Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Mayaltho (Ma'altho - Entry of our Lord into the temple)

Sermon / Homily on St. Luke 2:22-40

Biblical Reflections on Mayaltho

by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel, Philadelphia, USA., Malankara World Board Member

Gospel: Luke 2: 22-35

Mayaltho is the third of the ten obligatory feast of Holy Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. This is the third obligatory feast we celebrate after Christmas. We celebrate Mayaltho on the 2nd of February, the fortieth day after Christmas. Special Holy Mass should be observed on that day if it does not come on a Sunday. The day should be observed like Sunday, the Lords day. Failure to attend the church worship on the day  Mayaltho is observed will be considered as a sin that require confession. Even though Mayaltho is rooted on an Old Testament tradition, exclusively observed by the Israelites, we are also obliged to celebrate it because our Lord and our Savior observed it to establish His Jewish lineage.

The Syriac term Mayaltho (Ma'altho) refers to the dedication of baby Jesus in the temple of God. According to the scriptures, the parents Joseph and Mary brought fourth baby Jesus to the temple of God to fulfill the sacrifice of purification to the baby. According to the Law of Moses, first-born male baby should be dedicated before the temple of God on the fortieth day following his birth. This is required for every first-born offspring from the Israelites. Thus, Jesus, being the first-born, had to be dedicated in the Temple of God in observance of the Moses' Law. There are certain scriptural evidence supporting the celebration of these feasts (Purification and Dedication) together.

Ritualistic importance of Mayaltho comes from the redemption of the first born. It was a mandatory ritual for all the Israelites since the exodus of Israelites from Egypt. Commencement of this ritual was based on the commandments of God through Moses, the chief of the prophets. As the first born offspring of Mariam, baby Jesus has to be brought forth in the Temple of God to be qualified as a legitimate Israelite following the commandments of his tribe. It was based on the redemption of the first born among the children of Israelites from the tragic carnage on the Passover night.

There are three important ceremonies observed in connection with the great Passover. First one is the Feast of Passover. That is a week-long feast, with restrictions in regular food habits. That should be celebrated deliberately by everyone among the Israelites following the Law of Moses. Certain restrictions for the food on that festival week are in connection with the memory of eating the bread without yeast as described in the following verses from the Book of Exodus:

Exodus 13:3 Then Moses said to the people, "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used his mighty hand to bring you out of there. Don't eat anything made with yeast."

Exodus 12:8-9 The meat must be eaten that same night. It must be roasted over a fire and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread.

Exodus 12:9 Don't eat any of it raw or boiled but roast the whole animal over a fire.

Exodus 12:47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate the Passover.

Second one is the sanctification of Levites, the third one of Jacob's family as the tribe separated for priesthood for the favor of the firstborn of every family of Israelites from the Egyptian massacre as the following verses suggest:

Num. 3: 12-13. "Out of all the Israelites, I have taken the Levites to be substitutes for every firstborn male offspring among them. The Levites are mine, because every firstborn is mine. The day I killed every firstborn male in Egypt, I set apart as holy every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They will be mine. I am the Lord."

Third one is the fortieth day dedication of the first-born male before the temple of God. This is exclusively observed by every tribe of Israel regardless of their ethnicity. The following passages from the Bible describe this practice:

Exo.13:12 Sacrifice every firstborn male offspring to the Lord. The firstborn male offspring of each of your animals belongs to the Lord.

Num.18:15 Every firstborn male, human or animal, that is brought to the Lord is yours. But you must buy back every firstborn son and the firstborn male of any unclean animal.

Leviticus 12:2-4 "Tell the Israelites: When a woman gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days. This is the same number of days she is unclean for her monthly period. The boy must be circumcised when he is eight days old. Then she must stay at home for 33 days in order to be made clean from her bleeding. She must not touch anything holy or go into the holy place until the days needed to make her clean are over.

Leviticus. 12:6 "When the days needed to make her clean are over, she must bring a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a mourning dove as an offering for sin. She must bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

Joseph and Mary were not rich enough to afford a lamb for the sacrifice and they choose the birds for the prescribed sacrifice. Mayaltho celebrates the same service of cleanliness and purification that was observed for Jesus and Mother Mary in the temple of God.

The service observed for Jesus was especially important for Christians because God himself became a redeemer for our salvation. He brought us back from the mighty hands of Heavenly Father by dedicated himself as a true sacrifice. Jesus became a true sacrifice like a lamb before the Holy Altar of God. He himself became obedient before the Law of His heavenly Father. He proved that the observance of the law of God is mandatory for each and every human being born out of flesh and blood. If we do not observe the law of God, we cannot be counted as a creation that is worth saving in the eyes of God. Salvation is a sanctification that we could inherit only if we are saved by the victorious cross of our Lord. Jesus, himself a true Israelite and promised son of Abraham, could be brought back by the sacrifice of a lamb or a turtle dove instead. Those whoever born out of the Abrahamic lineage would be adopted to the same lineage through the salvation of our Lord. That is the New Testament law of Christ abides with us.

If we were not redeemed or bought back by His blood we could not become the children of God. We cannot stand among the congregation of the first converts who are in heaven. We will be kept unclean like the sheep or any unclean animal as described in the Law of Moses.

Deuteronomy 15:19. Setting Aside First born Males for God. You must dedicate every firstborn male from your herds and flocks to the Lord your God. Never use a firstborn ox for work, and never shear a firstborn sheep. If a first born male donkey could not be brought back by its master that must be killed.

Fortunately we were redeemed by the precious blood of our savior. Because we are precious to him, our master paid a high price to redeem us. We should stay ready and prepared until He come back.

See Also:

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Mayaltho

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