Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple

Entry of the Theotokos icon

Have I mentioned we’re in the midst of the Nativity Fast??? We are. I put up the afore-linked page with the fasting guidelines and forgot to mention it! But a good way to tell the fast started is the celebration of the feast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple which happens on the seventh day of the fast – November 21.

“The Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, also called The Presentation, is one of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church, celebrated on November 21.

According to Tradition, the Virgin Mary was taken —presented—by her parents Joachim and Anna into the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as a young girl, where she lived and served as a Temple virgin until her betrothal to St. Joseph. One of the earliest sources of this tradition is the non-canonical Protoevangelion of James, also called the Infancy Gospel of James.

Mary was solemnly received by the temple community which was headed by the priest Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. She was led to the holy place to become herself the “holy of holies” of God, the living sanctuary and temple of the Divine child who was to be born in her. The Church also sees this feast as a feast which marks the end of the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God.

On the eve of the feast, Vespers is served and contains Old Testament readings that are interpreted as symbols of the Mother of God, for she becomes the living temple of God. In each reading we hear, “for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of the Lord God Almighty.” (Exodus 40:1-5, 9-10, 16, 34-35; I Kings 7:51, 8:1, 3-4, 6-7, 9-11; and Ezekiel 43:27-44)

Sometimes Matins is served on the morning of the feast. The Gospel reading is from Luke 1:39-49, 56. It is read on all feasts of the Theotokos and includes the Theotokos’ saying: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

Divine Liturgy is served on the day on the feast. The epistle reading is from Hebrews 9:1-7, and speaks of the tabernacle of the old covenant. The gospel reading is taken from Luke 10:38-42 and 11:27-28 together; this reading is also read on all feasts of the Theotokos. In it, the Lord says, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
-Orthodox Wiki

Apolytikion of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, Fourth Mode:
Today is the prelude of God’s good will
and the heralding of the salvation of mankind
In the temple of God, the Virgin is presented openly
and she proclaimeth Christ unto all
To her, then, with a great voice let us cry aloud:
Rejoice, O thou fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation!



“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?

. . .I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity. . ..

Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure,
For my heart rejoiced in all my labor;
And this was my reward from all my labor.
Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun.

Pulling a little here and there from Ecclesiastes (1:2 – 2:11).

And today’s Gospel reading, Luke 12:16-21:

The Lord said this parable: “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” As he said these things, he cried out: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

For those of you who are not Orthodox, we have a cycle of readings for each Sunday (well, every day, actually) of the year. Some readings you can tell why they are read on a certain Sunday. I’m not sure why we read this parable today, but maybe we read it during the Nativity Fast as a reminder of what we are called to do during this time of year. So maybe by abstaining from worldly things, we can store up treasures in heaven, instead vain things here which will be useless to us in the next life.

Nativity Fast begins tomorrow

For Orthodox Christians, the Nativity Fast begins tomorrow, November 15, and ends on after the Divine Liturgy for Christmas has been celebrated. In our church bulletins, we give the fasting guidelines and a few ideas of things to eat. That’s basically how this blog got started, so I could have a place to share Lenten recipes.

So. If you haven’t noticed, I have added a new page for the Nativity Fast – check it out! The page contains the fasting guidelines, a handful of recipes both with and without oil, and other tips to help get you through the next 40 days.

the way to a man’s heart, and…Nativity Fast began today!

So, last weekend Mumra and I went to Marshall to visit my grandparents. Downtown, there are at least three antique stores – I HEART antiques! And I really like old books, and especially old cookbooks. And I really especially like old cookbooks that claim to be able to tell a woman….

Unfortunately, I will have to wait until after the Nativity Fast to see if it works, because all I found inside was this:

Well anyway, the book itself is real.

But seriously, for Orthodox Christians, the Nativity Fast began today. This fast is a little different because it comes at a time of the joyful anticipation of the birth of Christ. The fasting rule may seem a bit more complex, but it’s only because the beginning of the fast is less strict (due to the previously mentioned joyfulness of the season).

For those who might like to know, the general guidelines are as follows:

November 15 through December 19:
Monday, Wednesday & Friday: We abstain from all meat, fish, eggs, dairy, oil & wine.
Tuesday & Thursday: Same as above, but oil and wine are permitted.
Saturday & Sunday: Oil, wine & fish are permitted.

December 20 through December 24:
Monday – Friday: We abstain from all meat, fish, eggs, dairy, oil & wine.
Saturday & Sunday: Same as above, but oil and wine are permitted.

The fast is broken after the Christmas Divine Liturgy has been celebrated.

And lucky for you, this little blog is full of Lenten recipes. I even have a handful of oil free recipes, you’ll find them by clicking the Oil Free (Strict Fasting Days) category in the menu on the right.

Wishing you a blessed fast!

Green Bean Casserole & Mashed Potatoes

2012106 casserole10

Although I’m not at all a fan of cold weather (I can never get warm!), there are certain things I like about fall. One of them is Thanksgiving, and all the wonderful food that comes with it. I know, you’re probably wondering what a vegan eats for Thanksgiving. Enter the veganized green bean casserole.

I don’t know why green bean casserole has to be reserved for holidays. Yesterday I couldn’t come up with one good thing to eat all day, but around 11pm I suddenly remembered I had some French fried onions. I knew I *had* to have THAT casserole for dinner!!! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (unless, like me, you also want to bake a few potatoes. Then preheat to 425 and put the washed potatoes in right away).

I used a large can of green beans, I think a 28 ounce. There’s an easier recipe right on the back of the can that uses canned soup, but I didn’t have any vegan cream of mushroom soup around. Making it from scratch is still pretty simple, anyway.

I started by sauteing chopped onion in about 2 Tbsp of Smart Balance margarine.

I didn’t have fresh mushrooms, but I actually like this kind that comes in a jar. Make it as mushroomy as you like – I used about half the jar. Cook until the onion starts to become clear, season with salt and pepper to taste. I also added one minced clove of garlic.

Then add your green beans, drained. Mix them in and let them cook for a minute or two, then taste and add more seasoning if necessary. I added a little onion powder, but that’s optional.

Add 3 Tbsp flour, stir to coat.

Now for the liquid. I reserved some of the liquid from the mushrooms (in my fav mug), leaving enough to cover the mushrooms I left in the jar. Pour it over the green bean mixture. This, too, is optional, but I think it gives it a nice flavor.

For sure you need a milk substitute. I used my old standby, plain unsweetened almond milk. I suppose if you’re in a pinch you could use water – actually, Thanksgiving always falls during the Nativity Fast for we Orthodox Christians. I think generally there is a dispensation from the fast that day, but for those who want to keep it, using water would be a little more Lenten, I guess : ) Anyway, stir in your liquid a little at a time. I kept mine pretty thick, probably a little thicker than the traditional version which calls for one can of soup plus 1/2 cup milk. So, you could add 1 1/2 cups of liquid and probably be okay.

Now for the best part, the French fried onions! I added a handful, then a couple pinches more because I love them so.

Once the onions are stirred in, pour the mixture into a small casserole dish. (If you have potatoes in there baking at 425 you may now turn the heat down, leaving the potatoes in. Don’t worry about waiting for the oven to cool down before putting the casserole in, just keep an eye on it). The original recipe needs 25 minutes to bake, but ours is already hot to begin with. 10 to 15 minutes should do. Then remove it from the oven and sprinkle more French fried onions on top, and bake another few minutes until the onions get crispy and begin to brown.

It should look something like this. Not sure why the onions are ridged like potato chips, but actually, I bet potato chips would be good in this, too.

I decided to make mashed potatoes. I added almond milk, margarine, salt, pepper & garlic.

I cannot tell you how satisfying this was. I guess this is a good life lesson…I could’ve eaten any old thing and been full, but unsatisfied and probably disappointed and unhappy. But my patience paid off, and in the 11th hour my happiness was fulfilled. Good food comes to those who wait, unless you’re at a bad restaurant with poor service.

That’s why it’s better to eat at home. I think I’ll continue on this theme leading up to the holiday in case anyone needs ideas. For example, it would’ve been awfully nice to have dressing and gravy with this meal. And I still need to perfect my pumpkin pie recipe. I don’t usually do a fake meat, but maybe I can come up with something.