Sunday of the Holy Forefathers 2008
Today’s Gospel reading is one of a few select readings that gets double duty on our regular cycle of Sunday readings. This Gospel reading is always taken two Sundays before our Lord’s Nativity, but it is also the prescribed reading for the 28th Sunday after Pentecost. We will only hear it once this year, since the reading for the 28th Sunday after Pentecost will be replaced by the reading for the Sunday after the Nativity.
The point of today’s reading, and the reason why the early church fathers chose to place this reading close to the celebration of the Nativity, is to further prepare ourselves for the arrival of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As Orthodox Christians we are called to the great banquet, given by the Master. Too many distractions make us lose sight of what is important, and cause us to badly prioritize what is most important in our lives. This has been a problem since the creation of the world, mind you. It’s not something that only has been a problem for the last few generations. 'Many are called but few are chosen', as we hear in today’s Gospel reading. These words have a special significance when you consider the wrong choices made by many cultures over the course of human history.
In Australia the ancient Aborigenes kept a vague memory of how God created the world perfect, which they call the 'Dreamtime'.
All over the world, from Asia to South America, some 120 different peoples and cultures have kept the memory of a great, universal flood, which is known to us in detail through Noah.
In India the Hindus long ago kept an intuition of a Trinitarian God, but among them their knowledge of God became so twisted that their trinity is a trinity of destructive gods.
Other cultures of people fell even further and began worshipping stones and trees, rivers and mountains, mistaking creation for the Creator. As a prime example, in England, thousands of years before Christ, the most prominent people of that time worshipped the stars, as evidenced by the great astronomical monument that they built and called Stonehenge. In Egypt the same learned class of people built huge Pyramids to worship the Sun, and through which they believed that their leaders, the Pharoahs, would become stars.
Other peoples altogether gave up on ever knowing God and declared that the way ahead consisted in following the wisest men of their cultures, Buddha in India, or Confucius in China.
In Ancient Greece, the wisest men declared that man could never know God unless God first revealed Himself to man and in Athens they set up an altar to 'the Unknown God'.
So, the words of today’s Gospel ring true with the statement, “Many were called but few were chosen,” for among all these peoples and cultures in the history of the world, there was one culture of people who were not swayed by all of the other fashionable, trendy beliefs put upon them by the rest of mankind. This people were the Jews, the ancient Hebrews, the chosen people, and today we commemorate all the righteous among them, all of our forefathers and foremothers in the Faith. From Adam and Eve on, there were among that people righteous and holy men and women. In their lives they prefigured the life of Christ and foresaw Christ.
Abel, who was murdered by his brother Cain, is a prefiguration of Christ, who was also murdered by men.
Melchizedek the priest is the prefiguration of Christ the High Priest.
Enoch and Elijah, who were taken up to heaven, prefigure Christ who was also taken up to heaven.
Noah, whose family alone survived the Flood, is a prefiguration of the baptism of purification given to us by Christ.
Job the long-suffering prefigures the longsuffering of Christ.
Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice his son Isaac, prefigures the sacrifice that God the Father made with His only begotten Son.
Jacob prefigures Christ, for he saw the ladder that connects earth to heaven, enabling heaven to come down to earth and earth to rise up to heaven.
Joseph, who was betrayed by his twelve brothers, prefigures Christ who was betrayed by His disciples.
Moses, the leader of his people, who was given the great revelation of the Ten Commandments, unsurpassed until Christ gave us the Beatitudes, prefigures Christ, for Moses saw the burning bush unconsumed, which represents the Virgin's womb, unconsumed by the fire of Christ.
Joshua, whose bears the same name as Christ's, prefigures Jesus the Deliverer of His people.
David, related by blood to Christ, saw Christ in the Psalms which he wrote down.
Solomon expressed the Wisdom of God in his Books of Wisdom.
The Prophet Daniel saw the Holy Trinity through the Three Holy Youths in the furnace of Babylon.
The Prophet Isaiah saw Christ the suffering Servant.
The Prophet Jonah prefigures the three-day burial of Christ through his three-day stay in the belly of the whale.
All these holy forefathers together with our holy foremothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Ruth, Deborah and many, many more, are commemorated today. All these are in fact our spiritual family, for they saw, long before we were born, the One Whom we confess, Christ our true God Who consented to be born in the flesh, crucified for our sake, and risen from the dead for our salvation.
Let us in these last few days before the celebration of the Birth of the Savior on earth, make time to read one, or at least one part, of their writings, for example, in the Book of Genesis, the Book of Exodus, the Book of Proverbs, or simply the Psalms, and let us renew our links with our ancestors in our blessed Orthodox Faith. During this time of the Nativity Fast, at our Moleben service each Monday at 7:30PM, Father has preached a wonderful series on the men of scripture; some of these people I mentioned have been the subject of Father’s homilies. If you have not yet attended, I strongly urge you to invest an hour on Monday evening and let your heart and soul be moved by the beauty of this service. As we make our way into the home stretch of this fasting season, avail yourself of the opportunity to pray, to think, to reflect on what should be the highest priority. The best gift you can give to Jesus this season is yourself. Your soul will thank you for it!