This feast, celebrated on February 2, is known in the Orthodox Church as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Another name for the feastis The Meeting of our Lord. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianscall the feast, The Purification of the Holy Virgin. About 450 AD inJerusalem, people began the custom of holding lighted candles duringthe Divine Liturgy of this feast day. Therefore, some churches in theWest refer to this holy day as Candlemas. The Feast of the Presentation concludes the observances related to the Nativity of Christ, a period that opened on November 15 with the beginning of the Nativity fast.
The story of the Presentation is told in Luke2:22-29.Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and observed their religiouscustoms. An important custom was for the couple to take their first-born son to the Temple. The baby was taken to the Temple fortydays after his birth and was dedicated to God. In addition, if theparents were wealthy, they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon ora turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The customprovided that if the parents were poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice.
When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy, so they took two turtle doves withthem to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple. As they arrived at theTemple, Mary and Joseph were met by a very old man named Simeon.
He was a holy man and was noted as a very intelligent scholar. Simeonspent much time studying about the prophets of Israel. It was duringhis studies that he learned of the coming of the Messiah. The Jewishpeople were waiting for the Messiah to come and deliver Israel fromtheir conquerors. From that time on, Simeon spent his time prayingfor the Messiah to come. He spent many years in prayer. Finally,while Simeon was praying he heard the voice of God. God promisedSimeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the baby in his arms and blessed the Lordand said: “Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according toYour promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you haveprepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelationto the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel.” Also, inthe Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for manyyears. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in theTemple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw the ChristChild she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah.
After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee tothe town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew and becamestrong, and was filled with wisdom.
The Feast of the Holy Theophany (Epiphany) of our Lord God and SaviorJesus Christ is celebrated each year on January 6. The Feastcommemorates the Baptism of Christ and the divine revelation of theHoly Trinity. At the Baptism of Christ, all three Persons of the HolyTrinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—were made manifest. Thus,the name of the Feast is Epiphany, meaning manifestation, orTheophany, meaning manifestation of God.
TheBiblical story of the Baptism of Christ is recorded in all four ofthe Gospels: Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-9, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:31-34.
Johnthe Baptist, the cousin of Jesus and the one chosen by God toproclaim His coming, was preaching in the wilderness and wasbaptizing all who would respond to his message calling forrepentance. As he was doing this, John was directing the people toward the one who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit (Matthew3:11).
The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordanto be baptized by him. Initially, John would not do this, saying that Jesus should baptize him. Jesus said to John, “Let it be so now;for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness(3:15). John consented and baptized Jesus.
When Jesus came up from the water, the heavens opened suddenly, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. The Bible records that the Spirit descended like a dove and alighted on him. When this happened, avoice came from heaven and said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, withwhom I am well pleased.” This was the voice of God the Father.
Christ’s baptism in the Jordan was “theophany,” a manifestation of God tothe world, because it was the beginning of our Lord’s publicministry. It was also a “theophany” in that the world was granteda revelation of the Holy Trinity. All three Persons were mademanifest together: the Father testified from on high to the divineSonship of Jesus; the Son received His Father’s testimony; and theSpirit was seen in the form of a dove, descending from the Father andresting upon the Son.
The theme of “manifestation” or “revelation” is also expressed in Scripture with the symbolism of light. In the hymn of the Feast wesing, “Christ has appeared and enlightened the world.” Thus,January 6 is also known as the Feast of Lights. The Church celebrateson this day the illumination of the world by the light of Christ
The Blessing of the Waters is conducted in the church; as a sign of blessing as Christ blessed the Jordan. The holy water from the churchis given to the faithful to consume and to use in blessing their homes.
The Feast of the Annunciation of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos andEver-Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25 each year. The Feast commemorates the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to the VirginMary that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would become incarnate and enter into this world through her womb.
The biblical story of the Feast of the Annunciation is found in the firstchapter of the Gospel of Luke (1:26-39). The Archangel Gabrielappeared to the Virgin Mary, who was living in Nazareth, and said toher, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you.” Mary wasperplexed and wondered what kind of greeting this was. The angel toldher not to be afraid, for she had found favor with God. He said, “Youwill conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call hisname Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the MostHigh; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his fatherDavid, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of hiskingdom there will be no end.” Mary responded to the angel byasking how this could happen since she had no husband. The angel toldher that the Holy Spirit and the power of God would come upon her,and that the child to be born of her would be called holy, the “Sonof God.” The angel then proceeded to tell the Virgin Mary that hercousin Elizabeth had conceived a son in her old age (John theBaptist), and affirmed that with God nothing is impossible. In faithand obedience to the will of God, Mary replied to the angel, “Behold,I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be according to your word.”Upon her response, the angel departed.
It is on the Feast of the Annunciation, that Orthodox Christianscommemorate both the divine initiative of God, whereby He took onflesh from the Virgin for our salvation, and the human response,whereby Mary freely accepted the vocation offered to her. He electedto become man, and He desired to do this with the willing agreement of her whom He chose as His mother. Mary could have refused, for shewas not a passive instrument, but an active participant with a freeand positive part to play in God’s plan for our salvation. Thus,when on this and other feasts the Orthodox Church honors theTheotokos, the Mother of God, it is not just because God chose her but also because she herself chose to follow His will.