Today we celebrate the memory of the Ancestors of Christ. Christ the Word, to be the Anointed One (Messiah) in due course, was present throughout the whole of Old Testament history, and we praise Him because he has magnified His ancestors amongst all nations and commends them to us. Yet, His genealogy is not of saints, though some were. In Matthew’s gospel, which we read today, the list begins with Abraham whose great faith in God sets the wheels of Salvation in motion. He was the Great Ancestor followed by many others and yet there are some surprising inclusions. Usually, in Jewish tradition, only men were mentioned in the list of ancestors but here are three women; Tamar is included even though of a life of doubtful virtue; amongst the men, King David is one of the great ones and yet the genealogy states, ‘David your King begat Solomon by her (Bathsheba) who had been the wife of Uriah’. Yes, David had Uriah murdered so that he could take Bathsheba as his wife. A great king, yet also a murderer and an adulterer. Yes, a great prophet, a sinner, but also, he is an example of a sincere repentant sinner as his psalm 50, which we use daily, clearly acclaims. The genealogy mentions gentiles and sinners with many imperfections and yet flowing with God’s graciousness and emphasising the importance of women by their inclusion, indeed the inclusion of all
In the blessing given in this list of ancestors, Our Lord emphasises the ordinariness of His origin as well as who are special in the service of God, for the Supreme Ancestor from this lineage, is Mary, herself, His mother, His birth-giver. She, as a result of this ancestry, was the spotless handmaid, the undefiled one who could bring about God’s saving plan. From her, Christ, the Anointed One, came forth to give life to us all, bearing the name, Jesus, which means, ’O Lord save’.
Added to this genealogy of ancestors of varying fidelity, Our Lord is born in a stable, laid in a manger full of hay, surrounded by sheep, in as lowly surroundings as possible. By His very birth and His ancestry, He demonstrates the graciousness of God who accepts all in His love and with utmost desire that we all return to Him and accept the sonship and daughterhood which He so freely gives.
What a sadness that our nation has fallen so far away from its Christian foundations and stands, so much, in denial of God’s benevolence, without recognising that there is only fullness of Life in God our creator. With this also, is the strange denial of death, not only because it is not wanted but there is also a denial that anyone will return to, and receive God’s loving provisions, even when earthly life comes to an end. I wonder if this is the Sin against the Holy Spirit, which Our Lord mentions as unforgivable; there is certainly a denial that it is in the Holy Spirit that we live and move and have our being and a wilful hardness of heart to accept His existence. It seems the established Church in this Land, often plays into this; the funeral service is so often a celebration of the deceased’s life rather than a prayerful commendation of him/her as one who has fallen short, and who needs the mercy and forgiveness of God and is commended into His loving care. Fortunately, in our Orthodox Tradition, we only mention aspects of the person’s earthly life in the funeral oration whilst the whole of the funeral service is an appeal for God’s mercy and a commendation into a life beyond, “Give rest, O Christ, to the soul of thy servants with the saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting.” (Kontakion of the Dead).
So here is the good news, the Gospel for today. Whatever our origins, the origins of our family and the fidelity of its forebears, we have been enrolled into the gracious salvation of God through our Lord Jesus the Christ, the one who saves, the Anointed One. We are within the Church where men and women are equal, where gentiles are welcome, where there is no sin which separates us from God (unless there is sin against the Holy Spirit, a denial of the divine activity of the Spirit by wilful hardness of heart), and if faithful, we have a guaranteed place in Paradise. And so, we go forward, in our preparation for the Feast of the Nativity, standing with the Ancestors of Christ, standing with His Holy Mother and Joseph to whom she is betrothed (married) and standing with great blessing.
Through faith, You have justified Your Ancestors, O Christ our God; and through them, you have espoused in advance the Church set apart from the Gentiles. The saints rejoice in glory because, from the seed of these Ancestors, has come froth the glorious fruit, who gave you birth without seed. Through their intercessions, O Christ God, save our souls! (Troparion of the Ancestors)
This mainly contains homilies and messages from our priests, although there is some scope to share thoughts and interesting articles which we may want to share with others