My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE GENEALOGY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
(Adopted from a Homily given on the Sunday before Christmas, Dec. 2015)
[Source: The Burning Bush - A Monastic Journal - Dormition of the Mother of God Rumanian Orthodox Monastery - Rivers Junction, MI.]
On the Sunday before the Nativity of the Lord the Gospel of Saint Matthew (1:1-16) is read about the ancestry of our Savior.
It is the Gospel in which we have all these names, a long list of names that are the ancestors of our Lord. Saint Matthew makes no attempts to purify the list, which in many ways it might be a little shocking or disturbing to the Jewish listeners because this Gospel of Saint Matthew was clearly written to the Jews, by constantly quoting, referring to the Holy Scripture--that is, the Old Testament Scripture--and there are also several Gentiles on the list. But maybe the most striking is when the text says that David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, with no attempt to cover up David's sin, or to somehow cleanse it or wipe it from the history of the Messiah that he was proclaiming to his people.
When the priest prepares the Lamb (Amnos) for Holy Liturgy that will come out in the Great Entrance to be consecrated and received as the Body of Christ he takes the spear and slices, from the left side--from the Lamb's point of view the right side--and says: "Like a sheep is lead to the slaughter," on the opposite side: "The Lamb before its shearers opens not his mouth" across the top: "In his humiliation, just judgment was denied Him," and across the bottom: "Who shall declare His generation?" (Acts 8:33). These are words that are taken from the Holy Prophet Isaiah (7:14)--about the Suffering Servant--telling us that this Messiah that is to come is different from what we might expect. He will not come in a simple way, He will not come to sort of set up His Kingdom on this earth; He will come to suffer, be slaughtered like a lamb. But He will also have this sort of mysterious origin. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading in the book of Acts when Saint Philip the Apostle approached him. He says: "How can I understand these things, unless someone guides me?" (Acts 8:31). So St. Philip explains this text to the Ethiopian eunuch.
In the Gospel of Saint Matthew we have this declaration of His genealogy; Who shall declare His generation? Here is His generation, from Abraham down. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, we have it all the way back to Adam and Seth. But when we listen to the words of the genealogy that Saint Matthew gives, we hear this repetition, "so-and-so is the father of so-and-so, who is the father of so-and-so, who is the father of so-and-so, "...who is the father of Joseph, who was betrothed to Mary, from whom Christ was born" (St. Matthew 1:1-16). It does not say Joseph was the father of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. He has the genealogy under the law of His stepfather but He has His human flesh taken from His Mother. His genealogy remains a tremendous mystery to us, because we know from the Gospel of St. John and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, that He is begotten of the Father before all ages, eternally begotten from the Father, and yet, by miraculous conception, begotten of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary in time. His generation remains a mystery to us, even though He is properly situated under the Law. It was such a stumbling block to the Jews at the time--"Who is this fellow? His mother is Mary, His father is Joseph, here are His brothers and sisters. He is nobody special. We know Him; He is just a carpenter's son. Who does He think He is, teaching us these things, and doing this stuff?" Even to this day, people would like to make Jesus a good man, a good person, an ethical man just because "we like His teachings;" to make Him normal in some way, like one of us. The Gospel text ends with this additional quote from Isaiah, "Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Saint Matthew adds that Emanuel means "God with us."
This feast that takes place in the final days of preparation for the Birth of our Lord--and we have just a few days left to prepare ourselves to enter into this mystery of God longing to be with us, of longing to be with us--this collection of human beings that are in some sense His own ancestry--adulterers, sinners, Gentiles, Jews. He came to be with us as we are, not in some other pretend way. And maybe this is our greatest sin, when we try to pretend to be somebody that we are not; maybe this is the one way in which Christ cannot be with us. It was so hard for Him to be with the Pharisees and the Scribes because they were hypocrites, because they were pretending to be somebody that they were not. They pretended to be purified in a way that St. Matthew would not purify our Lord's genealogy. God longs to be with us; so much so that He is willing to take on our own nature, to be with us as one of us. A generation from all eternity that we do not understand, and a generation in time that we cannot comprehend. And yet, He comes so that we can experience Him now--even without understanding or comprehension--to be able to be experienced by us, especially in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of the church, and most fully and beautifully in the Holy Divine Liturgy. He comes to take up residence in our hearts, to be born ever new in the cave that is in our hearts that awaits Him.
So in the final days, there will be preparations, beautiful and wonderful; lights go up, meals are prepared, presents are purchased, for a celebration that is beautiful, uplifting and joyous; but whatever it is, let it be one that is genuine and not given to any sort of external pretense. This is the only way that our hearts--that cave that is within our hearts that longs to receive Him--will be able to receive Him. All of the external preparations that we make will not provide the space in our hearts for Him, unless we can be genuine and honest before Him about our own lives.
Concerning the Genealogy According to the Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Ever-Virgin Mother of God Who Bore Him in Virginity
by Saint Gregory Palamas
David indicates that Our Lord Jesus Christ has no genealogy with regard to His Divinity (Psalm 110:4), Isaiah says the same (Isaiah 53:8), and later so does the Apostle (Hebrews 7:3). How can the descent be traced of Him "Who is the beginning, and is with God, and is God, and is the Logos/Word and Son of God" (cf. St. John 1:1-2, 18)? He does not have a Father who was before Him, and shares with His Father's name which is above every name" and all speech (Phil. 2:9). For the most part, genealogies are traced back through different surnames; but there is no surname for God (cf. Gen. 32:29), and whatever may be said of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, They are one and do not differ in any respect.
Impossible to recount is Christ's descent according to His Divinity, but His ancestry according to His human nature can be traced, since He who deigned to become Son of man in order to save mankind was the offspring of men. And it is this genealogy of His that two of the evangelists, Matthew and Luke, recorded. But although Matthew in the passage from his Gospel read today begins with those born first, he makes no mention of anyone before Abraham. He traces the line down from Abraham until he reaches Joseph to whom, by divine dispensation, the Virgin Mother of God was betrothed (St. Matthew 1:1-16), being of the same tribe and homeland as him, that her own stock might be shown from this to be in no way inferior. Luke, by contrast, begins not with the earliest forebears but the most recent, and working his way back from Joseph the Betrothed, does not stop at Abraham, nor having included Abraham's predecessors, does he end with Adam, but lists God among Christ's human forebears (St. Luke 3:23-38); wishing to show, in my opinion, that from the beginning man was not just a creation of God, but also a son in the Spirit, which was given to him at the same time as his soul, through God's quickening breath (Gen. 2:7). It was granted to him as a pledge that, if, waiting patiently for it, he kept the commandment, he would be able to share through the same Spirit in a more perfect union with God, by which he would live forever with Him and obtain immortality.
By heeding the evil counsel of the pernicious angel, man transgressed the divine commandment, was shown to be unworthy, forfeited the pledge and interrupted God's plan. God's grace, however, is unalterable and His purpose cannot prove false, so some of man's offspring were chosen, that, from among many, a suitable receptacle for this divine adoption and grace might be found, who would serve God's will perfectly, and would be revealed as a vessel worthy to unite divine and human nature in one person, not just exalting our nature, but restoring the human race. The Holy Maid and Virgin Mother of God was this vessel, so she was proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel as full of grace (St. Luke 1:28), being the chosen one among the chosen, blameless, undefiled and worthy to contain the person of the God-man and to collaborate with Him. Therefore God pre-ordained her before all ages, chose her from among all who had ever lived, and deemed her worthy of more grace than anyone else, making her the holiest of saints, even before her mysterious childbearing. For that reason, He graciously willed that she should make her home n the Holy of Holies, and accepted her as His companion to share His dwelling from her childhood. He did not simply choose her form the masses, but from the elect of all time, who were admired and renowned for their piety and wisdom, and for their character, words and deeds, which pleased God and brought benefit to all.
Note where this choice began. The excellent Seth was chosen from among Adam's children, because by his well-ordered conduct, his control over his senses and his glorious virtue he showed himself to be a living heaven and so came to be one of the elect, from whom the Virgin would spring forth, that truly heavenly and divinely appropriate chariot of the supracelestial God, and through whom He would call men back to eternal sonship. Therefore all Seth's stock were called sons of God (cf. Gen. 6:2), because it was from this race that the Son of God was to become the Son of man. That is why the name Seth can be interpreted to mean "resurrection", or rather "a rising up from", which really refers to the Lord, Who promises and gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. (Source: Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies)
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God