The Perfect Offering

2 February 2018 OS – The Meeting of the Lord 

The Meeting of the Lord is a quiet, much-neglected feast, and yet the Holy Fathers saw fit to rank it among the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church, for it is a holy mystery integral to the great mysteries that form the one great mystery of our salvation. It is the Fortieth Day of Our Lord’s Nativity, the end of the great cycle begun on the Entry of the Theotokos (November 21st OS), when we began chanting “Christ is Born,” and continuing through the Forefeast of the Nativity, through the Nativity itself, the Theophany, and all the wonderful season which celebrates the Incarnation. Observance of the Meeting is integral to truly observing Christ’s Birth and Baptism, to keeping Christmas as it should be kept.

On this day the Lord Who gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai – the Lord Who decreed that every first-born of the Hebrew race, the Old Testament Church, be ransomed in the Temple, in remembrance of the Lord’s sparing their first born in Egypt – this same Lord now comes as a little babe, as a man and in place of sinful man, to fulfill perfectly the Law He Himself gave as God. The paradoxical wonder: He that is to be the Ransom for our salvation condescends to being ransomed by the offering of two young doves. That which we could not do for ourselves, He did for us. He fulfills the Law in two senses: 1. He alone could completely obey God’s command, because He alone of all the race of man, being the New Adam, had an uncorrupted human mind to receive the Law and an uncorrupted human will to obey it, and 2. He brings an end to the Old Law and ushers in the New.

This day is also the Purification of the Holy Virgin, a paradoxical name, for she alone of all mothers on earth needed no purification, having conceived without the aid of a man, without seed and without passion, and having given birth without corruption and with the seal of Her virginity intact. Before, during, and after birth She remains, in time and in eternity, the incorrupt, most-pure, and most holy Ever-Virgin Mother. Yet in obedience to the Law she submits to the prayers of the 40th Day, read by the priest to purify an ordinary human mother from the stain of corruption incurred by the passionate union of the flesh and the bloody parturition of the womb. The above-supreme honor of being God’s own mother does not lift her estimation of herself above all other women (much less above men!), but rather casts her into the abyss of utmost humility, that complete knowledge of one’s nothingness before God, the only possible appropriate response to Who God Is and who we are. For this obedience, this humility, this complete reversal of Eve’s anarchy that marked the beginning of all our woes, She is rightly ranked “More honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.” Having made herself most low, she has been exalted most high, not simply above all other men, but above all the heavenly hosts, above all the visible and invisible creation, and she has become the very border of the created and uncreated realms.

O Lord Jesus Christ our God, presented in the Temple as a babe for our sakes, glory be to Thee!

O Most Holy Theotokos, save us!

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