This feast celebrates the entrance into the Temple in Jerusalem of the Mother of God, Mary. According to tradition the Virgin Mary was born to a holy, elderly couple named Joachim and Anna. They had prayed for many years for a child and when humanly unable to have children, God answered their prayers and gave them a daughter. In gratitude to God for answering their prayers they dedicated the child Mary to the Temple, i.e., to God. When she was three years old, she was led to the Temple and brought into the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the place of God’s special presence among the Hebrew people and only the High Priest was permitted to enter there. She lived at the Temple praying, learning the Bible and attending the services in the Temple, and doing sewing and needlework for the Temple. She lived there until her marriage to St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus Christ.
This story is not found in the Bible but is present in the very early Christian tradition, showing that the story was handled down by the early Church. Although it is probably impossible to “prove” this historically, the meaning of it is quite clear. First of all, the Holy of Holies symbolizes God’s presence within the Jewish people. Of course, God is “everywhere present and fills all things”, but the Temple was the special focus of his presence. This feast shows that the true temple, the true dwelling place of God with human beings is not the man-made temple, but rather Jesus Christ and the mother who gave birth to Him. In other words, the Virgin is the living Holy of Holies in whose womb dwelt God. No longer is access to God limited by place or ethnicity, but is now present to all humanity. It is for this reason that we honor the Theotokos, the Mother of God, on this feast.