“Let us sing a hymn of praise to all the Ancestors: Abraham, the friend of God, Isaac, who was born of a promise; Jacob and the twelve Heads of the Tribes; and Daniel the prophet of great desires. Let us also honor the three holy youths who changed a pit of fire into a place of refreshing dew. Let us ask forgiveness for our sins from Christ our God, Who is glorified in His saints.” (Vespers)
God is the Author of the most tremendous Story ever told. This season is one of my favorite times in the Church Year. It takes us back to the beginning of God’s Story. I suppose you know where to find God’s Story – it’s in the Bible. The beginning of His Story is found in the Old Testament. From the Old Testament we can draw encouragement and enrichment for our personal story of spiritual growth.
During the two weeks before the Nativity, we are celebrating the many outstanding personalities of the Old Testament, our Forefathers and Foremothers in Christ who served God as they looked forward to the coming of Christ. Note: they are our spiritual ancestors also; the Old Testament is part of our spiritual heritage.
I hope that you would all begin to become acquainted with the Bible, its message, personalities and their exploits. Alas, to our shame, so many Catholics are still so unacquainted with the Bible. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that the one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16) Our spiritual growth is stunted without the Bible.
From Adam to John the Baptist, the hymns in the Morning Prayer praise the many individuals, who, throughout the history of God’s dealing with His people, performed heroic feats in His service. Christ speaks to us through these events.
The three youths in the Book of Daniel are seen dancing and singing in a fiery furnace. They appear frequently in the prayers of our Christmas preparation celebrations. They are remembered every Sunday in our Morning Prayer service. The Church presents them to us in this tropar:
“The thrice-blessed young men, standing in the midst of unendurable flames, call out to You: Hasten, compassionate Lord, in Your mercy to aid, whatever You will You can do.”
Their act of faith in God can be read in the third chapter of the Book of Daniel. It is an example to us as we walk though the spiritual fires of life.
If God’s Great Story were to be made into a movie, the heroes and heroines and the prophets would be called “stars”. The hymns today declare: “you shine as heaven’s lights upon the world, enkindling the light of piety”.
Like all best books, the Old Testament presents these Fathers and Mothers with all their warts and wrinkles. It does not hesitate to speak of David as a “man after God’s own heart”, even though he fell into the sin of adultery and covered up the act by having a friend murdered. Because of this biblical honesty, we learn that there is hope for us too, flawed as we are.
As we write the story of our own life, we have the stories of God’s Great story to “encourage, teach, and equip us for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16)
“Come, O feast-lovers, let us praise the assembly of the Ancestors with hymns: Adam our first father: Enoch, Noah, Melchizedech; Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Samuel and David. With them we praise Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and the twelve prophets, without forgetting Elijah, and Elisha. We praise Zechariah, John the Baptist, and all those who preached Christ, the Life and Resurrection of the human race”. (Evening Prayer)
Originally published on December 14th, 2003