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Flowers symbolized the presence of the divine. Sacred spaces like the Temple of Solomon were adorned with flowers and intricate decorations. We read in Isaiah 35, the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah: "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God."
This four-column structure is called a ciborium. Based originally on a portable structure that the ancient Jewish carried called the Holy Tabernacle in which were contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the manna from heaven, and other sacred objects. The Temple was built to house these holy objects. The ciborium was common in early Christian churches and can still be seen in many Orthodox Churches today.
Anna the Prophetess in a stationary posture, symbolizing her many years of praying daily in the Temple. The scroll in her hand is a symbol of evangelism since after seeing Christ she went and told everyone about him. While looking at us and pointing her finger, she proclaims with the scroll the words: "This child holds heaven and earth in his hands."
According to the Jewish custom, wealthy parents were expected to offer a lamb and a young pigeon as a sacrifice at the Temple. If they were poor, two pigeons or two turtle doves were acceptable. Joseph the Betrothed is depicted moving, walking towards the altar to offer the required sacrifice, offering two turtle-doves. By this the icon shows the modest life of Joseph and the Theotokos, revealing that the Heavenly King accepted to live in poverty in this world.
In the icon, the Jewish Temple of Solomon is depicted as an Orthodox Church with an altar and altar doors. The doors to the altar are known as "The Beautiful Gate" because they lead to God's glory and holiness but also because through the Christ comes to us during the Divine Liturgy.
The Holy Theotokos gazing towards her son is shown standing before the holy altar doors on which a cross is depicted and offering Christ as the sacrificial lamb. Note the posture of her hand raised up. In the same manner she is depicted in agony at the right of her crucified son on the Cross, fulfilling the words of Simeon, "and a sword will pierce through your own soul."
The Temple of Solomon is seen in the background. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, as Christ prophesied in and that He was the true temple that if destroyed would be raised in three days. . Therefore the temple is depicted as an Orthodox Church with a ciborium, an altar table, gospel and altar doors.
The ciborium had curtains enclosing the four sides in reverence for the holy altar table, the gospel, the relics of saints and of course Holy Communion. The color red symbolizes divinity.
The Holy Gospel lies on the holy altar, as seen in our Orthodox Churches.
The holy elder Symeon, bowing in reverence to the Theotokos, had been told by God that he would not allow him to die until he saw the awaited Messiah with his own eyes. When Christ is brought into the temple as a baby, Symeon receives him into his arms and says to Christ, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen your salvation." In the Church, he is known as Symeon the God-receiver.
The Christ-child allows himself to be handed into Symeon's covered hands, over the altar table, symbolizing him being the life-giving Lamb of God, coming to be sacrificed.
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Posted On January 10, 2024
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The icon of the Presentation of the Lord, a feastday celebrated on February 2/February 15, depicts the story of when the Holy Theotokos and Joseph observed the Jewish custom of bringing the first-born male child to the Temple to be presented and dedicated to God forty days after his birth. If the parents were wealthy, they had to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. But if they were poor, they could offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice. Also depicted are Anna the Prophetess and Symeon the God-receiver. Upholing the same tradition, Orthodox women who have given birth are excused from attending the worship services for 40 days to allow for rest and healing. After the 40 days, the mother and father and newborn child come to the church. The priest prays for the mother and child, offering thanksgiving for their good health and blessing the mother to once again partake of the Holy Sacraments. The child is then "churched" by being carried in the arms of the priest into the church, to be presented to God. In some traditions, a male child is taken into the altar as a blessing and prayer that he might serve God one day in the ministry of the priesthood.  

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