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On the Entrance of the Mother of God, by St Neophytos of Cyprus

St Neophytos of Cyprus, also known as Neophytos Enkleistos (Νεόφυτος Ἔγκλειστος) or Neophytus Inclusus ("the Recluse") has been called "the Chrysostom of Cyprus." Born in 1134, Neophytos was a famed solitary and a monastic founder known for his preaching and strong spiritual leadership especially in the period of the Third Crusade. In addition to the typikon that he composed for the monastery of Enkleistra and his descriptions of Latin rule under Richard the Lionheart, St Neophytos composed a number of important biblical commentaries, including commentaries on Genesis, the Psalms, Song of Songs, and the book of Revelation. Having reposed sometime after 1214, the memory of St Neophytos is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on January 24.

As a preacher of catechetical orations and festal sermons, St Neophytos had an ardent devotion to the Mother of God, to whom he dedicated a number of historically important homilies. For the feast of the Entrance of the Mother of God, the Pappas Patristic Institute brings you an original translation of his twenty-third Catechesis on today's feast.


St Neophytos the Recluse of Cyprus

On the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple


That Those Who Have Fallen Ought Not to Despair but to Rise Again in Hope


Brethren and fathers, come, gather together once more in the usual fashion. Come together with longing, rejoicing as those that have awareness and love the feast. Let us hear a brief word about the Mother of God and an even briefer word about ourselves, and thus we shall bring a succinct end to this first little book.[1]

Behold, today the Holy of Holies admits one Holier still. Another Temple—one that is undefiled—has entered the Temple. Another, more holy Precinct, has entered the holy Precinct. A Holy of Holies, a temple wondrous in righteousness (Ps 64:5-6), has entered the Holy of Holies. An ever-living Temple has entered the Temple that is destructible and easily dismantled. The latter was readily destroyed. Since it was meant only for a season, it was made to vanish, just as all visible things are here only for a season. That other Temple, however, is alive. She holds together and endures forever, for she is a divine and beloved dwelling place.


She has entered who is the divinely-inscribed tablet, the living table, the candlestand, the ark, the holy dove, the most pure oblation, the sweet-smelling incense, and the golden censer, that she might make fragrant the Holy of Holies and the whole body of the faithful; that she might drive away the stench of sin, since she is sinless; and that she might illumine the chaste hearts of the chaste, since she is chaste.


Into the house of God has entered that most effective and all pure leaven, whereby our whole lump of dough, which had grown old, was made to rise, like the three measures (Mt 13:33).[2]


Finally (passing over a great deal in order to speak succinctly), the holy Bride has entered the holy bridal chamber, that she might lend her holy flesh in the most holy fashion to the holy, and supremely holy, Bridegroom, Word, and God.

What is this mystery? And why did this great event, surpassing all intelligence, occur? Let us not be ignorant of the magnitude of this mystery. Let us seek, rather, to understand it, for God from this mystery calls us to holiness and to purity of life. This is why he said before, Be holy, for I am holy (Lev 11:44; 1 Pt 1:16). Yet we defaced that beauty of holiness that we had when we were first formed and created, and we traded being made in the image and likeness for a life of passion and defilement. Therefore the all holy, all good, and all merciful God wanted to show us how much he values a chaste life and purity; and so he receives into the Holy of Holies the three-year-old Mary, that child of God, in order for her to grow up in a spiritual, holy, and blameless environment, so that the supremely holy and fleshless Word of God, who is God, might take flesh from her holy, blameless, and spotless flesh, in a manner beyond understanding, and thereby transform those who long after immortality by leading them to sanctification and an unblemished life.

For this reason, my beloved brethren, let us hasten to be transformed, being led from defilement to purification and from sin to sanctification. And let no one, on account of his defilement, despair and turn away from sanctification and purification. Let him know that even a vessel that has been repeatedly soiled can be washed again through praiseworthy diligence and sound restoration. In this way it becomes eminently useful once again for the master of the house and the entire household. If, then, a lifeless vessel can be washed and become eminently useful, such that the master of the house does not throw it away, how could God, the Master of the house, throw away a living vessel when it has been purified? How will he not rejoice exceedingly when he finds and regains possession of something that he made with his own hands? For there is great joy in heaven, it says, when one sinner repents (Lk 15:7).


Let this suffice for those who are so inclined. To him that generously gives us to speak be thanksgiving and glory. Amen.[3]


[1] This catechesis is the conclusion of volume one of the Catecheses of St Neophytos the Recluse, ed. B.K. Katsaros, Ἁγίου Νεοφύτου τοῦ Ἐγκλείστου Συγγράμματα, vol. 2 (Paphos: Monastery of St Neophytos, 1998), 302-305.


[2] Cf. Galatians 5:9, 1 Corinthians 5:7.

[3] The conclusion to the sermon addresses Kyr John, at whose request the Catecheses were written. This part of the discourse has been abbreviated here.


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