On Tuesday, December 4 – the great feast of the Entry into the Temple of the Most Holt Theotokos – the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City. Concelebrating with His Eminence were cathedral clerics: senor priest Archpriest Andrei Sommer and Archpriest Edward Chervinsky, Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov; rector of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ), Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff, and Deacon Pavel Roudenko.
Despite its being a weekday, a multitude of cathedral parishioners and visitors came to honor the Most Holy Theotokos and pray to her at Liturgy. Virtually all those present that day communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. Singing at the service was the hierarchal choir under the direction of conductor Peter Fekula.
Upon conclusion of the Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion greeted all those present with the feast, and addressed the faithful with a sermon:
"The Entry into the Temple at Jerusalem of the three-year-old child Mary was unusual. The greatest sacred objects of Israel were preserved in the Temple, and only the high priest could enter the [Holy of Holies], once a year. But, according to Church tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken to the Temple at Jerusalem at three years of age, and was raised in the Temple, that she might become the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Virgin Mary was accompanied up the steps of the Temple by young virgins.
"The Holy Hierarch Theophan the Recluse gives us a wonderful explanation of the spiritual significance of this event, citing the words of Psalm 44 by the Holy Prophet-King David: ‘Virgins shall be brought to the King after her (in another translation: ‘her companions that follow her’ – ed.): her fellows shall be brought to Thee. They shall be brought with gladness and exultation: they shall be led into the King’s temple.’
"According to St. Theophan’s exegesis, these lines contain the following spiritual meaning: the virgins are the souls of Christians, and throughout our life we must also gradually ascend the steps to the Holy of Holies – to the Lord God, in order to always have God’s face before ourselves. And St. Theophan speaks of how we must ascend gradually, by steps, that is, to recuse ourselves from sins and obtain virtues.
"The first step is the recognition of our sinfulness, striving to turn away from our sins and obtain virtues. The second step is to move away from external virtuosity and obtain inner virtue. This means that we often perform good works, but in these are accompanied by vainglory. And the third step is when man denies himself and sees only the face of God, which is a characteristic of the holy God-pleasing saints, who have attained this height through their ascetical labors, and have become citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom."
Metropolitan Hilarion called on parishioners to determine which step on this path to virtue they find themselves, and further to ascend up this ladder of virtue, asking the Mother of God to preserve us, to grant us wisdom, to deliver us from sins, that in this life we might obtain a presence in the light of God’s grace, up these steps about which St. Theophan the Recluse has spoken to us.
New York City: Metropolitan Hilarion celebrates Liturgy in Synodal Cathedral for Feast of Entry into the Temple of the Most Holy Theotokos - 12/04/18