Bulletin 208 - December 16/December 29, 2002
December 16/December 29, 2002
Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
He (Isadore the Priest) also said that for forty years he had been tempted to sin in thought but that he had never consented either to covetousness or to anger.'
Sunday of Holy Forefathers
Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready. But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused. And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused. Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore cannot come.' So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is no room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'
The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ is a religious feast. The Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ is a feast of the Holy Orthodox Church. Preparations for the feast and activities identified with the feast should be consistent with the religious basis of the feast.
All that we do as Orthodox Christians should be consistent with the teachings of the Holy Gospel, consistent with the life of Jesus Christ. Parish churches should do everything consistent with the prayers of consecration. All parish activities should be consistent with the teachings of the Holy Gospel.
We are in the Nativity Fast. It is appropriate to consider the condition of our souls, the direction of our lives, the amount of sin we commit.
Serious believers find complete fulfillment in the Church. Serious believers find direction, hope and purpose in the Church. Believers experience Jesus Christ in the Church. Believers are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Believers come to know of their history in the Church. They come to know of their future.
The present Gospel message reveals the range of excuses individuals will use in declining invitations to a great supper. The Lord Jesus Christ invites men, women and children, Orthodox believers everywhere, to partake of His precious Body and Blood.
Partaking of the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ results in unity with Christ. We become different each time we partake of the precious Body and Blood of Christ. We are strengthened in Christ, with Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ extends an invitation to all individuals to come to Him. Our Lord said: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt.11:28) We find rest in Jesus Christ. We find peace in Jesus Christ. We find direction in Jesus Christ. We find strength in Jesus Christ.
Excuses are not sufficient for serious believers. Men, women and children desiring to be united with Jesus Christ answer His invitation. Serious believers draw near to Jesus Christ. Serious believers cast away all obstacles preventing unity with Christ.
The Nativity Fast is a time for Orthodox believers to focus on their sins. It is a time to repent and return to God. The Nativity Fast is a time for relinquishing the sins of life. Repelling of sin and vigilance is always necessary.
Today we celebrate the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. We are mindful of Christ's forefathers according to the flesh. Abraham is notable among the forefathers in being commemorated today. Serious believers regularly remind themselves of the complete faith of Abraham as an example to be followed.
In addition to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Daniel and the three youths in the fiery furnace are mentioned in connection with the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers. Orthodox believers come to see history differently. Orthodox believers come to view history in relationship to Jesus Christ. Each day, each year, each event is viewed in the context of Jesus Christ.
The lives of the saints and martyrs and the holy fathers and mothers of the Church help to form our view of history. The work of the Church through the ages, the work of the Holy Spirit through the ages, the presence of God through the ages, all define history for believers.
We do ourselves a great disservice when we decline invitations to learn more about Jesus Christ, when we decline invitations to learn more about the Holy Orthodox Church. We do ourselves a great disservice when we are distracted by sin and temptations and fail to be faithful to Christ.
Orthodox Christian beliefs did not come into being in a vacuum. Orthodox theology and practices can be traced through the centuries. Centuries of experience give form to the Church as the Church is known to believers today. Through the centuries, the undeniable record has been established.
The birth of Jesus Christ is celebrated in the Church and is on our minds at this time of the year. The birth of Jesus Christ is central to our attention. Now is the time to reach deep within ourselves in prayer and contemplation to carefully examine our relationship with God.
Preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ requires discarding sin and practices in our lives keeping us from Jesus Christ. No excuses are sufficient to decline Christ's invitations. Our Lord said: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." (Mt.16:24)