The Feast of the Entrance into the Temple of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary is celebrated on November 21/December 4. The Feast commemorates when, as a young child, the Virgin Mary entered the Temple in Jerusalem.
The birth and early life of the Virgin Mary are received in holy Tradition, and are also reflected in a work of popular Christian literature from the second century, known as the Book of James or “Protevangelium.”
When Mary was three years old, Joachim and Anna decided that the time had come to fulfill their promise and to offer her to the Lord, to be raised as a ward of the Temple. Joachim gathered the young girls of the neighborhood to form an escort, and he made them go in front of Mary, carrying torches. Captivated by the torches, the young child followed joyfully to the Temple, not once looking back at her parents nor weeping as she was parted from them.
The holy Virgin ran toward the Temple, overtaking her attendant maidens and threw herself into the arms of the High Priest Zacharias, who was waiting for her at the gate of the Temple with the elders. Zacharias blessed her saying, “He has glorified your name in every generation. It is in you that He will reveal the Redemption that He has prepared for His people in the last days.”
The Virgin Mary dwelt in the Temple for nine years until, reaching an age for marriage, she was taken from the Temple by the priests and elders and entrusted to the elderly widower Joseph, as the guardian of her virginity.
The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple signifies her total dedication to God and her readiness for her future vocation as the Mother of the Incarnate Lord. This is a feast of anticipation. As honor is shown to Mary, the faithful are called to look forward to the Incarnation of Christ, celebrated in a little more than a month by the Feast of Christ’s Nativity
Icon of the Feast
The icon of the feast tells the story of Mary’s entry into the Temple. The High Priest, Zacharias, is in his priestly robes standing on the step of the Temple. His arms are outstretched, ready to greet and receive the Virgin. Mary is shown as a small child, standing before Zacharias with her arms reaching up to him.
In some icons the young maidens who served as her escort are depicted standing behind her. Also, we see her parents, Joachim and Anna, offering their child to God and His divine service.
In the upper center portion of the icon, the Virgin is seated on the steps of the Holy of Holies. An angel is there, attending to the one chosen by God to bring the Savior into the world.