Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and in fear and trembling stand, rendering nothing earthly-minded. For the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, comes to be slain, to give Himself as food to the faithful!
This post is inspired by a sermon given by my spiritual father, Fr. Brian, pastor of Holy Angels Byzantine Catholic Church.
The Gospel reading for the Sunday before the Nativity presents the Genealogy of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.
Everyone has a history. Our history connects us with the past. We speak of and remember our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and a whole host of other family members. These family members are usually our living connections to our past.
Many families have someone who has studied family genealogy going back hundreds of years. In my family, it is my second cousin, Billy Zoe, who has traced our family back to England right before the Puritan voyage. My forefathers came to America right after the first Puritan settlers settled New England.
In many cultures, family pedigree is very important. Mormonism places an enormous emphasis on family genealogy.
In Judaism, especially at the time of our Lord, family genealogy was important. To be Jewish was to be a member of a family that had a special covenant with the One God. To be a member of that family, one had to be a descendant of Abraham and a member of one of the twelve Tribes of Israel. A gentile could convert to Judaism but it was rare.
The expected Messiah was to be of the house of David. God promised to David that a descendant would arise that would save his people and rule as King forever. Saint Matthew knew of the Davidic lineage of the promised Messiah. So he takes great care in outlining Jesus’s lineage. He traces Our Lord’s genealogy from Abraham to Christ’s birth.
Our Lord’s genealogy is full of great heroes. It is also full of terrible sinners. Our Lord’s family is like our family. Yet, God is faithful to his promise. Out of our broken humanity, the Messiah arose and saved us.
Our Lord’s humanity is manifested in his family history. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. He is perfect in both his humanity and divinity. Yet, he has a family past full of great saints and sinners. He is the fulfillment of the Messianic promise given to his forefather David. He transforms his genealogy and saves mankind.
The Nativity is the feast of God becoming flesh. The birth of the Incarnate second person of the Holy Trinity. Let us remember our own family, as we worship the savior of the world, who came to transform all of us.
Today marks the 563rd anniversary, according to the new calendar, of the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks and thus ushering in of centuries of persecution and martyrdom for thousands of Orthodox Christians under the Turkish Yoke.
Greeks and Latins alike, crowded into the great church to pray together for their deliverance. Common fear and common danger worked more of a wonder than all the councils of the church. Orthodox bishops, priests and monks who had loudly protested that they would never again set foot in their cathedral until it had been purged of the Roman pollution, now came to the altar to join their Catholic brethren in the holy liturgy.
Among the celebrants was Cardinal Isidore, whom many of the faithful had branded a traitor and a heretic. The Emperor Constantine came to pray and to ask forgiveness and remission of his sins from every bishop present before receiving communion at the altar. The priest who gave him the sacrament cannot have known that he was administering the last rites to the last Christian Emperor of the Romans.
The last Roman Emperor, the Blessed Great Martyr Constantine XI (Paleologos) died defending the imperial city and the Great Church. Blessed Constantine, and all the New-Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke, pray to God for us.