This is indeed an icon of the Entry of the Mother of God into the Temple. The figure under the stairs is King David, both from the written inscription, and because the Virgin was descended from the House of David. David is mentioned several times in the hymnography for this feast, as her ancestor, and notably in one of the Old Testament readings at Vespers, which refers to the Ark of the Covenant, which the Church sees as a prefiguration and prophecy of the Mother of God, the new Ark of salvation: Thus all the work that King Solomon did on the house of the Lord was finished. Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
The Ypakoe for the feast is also typical: Cry out, O David, what is this present feast? Is it for her of whom you have sung in the Book of Psalms, calling her Daughter, Child of God and Virgin, saying: "Her companions the virgins who follow her shall be mystically led to the King?" Make this feast to be held in honour throughout all the world by those who cry: The Mother of God is coming among us, mediator of salvation.
The young women bearing candles behind Sts Joachim and Anna in the icon are the virgins referred to in this hymn.
The priest at the top of the stairs is Zachariah, the father of St John the Baptist, who was the high priest at the time. He, too, is mentioned several times liturgically. From Vespers: Today let us, the faithful, dance for joy, and sing to the Lord with psalms and hymns, as we venerate His holy tabernacle, the living ark, that contained the Word who cannot be contained. A young child in the flesh, she is offered in wondrous fashion to the Lord, and with rejoicing, Zachariah, the great high priest, receives her as the dwelling place of God.
An interesting feature of this icon is the long series of steps which the young Virgin will climb. The majority of icons I have seen of this feast show her before three or so steps. In this icon, the many steps refer to another Old Testament prefiguration of the Mother of God, that of Jacob's ladder. The account of Jacob's dream in Genesis is one of the Vespers OT readings for the Dormition of the Mother of God: Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down there to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and by you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth bless themselves. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
This verse is from Matins of the Annunciation: The Holy Scriptures speak of you mystically, Mother of the Most High. For Jacob said in days of old as he saw the ladder that prefigured you: This is the ladder on which God shall tread. Therefore you rightly hear the salutation: Hail, Lady full of grace, the Lord is with you. I hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them.
Edited by Olga, 23 March 2010 - 12:25 PM.