Ma’ Altho is an important feast-day celebrating the presentation of infant Jesus to the Jerusalem temple. The presentation of infant Jesus is an analogy of “giving away” of children to God. They no longer simply belong to their parents, but they belong to God. In Orthodox tradition the sacrament of Baptism is a kind of a “giving away” of children to God.
This “giving away” of children in baptism implies that the parents/ god-persons are not just raising their own child, but a child of God. This is also an assurance that God will help in the complex process of child-rearing. So we have to trust that God’s hand is involved — often in ways that we can’t fully comprehend.
Acknowledging God’s mysterious involvement in human life is the crux of orthodox thought. Ma’ Altho is yet another feast-day to remind us to fully acknowledge and trust- that God is continuously involving in our lives, from birth till death and beyond.
Moreover, there can also be the comfort in knowing that we have been presented to and accepted by God as ‘God’s child’ through baptism. The world in which we live is not always kind or easy, but we are assured that we belong to God and he is well-connected with our lives.
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:36-40 (New Revised Standard Version)
36 There was also a prophet, Anna[a] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[b] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Nicodemus was seeking Jesus under the cover of darkness because he has much to lose- his security, position and power. But Jesus asks him to be “born from above”; which was far beyond his comprehension.
We also find it difficult to understand many divine things as we are just another God’s creation. The plans and purposes of the creator are far beyond our comprehension. Orthodoxy is a way to make sense and connect with the creator God, who is beyond the human intellect and comprehension, through worship.
Gospel Reading: John 3: 1-12
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
Farmers and other parishioners would arrive at Holy Qurbana with their seeds or seedlings for blessings. It was a way to recognize the power God has over creation and to place the following year’s growing season into His hands. In addition, farmers sought God’s help through the intercession of St. Mary, mother of God on this fixed feast day celebrated on January 15th.