21 November 2016

Go to the Temple, then this happened!

Revelation 14:1-3, 4b-5
Luke 21:1-4

I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.
Luke 21:3b-4

Today is the memorial of the Entry of Our Lady into the Temple. To me this feast is a test of faith. The is a story taken from the Protoevagelium of St James. It is non-canonical scripture. In other words, it is not in the Canon, but the Church has decided that parts of it are divinely inspired. It is where we learn, for example, of Our Lady's parents, Sts Joachim and Anne, and their prayers for a child in their old age. It is from this text the undivided Church drew the story of this feast as well, teaching in our liturgy that when she was a young girl (aged 3 or so), the Blessed Virgin was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem to be schooled. As they welcomed her to the community she ran and entered the Holy of Holies and grew up there, fed by angels.

To me this feast is a test of faith. There are so many things wrong with this feast: so many things that clearly could not have ever happened. And yet: what of anything else in her life that we claim to know could have actually happened? Why are we willing to accept the miracle of an Angel visiting her, of her Virginal conception, of the unborn Divine Child blessing, from within her womb, the unborn Forerunner in the womb of his own mother, Elizabeth? Why do we so willingly accept all those things and yet not this thing?

How willingly we all are to know what God can't do.

By "we", I don't just mean Protestants: this feast raises hackles even among Orthodox Clergy - and probably some Roman Catholic clergy, too. I remember when Father Tom Hopko spoke long ago at my parish on the evening of this feast, saying it couldn't have happened; causing such a scandal. (Update: I was right, some RCs are in this camp as well.)

A friend of mine, long ago, left her convent. She came out as a lesbian and lived with a woman for a while. When that relationship failed, she did some reflection and ended up in the the "Holiness Movement" churches. Eventually she married a man. She accused me always of being willing to know what God can't do. We fell out of touch as I entered Orthodoxy.

Tell me what your god can't do, and you will unwittingly tell me about your life.

To me, this feast is a test of faith. There are so many things wrong with it, celebrating so many things that clearly could not have happened. A child? a girl? a person at all? Entering the Holy of Holies?

Typologically, this feast speaks very truly of Mary as she is the new Holy of Holies: as Jesus, God himself, dwells in her womb. Mary is the new Temple and, through her, the Church is the Holiest of Holies housing, on her Altars, in her tabernacles throughout the world, the presence of God on earth. Mary enters the Holy of Holies to fulfill it, to complete it, to become it. Although Jesus was not speaking in Typology, both his grandmother and his mother fulfilled his living-parable of the "Widow's Mite". As poor women they offered all they had, all they could offer, to God: themselves, their wombs, their children. They became channels of divine grace to the whole world; and to all eternity ontologically changed all of mankind by their offerings.

And to that, in my ego I'm to say, "but this one thing, God can't do."

Lord, have mercy.