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December 18, 2022

Sunday of the Holy Fathers Before the Nativity of Christ

By St. Justin Popovich
In the days before the feast of the Nativity of Christ our God and Savior, on the Sunday that falls between December 18 and 24, the Old Testament Holy Ancestors of Christ according to the flesh are commemorated, that is, those Fathers from whose tribe and lineage our Lord Jesus Christ came physically, through the Holy Mother of God. These are the Forefathers and Ancestors of Christ, from Abraham through David to Joseph the Betrothed and the Holy Mother of God, whose names are mentioned in the Genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew the Evangelist. That is why the Gospel of Matthew about the Genealogy of Christ is read this week (Matthew 1:1-17).

But, this week as well as the previous one, that is, on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers, all those Old Testament Righteous are mentioned who previously lived by faith in the coming Messiah, the Lord Christ our Savior, and who are therefore mentioned in the Epistle that is read this Sunday at the Liturgy (Hebrews 11:9-40).

Especially in this Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ, the holy Forefathers and Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the Prophet Daniel who was among the lions and the Three Youths who were in the Babylonian furnace are mentioned and hymned. Together with all of them, the Orthodox Church, in these pre-festive days of Christ's coming into the world and His human-loving incarnation for the sake of the salvation of man and the world, invites all creation to celebrate the Nativity of Christ: "Come, all of you, to celebrate the Nativity of Christ faithfully; sing and blow the trumpets, the prophets of God rejoice, people and nations clap their hands, because salvation and the illumination of all is near, for Christ is born from the Virgin in the city of Bethlehem."

The Troparion to the Holy Ancestors of Christ in the Flesh, which is sung this Sunday at the divine service, speaks of the great feats of faith of the righteous Fathers of the Old Testament, but the largest part of the Troparion is dedicated to the holy Prophet Daniel who was among the lions and the Three Youths who were in the furnace of Babylon, who while in the fiery flames of the red-hot furnace remained unharmed, being at the same time visited by the dew of the Spirit and the presence of the Angel of the Lord, all of which prefigured Christ's moving in the womb of the Holy Virgin and the birth of the God-man from Her, who did not burn Her womb with His Divinity, but preserved Her virginity unharmed. Therefore, this troparion of the Ancestors reads as follows (tone 4): "Great are the accomplishments of faith. In the fountain of flame the three Holy Youths rejoiced as though they were resting by the waters. And the Prophet Daniel showed himself to be a shepherd to the lions, as though they were sheep. Through their prayers O Christ our God, save our souls."