A HOMILY FOR THE GREAT FEAST OF THE
MEETING OF THE LORD
About the Dismissal Troparion of the Feast
Brothers and sisters!
From ancient, pre-Christian times, the philosophical genius of the Greek people found expression in both exhaustive inquiries and concise summaries of them. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that, as the hymnography of the Christian East developed, our sacred poets wrote both lengthy explications of the feasts, and very brief synopses of their main points. The latter they called apolytikia or “dismissal troparia,” because these short hymns are chanted immediately before the conclusion of Vespers, although at many other times as well. There are apolytikia for most days of the year, and they serve as the “theme-songs” for their respective feasts. If we wish to acquaint ourself with the principal motifs of any given feast or saint’s-day, we need look no further than to its apolytikion. To this principle, the apolytikion of the great feast of the Meeting of the Lord, which we celebrate today, is no exception. In fact, this apolytikion not only summarizes the feast itself, but the entire Oeconomy of our salvation, and it is about this that I would like to speak today.
According to the Holy Fathers, God granted true enlightenment to the human race through His Only-begotten Son, Who is also the Son of the Virgin Mary. Thus the dismissal hymn of the feast of the Meeting of the Lord begins, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, for from thee hath dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those in darkness.” Prior to Christ’s appearance, man was lost in the darkness of paganism, lost in a night of countless errors. Man found himself in this wretched situation because he loved sin more than righteousness, with the result that his heart was blinded by the passions. Always unwilling to violate man’s free will, God gave up man to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not proper, as Saint Paul writes. Again according to the Apostle, they which commit such things are worthy of death; however, it was not for sin and death that God created us, but for blessed, eternal life. Therefore, God sent to earth His Son, Who has revealed to benighted mankind the brilliant fullness of truth, which is our holy Orthodox Christian faith.
Yet, our salvation does not consist solely of faith. It was insufficient simply to illumine mankind: man required liberation from slavery to sin and the devil; man needed to be made holy, for sin is the root of error, as much as error the root of sin. Our deliverance from sin and error required not just an Enlightener, but a Liberator, a Redeemer. The apolytikion of the feast reminds us of this with the words, “Rejoice, thou also, O righteous Elder, as thou receivest in thine arms the Redeemer of our souls.” The One received by Saint Symeon was the One who would accomplish our sanctification, our redemption, and our liberation, by means of the Cross.
And so, the fruits of the Oeconomy of our salvation include both our enlightenment by faith and our deliverance from sin, which ultimately result for us in a blessed eternity in the heavenly Kingdom of Christ. This blessedness is inaugurated in its fullness by the General Resurrection at the end of time, when not only our souls, but our bodies will partake of the joy of the Lord. On that day our experience of that sublime state will be so great, so powerful, that at present we cannot even imagine it in all its immensity. However, to give us some idea of it, Saint John the Theologian explains it like this: Beloved, it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
While the fullness of this glory will be manifest only in eternity, our Lord is supremely merciful, and loves us so much that He permits us to experience something of it even in the present life. This occurs when the Holy Spirit, by His grace, resurrects our soul, mortifying the passions and assisting us in fulfilling the Lord’s commandments. Thus we chant at Matins, “In the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through cleansing is exalted.” It is primarily during prayer that we experience the consciousness of this quickening, but in fact we undergo it every time we prevail over the envy of the serpent and act in accordance with love for God and our brethren. For it is precisely in this, as Saint Isaac the Syrian says, that paradise consists. Hence today’s dismissal troparion concludes with the words, “Who also granteth unto us the Resurrection.”
Besides declaring the entire Oeconomy of our salvation in brief, the apolytikion of the Meeting of the Lord reminds us of the person who is the cause of our salvation; the person who made possible our enlightenment, redemption, and resurrection, the immaculate Virgin Mary. As I said at the beginning, the hymn opens with the phrase, “Rejoice, thou who art full of grace, O Virgin Theotokos, for from thee hath risen the Son of Righteousness, Christ our God,” and this phrase reminds us how close the Queen of heaven is to her Son, and hence, what boldness in prayer she has before the throne of His glory. Every time it is repeated, we are urged to beseech her to pray that we share in the fruits of the Oeconomy of our salvation: that we partake of spiritual Resurrection in this life, and enjoy the celestial Kingdom and its bliss in the next.
Of course, this does not at all mean that we need ask the Queen of Heaven to intercede with her Son only for our spiritual needs. Our Holy Church knows well how many are our temporal needs, and she encourages us to turn to the true Mother of all Christians for her help in securing them as well. The Queen of heaven is indeed eager to assist her children whenever they suffer earthly want or grief; only remember, dear Christians, that most of all it pleases her when we entreat spiritual, heavenly blessings. How could it be otherwise, when it is her Son and God Who commands that we seek the Kingdom before all else? And so, as we celebrate “this sacred and solemn feast” not just of Christ, but “of the Mother of God,” let us make certain to beg of her all the spiritual, celestial blessings her Son offers us through the Oeconomy of our salvation, while yet not forgetting to beseech her all-powerful aid in every temporal need, sorrow, and misfortune.
Unto our God, Who submitted to the ordinances of the Law of Moses, be all glory; and unto His Mother may our prayers be directed in every need and circumstance. Amen.
 Rom. 1:28
 Rom. 1:32
 I John 3:2