11 December 2016
Homily for the Sunday of the Forefathers, 2016
Today we celebrate the Sunday of the Forefathers: those men and women of the Old Testament who, in the words of the apolytikion, were “justified by faith.” There was Adam, the first-created and his wife Eve; and Abel the righteous, and Enoch who walked with God. There were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Rahab, and Ruth; David and Solomon, Daniel and the three holy children—all of them, and many more besides, who were justified by faith.
What does it mean to say they were justified by faith? Nothing but this: that they were justified by Christ. He is their life. They looked forward to him, longed for him, loved him, wanted nothing more than to sit with him at his banquet table in the Kingdom.
We only understand the lives of the forefathers when we see their connection to Christ. To take but a few: Abel makes the proper offering and himself becomes a sacrifice. Rahab hangs the scarlet rope from her window, proclaiming in advance the blood of Christ. Ruth forsakes her own people to be joined to God’s people; her sorrow is turned to joy by Boaz. David, the man after God’s own heart, sings constantly of Christ, his Mother, and his Church; Solomon builds the Temple, which prefigures the Theotokos and the Church.
Christ is their life. And that’s the most important reason we celebrate them. They looked forward to the coming of God in the flesh, according to his ancient promise. What he spoke, they trusted. That faith shaped the way they looked at life, and shaped the way they lived.
We celebrate them, too, because they teach us a valuable lesson. They lived in anticipation of the Christ who would come; we live in celebration of the Christ who has come. They stood between the first promise and its fulfillment; but we stand between the fulfillment of the promise and its completion. While we look back on Christ’s conception and birth, his service and suffering, his dying and rising and ascending—we also look forward to his return. As St. Paul says in our Epistle, “When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
That hope, that anticipation of Christ’s return, shapes the way we live from day to day. Our life is not measured by the ebb and flow of politics, or the wars and rumors of wars, or the search for human justice. Our life is measured by Christ: his mercy and grace and love for mankind. I saw that life in action yesterday, as many people took time out of their busy Saturday to help Deacon Michael and Mary move to their new home. I’ve seen that life in action in countless other ways, and I could point to each and every one of you and give examples.
So let us be encouraged, brothers and sisters; let us be inspired by the lives of those who came before and anticipated Christ. Soon, soon, our wait will be over, our faith will become sight and our hope will be fulfilled. “When Christ who is our life appears, then we also will appear with him in glory”: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.