This Sunday December 17, 2023 we in the Orthodox Church commemorate the Forefathers of the Christian faith. Specifically, we remember the Old Testament Patriarchs, Prophets and Righteous Men and Women, who responded to the call of God, served with devotion, with many anticipating the coming of the Messiah. Both this Sunday and the Sunday Before Christmas, there is the common theme of preparation: how God worked great signs and wonders through special witnesses preparing for the sending of His Son to the world according to the perfect plan.
The Forefathers included persons from the earliest Biblical period, Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah, Enoch, etc., the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc, and women such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Esther, Ruth, Judith, etc., the Prophets Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zachariah all the way to John the Baptist, and special figures from the Old Testament, Melchizedek, Job, David and the three young men Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago.
In the many beautiful Pre-Nativity hymns of the Church, the courageous example of the three young men thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s blazing furnace are celebrated because they refused to worship his image, preserved by the presence of the Angel of God, whom the Church Fathers recognized as the eternal Christ working in the Old Testament. In the Orthodox Tradition, the three young men in the fire represent the mystery of the Holy Trinity and also prefigure the presence of Christ in the Virgin’s womb because “the fire of divinity consumed not the Virgin’s womb into which it had descended”.
The Gospel Lesson for this Sunday is the Parable of the Great Feast, in which everyone was invited to attend, for the Lord Himself has said that He came not to call the righteous but the lost to salvation. His Coming at Christmas is especially significant for the afflicted, destitute and hopeless in spirit, health or circumstance.
It is also expedient during these two preparatory Sundays before Christmas to seek to respond to God’s call to us, to lift up our hearts in thankful prayer to Him for His promises and to expectantly prepare for the celebration of the coming of Christ into our lives.
“Come, people slow of heart, cast away the veil of sin that lies upon your heart: recognize the Maker who comes to dwell among us. Let us make ready to praise Him and say: Blessed are You, O Lord, God of our Fathers, Who is Born of a Virgin…!