December 17, 2023

Homily on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on January 5, 1946)

The Sunday before Christmas is dedicated by the Holy Church to the commemoration of the Holy Ancestors, and on the previous Sunday it honors the commemoration of the Holy Forefathers.

Who are the ancestors and forefathers and why is their memory celebrated so solemnly before the greatest feast day, the Nativity of Christ? The forefathers are the great righteous people of the Old Testament, and first of all, these are the holy prophets.

Why is the memory of these forefathers, the memory of the holy prophets, so important for us? Every great human undertaking, even personal one, if it sets itself great tasks, requires long, many years, of deep preparation, and all the great events in the life of the human race, the greatest historical events, were prepared by history for many years, sometimes even hundreds of years.

If this is so in human events and personal events, if this is so in the historical life of all mankind, then even more so it should have been in the preparation of the greatest event in the history of all mankind - the preparation of the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world.

This should have been the preparation of the human race for the perception of Christ’s greatest teaching.

Worship of the true God, knowledge of Him was in ancient and olden times the property of only the one chosen people of Israel, and all other peoples followed the natural path in the matter of religious knowledge. They did not have the revelation that was given to the people of Israel, and the ancient pagans knew God only in natural phenomena. Their religions were naturalistic: they deified the material principles of the world, worshiped the heavenly bodies, all the elemental forces of nature, deified animals and birds and worshiped idols they themselves sculpted.

In ancient times there was a religion of the Indian people - Buddhism, but it was infinitely far from the knowledge of God, it knew only the vanity of human life, rejected life and was a religion of deep pessimism, in essence, it did not know God - it is a religion without God.

And the great people of antiquity - the Greeks - knew God only in part, only on one side: they knew Him only in harmony and beauty. They were very far from the knowledge of God as the self-existent One, as the center and focus, the source of all cosmic life, all human life. The knowledge of God as the self-existent One, as eternally existing in Himself, was the property of only the chosen people of Israel, for this people honored Jehovah, and the word “Jehovah” in the Hebrew language means “the self-existent One.”

But this knowledge of God, and this worship of the true God, was far from the knowledge that was given to people in Christianity. For the people of Israel understood God as a terrible autocrat, the Creator of the world, a punisher and Judge. They were almost as far away as the ancient Greeks and pagans from understanding that God is love.

And the essence of Christ’s teaching comes down precisely to preaching about love, teaching about it. The people of Israel, the whole world, all of humanity had to be prepared to understand this great truth. And the Lord God led this great preparation for thousands of years.

The Lord God in the most ancient times made promises to the human race about the Savior of the world. Even to Adam, the first man, before his expulsion from paradise, the Lord gave a great promise: “The seed of the woman will trample on the head of the serpent.” The seed of the woman is our Lord Jesus Christ, and the woman is the Most Holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

Our ancient forefather Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, gave us a great prophecy about the Savior of the world. When before his death he blessed his twelve sons, he said to his son Judah, the one from whose family the Lord Jesus Christ was to appear to the world: “A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a prince from his loins, until the Reconciler will come; and he is the expectation of nations” (Gen.49:10).

He spoke of the Reconciler. This is the same as the Savior, for the Savior was the Reconciler of the people with God. He spoke about the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, almost two millennia before the birth of Christ.

The Holy Prophet Isaiah also foretold the coming of Christ: “And the Redeemer of Zion and the sons of Jacob who turned from wickedness will come, says the Lord” (Isa. 59:20).

The Redeemer of Zion is the Redeemer of the people of Israel, for Zion was the name of the mountain on which Solomon’s temple was erected, and the name Zion often means the Jewish people.

And more than once the prophet Isaiah foreshadowed the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world. This is what the holy prophet Malachi says: “Behold, I send My angel, and he will prepare the way before Me, and suddenly the Lord, whom you seek, and the Angel of the covenant, whom you desire, will come to His temple" (Mal.3:1). And so it was. The prophet Malachi prophesied with these words about John the Baptist, who straightened the path before the Lord Jesus Christ. Then the Lord came, He came, for whom the Jewish people were looking, the Angel of the covenant, for whom they were waiting.

But the most important prophecy about the Lord Jesus Christ was given by the great prophet Daniel many years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, for this is what this wondrous prophet says: “Seventy weeks have been determined upon thy people, and upon the holy city, for sin to be ended, and to seal up transgressions, and to blot out the iniquities, and to make atonement for iniquities, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince (he even calls Christ by name), there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined" (Daniel 9:24–26).

The prophet says that sixty-seven weeks will pass from the time when the people of Israel will be returned from the captivity of Babylon and will again build the walls of Jerusalem and their temple. He says that from this time until the death of the Lord Jesus Christ there will be seventy weeks.

What is the week?

A week is seven years, for the ancient Israelites calculated time in weeks, or seven years. Every seventh year was called a Sabbath year, and in this year all slaves were set free.

So, a week is seven years, and seventy weeks are 490 years. Look how wonderful it is. The Lord Jesus Christ, according to the word of the prophet Daniel, was crucified 490 years after the return of the people of Israel from captivity in Babylon.

The prophet Daniel says that after Christ is put to death, the Jerusalem temple will be destroyed. And this is what happened, as you know, 70 years after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Roman commander Titus, after Jerusalem was conquered by the commander Vespasian, destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem to the ground. All this was predicted by the prophet Daniel 490 years before the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And here are the other words of this amazing prophet: “I saw in the visions of the night, behold, one like the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was brought to him” (Dan.7:13). The Ancient of Days is what God the Father is called. “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom” (Dan. 7:14). Are these not direct prophecies about the Lord Jesus Christ?

The holy prophet Zechariah said this: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; proclaim aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to you, righteous, and a Savior; he is meek and riding on an donkey, and a young foal” (Zech.9:9). He prophesied about this King, about our Lord Jesus Christ, Who, as you know, solemnly entered Jerusalem, shortly before His crucifixion, sitting on a donkey. In this prophecy, not only the very fact of the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ was predicted, but also the fact of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was predicted with extraordinary accuracy.

Of all the prophets, the greatest prophet is Isaiah; he is called the Old Testament Evangelist, for no one, like him, with such completeness and clarity predicted the most important things concerning the appearance and life of the Lord Jesus Christ and the whole work of Christ.

Chapter 53 of the great book of the prophet Isaiah begins with these words: “Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth...  And men appointed his grave with the wicked, but he was with the rich in his death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth” (Isa.53:1–7, 9).

Don’t you see in these words the true image of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who throughout His human life, from His birth in a manger in Bethlehem, was the simplest, most insignificant-looking person, according to the people around Him, He was the son of unknown people, for His father Joseph the carpenter was falsely considered. There was no external greatness in Him, He was extremely simple, His whole earthly life was very simple.

Who could believe this prophecy? The Jews could not believe it, because they were waiting for the Messiah as a great, glorious king who would conquer all nations, who would become a world ruler, who would come in power and strength. They could not believe that He would be humiliated before people, that He would end his life as a villain on the Cross of Golgotha. They thought that He was tortured because He was guilty before God, but He suffered voluntarily, He suffered for us, He nailed our sins to the Cross. He, like a lamb before its shearers, was silent and did not open His mouth.

The same prophet Isaiah spoke about Christ in these words: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth” (Isa. 42:1-3).

These words accurately describe the meek and humble image of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who never raised His voice to the unfortunate, perishing, people already ready to perish, sinners, He saved, forgave, just as He forgave that sinner who was captured in adultery and they wanted to stone him. In these words the gentle Lamb rises before you. Further, Isaiah defines the purpose and meaning of the coming of the Lord, the purpose of His life and activity, says that the Lord will come in order “to open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out of the dungeon and those sitting in darkness out from the prison house" (Isaiah 42:7). He will come to lead the blind along a path they do not know, along unknown paths.

The human race was blind, it did not know the true path, and when Christ appeared, Who said about Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, then only the true light shone to the people of Israel, their blind eyes were opened, they saw this light and knew the ways of the Lord.

It is amazing that the prophets not only spoke in general terms about the Lord Jesus Christ, but they also predicted individual events in His life, for example, death on the Cross. Death on the Cross, death for the human race, was predicted by the prophet Zechariah: “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and comfort; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10) .

The prophet David predicted in his Psalms:

“Dogs surrounded Me, a crowd of evil ones surrounded Me; they pierced My hands and My feet. One could count all My bones, but they look and make a spectacle out of Me; they divide My garments among themselves and cast lots for My clothing” (Ps. 21:7-19).

All this was predicted by the prophet David 1000 years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And this is what else he predicted: “And they gave me gall for food.” Do you know that the Lord Jesus Christ was given gall mixed with vinegar to drink during His crucifixion. And the holy prophet David saw this with his spiritual eyes a thousand years in advance.

The Prophet Isaiah also predicted that the Lord Jesus Christ, numbered among the villains, would be buried not with the robbers, but with a rich man. And you know that He was buried in the garden of Joseph of Arimathea.

Much could be said about what wonderful words we read in the books of the prophets about the Lord Jesus Christ. But this is enough.

From what I have read to you now, majestic, grandiose, amazing pictures of the predictions of the prophets about the Lord Jesus Christ rise before you.

Should we not honor these great men chosen by God, should we not honor their memory now - before we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Should we not honor them for the fact that they were subjected to severe persecution, torment, torture and cruel death for these prophecies! For you heard in the apostolic reading how much these great people suffered, how they were expelled and wandered in the mountains, how the greatest prophet Isaiah was sawn apart with a wooden saw, how almost all the holy prophets were killed and severely persecuted. Should we not honor our forefathers, who were the greatest righteous people? Should we not honor our forefather Abraham, who showed such amazing obedience to the will of God: at the first word of the Lord, he left his father, his homeland and went to God knows where, to the land of Canaan, as the Lord commanded him. He did not hesitate to sacrifice his only son Isaac, but was stopped by an Angel!

Should we not honor Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, in whom Saint Ephraim the Syrian finds many traits that make him similar to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself?

Should we not honor the greatest prophet Moses, with whom God Himself spoke; who received from God the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament? Should we not honor the one who in Holy Scripture is called the meekest of all people?

Should we not honor all those who led all humanity to open our hearts and minds to the great preaching of Christ?

Let us honor their memory not only in words, not only with the sermon that you hear from me, not only with the divine service that we now perform in their memory. Let us honor their memory by opening our hearts to the Coming Lord Jesus Christ.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *