At this time of the year we see our neighbors celebrating the western Christmas, and many of us may have had this thought: why cannot we celebrate the Holy Nativity of Christ on the same day? This Sunday gives us the answer…
The Holy Orthodox Church, as if anticipating the above question, begins preparing us for the great day of the Nativity of Christ by means of the Nativity fast. As we approach this day, the Church commemorates the last two Sundays before Nativity in a special manner and points out their significance by naming them differently from ordinary Sundays. On the Sunday two weeks before Nativity we commemorate the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. The Sunday directly preceding Nativity is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers.
What is so special about the Holy Forefathers and who were they? The word “forefathers” means just that: very distant ancestors of ours. Our most distant ancestors were Adam and Eve, followed by the biblical patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others who are mentioned in the Holy Bible. What was so special about them? Adam and Eve were the first human beings who committed a sin, but they were also the first people to repent. They repented of their transgressions all of their life.
The common denominator for all the Forefathers was their faith in the true God, the Creator of this world and of all things visible and invisible, just like we sing in our Creed at every Divine Liturgy.
The Holy Forefathers very strictly and faithfully followed all the commandments which God sent them: they never compromised their faith because of surrounding circumstances. They firmly believed that what was right was right and what was wrong was wrong, regardless of what the majority of people were doing and thinking. In other words, the holy Forefathers did not subscribe to the man-made theory of “political correctness”! It was not always easy for them, but they never compromised their faith.
Christianity is a struggle: it always was and always will be. Moral and spiritual values never change. Right is always right and wrong is always wrong. People very frequently forget or ignore the fact that God is outside the concept of time. Time exists only for mortal beings and will someday come to an end, while God’s laws are outside time and, therefore, have an eternal value.
In the holy Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ says: “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). The sword is a symbol of combat – primarily spiritual combat. We have to fight throughout our entire life, and the most difficult battle is within ourselves. But before engaging in combat we have to know whether we are on the right path. Therefore, we should not blindly follow the actions of the majority in our society. In ancient times the great Greek philosopher Socrates said: “The majority is never right.” All revolutions have been based upon the principle of how to control and lead the majority.
And so the Holy Forefathers have shown us many bright examples of how to act and how to think: first of all, that God should be very real for us and not something abstract, and secondly, that we should examine our surrounding environment against this background. Thus we will be able to see how much Western Christianity has lost its focus on God and a godly life. Western Christians have, unfortunately, lost a true understanding of God. The image of God in Western Christianity has gone from bad to worse and is far removed from reality. Just think: what has eternal value in our environment nowadays? We are surrounded by spiritual emptiness or a horrible distortion of all things divine.
In the days of the Forefathers mankind’s view of life was not much different from our times, but the Forefathers themselves held on to their faith very firmly and did not compromise the truth of their faith just because the majority thought otherwise. They held on to their faith, and for this God’s grace made them strong.
Let us think about this, dear brethren, and let us try to follow the example of the Holy Forefathers, since we currently find ourselves in a similar situation. We can respect the beliefs of our neighbors, but we should not compromise our own faith. Our Orthodox faith has much better examples and deeper roots in our Forefathers, whose memory we gloriously celebrate today. Amen.
Protopriest Igor Hrebinka