December 18th

THE THIRD EOTHINON GOSPEL
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the Living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the Apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, wondering to himself what had happened.

THE EPISTLE
The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. (11:9-10, 32-40)

Brethren, by faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

THE GOSPEL
(For the Sunday before the Nativity: “The Genealogy”)
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 1:1-25

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, Who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ were fourteen generations.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called His Name Jesus.

ORTHOS

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION IN TONE ONE
While the stone was sealed by the Jews, and the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure body, Thou didst arise on the third day, O Savior, granting life to the world. For which cause the heavenly powers cried aloud unto Thee, O giver of life. Glory to Thy Resurrection O Christ, glory to Thy kingdom, glory to Thy providence, O Thou Who alone art the lover of mankind.

APOLYTIKION OF SUNDAY BEFORE THE NATIVITY IN TONE TWO
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
Great are the accomplishments of faith; for the three holy youths rejoiced in the fountain of flames as though at waters of rest. And the Prophet Daniel appeared a shepherd to the lions as though they were sheep. Wherefore, by their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.

RESURRECTIONAL THEOTOKION IN TONE TWO
Both now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Exceeding glorious beyond the power of thought are thy mysteries, O Theotokos; for being sealed in purity, and preserved in virginity, thou wast acknowledged to be in very truth the Mother who didst bring forth the true God. Wherefore, entreat Him to save our souls.

At the Divine Liturgy

RESURRECTIONAL APOLYTIKION IN TONE ONE

While the stone was sealed by the Jews, and the soldiers were guarding Thy most pure body, Thou didst arise on the third day, O Savior, granting life to the world. For which cause the heavenly powers cried aloud unto Thee, O giver of life. Glory to Thy Resurrection O Christ, glory to Thy kingdom, glory to Thy providence, O Thou Who alone art the lover of mankind.

APOLYTIKION OF SUNDAY BEFORE THE NATIVITY IN TONE TWO
Great are the accomplishments of faith; for the three holy youths rejoiced in the fountain of flames as though at waters of rest. And the Prophet Daniel appeared a shepherd to the lions as though they were sheep. Wherefore, by their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls.

The apolytikion of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos:
“Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

KONTAKION OF PREPARATION OF CHRIST’S NATIVITY IN TONE THREE
Today the Virgin cometh to the cave where she will give birth in an ineffable manner to the Word Who is before all the ages. Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when thou hearest it heralded: Glorify Him, with the angels and the shepherds, Who chose to be seen as a new-born babe, the God Who is before all the ages.

Metropolitan Anthony Sourozh
SERMON on the Genealogy of Christ

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

Every year before Christmas we read the genealogy of Christ from St. Matthew’s Gospels, and for years I asked myself, why? Why have we got to read all these names that mean so little to us, if anything at all? And then I became more perceptive of what they convey to us.

For one thing, they are the people to whose family the Lord Jesus Christ belongs through His humanity. They all are relatives of His, and this should be enough for us to find their names deeply moving: Christ is of their blood, Christ is of their family. Each of them, thinking of the Mother of God can say, ‘She is a child of our family’, and of Christ, ‘He also is a child of our family, although He is our God, our Saviour, the very Divine Presence in our midst’. Furthermore, some names stand out: names of Saints, heroes of the spirit, and names of sinners.

The Saints among them could well teach us what it means to believe; not simply to have an intellectual faith, a world-outlook which coincides, as far as it is able, with God’s vision, but a faith which means a complete trust in God, an unlimited faithfulness to Him, the readiness, because of what we know of God, to give our lives for what He stands for, for what He is. In this context think of Abraham whose faith was tested to the utmost. How difficult we find it to give to God something of ours: but Abraham was asked to bring as a blood-offering his own son – and he did not doubt God. And Isaac? He surrendered without resistance, in perfect obedience to his father, and through him – to God.

We can remember the struggle of Jacob with the Angel in the darkness, as we at times struggle for our faith, for our integrity, for our faithfulness, in the darkness of the night, or the darkness of doubt, in the darkness that seizes us at times on all sides.

But we can also learn something from those who in history, in the Bible, appear to us as sinners. They were frail, this frailty conquered them, they had no strength to resist the impulses of their bodies and of their souls, of the complex passions of men. And yet – and yet, they believed in God passionately. One of them was David, and one of his Psalms expresses it so well: “From the deep I cry unto Thee ..” From the depths of despair, of shame, from the depths of his fall, from the depths of his alienation from God, from the darkest depths of his soul he still cried to God. He does not hide from Him, he does not go away from Him, it is to Him he comes with this desperate cry of a desperate man. And others, men and women have this same concreteness as, for instance, Rahab the harlot – and so many more.

Do we, when we are at the darkest point of life, when we are wrapped in all the darkness that is within us – do we, from within this darkness turn to God and say: It is to You, oh Lord, I cry! Yes – I am in darkness, but You are my God. You are the God who created the light, and the darkness, and You are within the darkness as You are within the blinding light; You are in death as You are in life; You are in hell, as You are on the Throne; and from wherever I am I can cry to You.

And then, there is a last thing I would like you to think about. To us these people are names; of some of them we know a little from the Bible, about others we know nothing. But they all were concrete human beings, men and women like us, with all our frailty and all our hope, all the wavering of the will and all the hesitations, all the incipient love that is so often marred, and yet remains light and fire.

They are concrete and real, and we can read their names with the feeling, that, Yes – I don’t know you, but you are one of those who are of the family of Christ, concrete, real, who through all the vicissitudes of life, inner and outer, belong to God. And we ourselves can try and learn, in the concreteness of our lives, whether we are frail or strong at a given moment still to be God’s own.

So let us reflect on this genealogy, let us next time we come to hear it receive it with a spark in our eyes, with a warm feeling in our hearts; but this will be possible only to the extent to which Christ becomes more and more real to us and when it is in Him, through Him that we discover them all – real, living, our own and God’s own. Amen.