started… well, unless it is already Christmas Eve), or our article on Christmas Eve Traditions.

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