Beloved in Christ,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FOREFATHERS
Apolytikion (Tone 2)
Through faith You justified the Forefathers betrothing through them the Church of the gentiles. These saints exult in glory, for from their seed came forth a glorious fruit: She who bore You without seed. So by their prayers, O Christ God, have mercy on us!
Kontakion (Tone 6)
You did not worship the graven image, O thrice-blessed ones, but armed with the immaterial Essence of God, you were glorified in a trial by fire. From the midst of unbearable flames you called on God, crying: Hasten, O Compassionate One! Speedily come to our aid, for You are merciful and able to do as You will.
The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers is the Sunday that falls between December 11-17, the Second Sunday before the Holy Nativity of Christ. The ancestors of Christ according to the flesh are remembered on this Sunday of the Nativity Fast.
All the great Holy Fathers and Mothers and Prophets of the Old Testament, starting with Adam, Abraham, the Righteous Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, including Holy Prophet Elias and Daniel, and concluding with Holy Prophet Zechariah (Zachary), Joachim and Anna, Holy Prophet and Forerunner John the Baptist and the Theotokos. They lived before the Law and under the Law, especially the Patriarch Abraham, to whom God said, "In thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3; 22:18).
It is called the "Sunday of the Forefathers" because it is dedicated to the Forefathers of our Lord Jesus Christ. What was particularly remarkable about these people and their lives? It was that the Lord called them, helped them, and acted through them when all things earthly seemed to have betrayed and abandoned them.
Here is our common forefather Abraham, the father of believers, as the Holy Apostle Paul calls him [cf. Romans 4:16]. He lived nearly 4,000 years ago, but we still venerate him. God called him from among the pagans and idolaters, saying to him: "Go from your house, from your father's kin, from your country, and go into the land that I will show you. Separate yourself from them" [cf. Genesis 12:1].
Thus the foundation of faith was laid, first of the Old Testament and then, on its foundation, of the New Testament. But look: what does God promise Abraham? That if he would remain loyal and faithful, all the tribes and people of the earth would be blessed through his descendents. He promises him a country and land on which they will glorify God.
And what do we see instead? Abraham grows old, but still remains childless...His wife can no longer give birth to a child, and he must bequeath all his property to his servant Eliezer, because he did not have any heirs. "After these things the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield and will be your exceedingly great reward.' But Abram said, 'Lord, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus, the son of Masek, my domestic maidservant?' Then Abram said, 'Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed, my household servant is my heir.' And immediately the Voice of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but the One Who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' Then He brought him outside and said to him, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And he said to him, "So shall your seed be.' And Abram believed God, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:1-7).
The Promise of a Son. "Then He said to him, 'Where is Sarah your wife?' He replied, 'Here, in the tent.' Again He said, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.' (Sarah was listening in the tent door behind him.) Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'I have not yet had a child until now, and my lord is old also?' Then the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh within herself, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?' Is anything impossible with God? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.'" (Genesis 18:1-14).
"Now the Lord visited Sarah as He said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in old age, at the set time, of which God has spoken to him. So Abraham called the name of his son born to him--whom Sarah bore to him--Isaac" (Genesis 21:1-3).
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and make is God. By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who has promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude--innumerable as the sand which by the seashore. These all died in faith...By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel...by faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents...by faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king...And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens..." (Hebrews 11:1-34).
"Faith is simple, but it becomes many-splendored in our lives. For Abraham and Sarah it became (1) a venturesome action (2) obedience, (3) patience, (4) trust, and (5) confidence. Faith moves from the impermanence and discomfort of living in "tents" made by man to the permanence and solace of "the city" built by God." "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).
Thus, in the sacred history of the Old Testament we see that the Lord called people who were in grave and difficult circumstances, who could no longer count on anything earthly. Despair alone awaited them, but they did not give in to despair. Later the Lord would say: Do not be afraid, only believe" (cf. St.Mark 5:36). This is what they did: they did not fear, but only believed. It is for this that we glorify their holy names on the Sunday of the Forefathers. Therefore on this Sunday preceding the days of the Holy Nativity Feast, one that is dedicated to the memory of these men and women who stood first in their faith, hope, obedience, and love for the Lord.
Many were called but few were chosen, for among all these peoples and cultures, there were representatives of one people who conserved the true history of mankind. This people were the Jews, the ancient Hebrews, the chosen people, and on the Sunday of the Forefathers we commemorate all the righteous among them, 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. 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.
Let us in these last few days before the celebration of the Birth of the Savior on earth, 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 holy ancestors in the Orthodox Christian Faith.
Holy Forefathers and Foremothers of Christ, pray to God for us. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God