The Winter Pascha, Chapter 14: The Sunday of the Holy Forefathers
The following is an excerpt from The Winter Pascha, by Fr. Thomas Hopko
Two Sundays before the celebration of Christmas, the Orthodox Church rejoices in the festival of the Holy Forefathers of the Old Covenant, including those who came before the giving of the Law. The foretold the coming of the Messiah and are redeemed by his saving Pascha. Together with the Canon of the Nativity of Christ, the following hymns are sung at the services of the day.
Let us offer praise to the fathers
Who shone forth before and during the Law;
With righteous minds they served the Lord and Master
Who shone forth from the Virgin,
And now they delight in the unending Light.
Let us honor Adam, the first-formed man and forefather of us all,
Who was honored by the hands of the creator.
He rests in the heavenly mansions with all the elect.
With his whole mouth, tongue and heart,
The wondrous Enoch hoped that in the Spirit
He might call with godly mind upon God, the Master of all.
Having lived on earth in a well-pleasing manner,
He has been taken up in glory.
Let us hear the divine words of those who cry aloud,
Telling of the coming of Christ.
For behold, He is born in a cave of an unwedded Maiden,
And his awesome birth is foretold to the Wise Men
By the suddenly appearing star.
There is a great difference between existing and living. Many people exist. Very few really live. Only those who seek God have life. Only those who delight in His commandments and rejoice in accomplishing His will pass beyond mere existence and actually find life. "Seek God, and your soul shall live" (Ps 69:32, LXX). This is the cry of the psalmist David who is especially hymned on this Sunday and on the Sunday after Christmas. His exhortation is in perfect harmony with the words of God given to Moses in His revelation of the divine Law.
"See I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." (Deut 30:15-20)
The holy forefathers and mothers, together with all their descendants, have chosen life. They find it in God's Messiah, Jesus Christ, who is Life itself, God's incarnate Word. The celebration of the Winter Pascha is a celebration of Life in God's Word. For "Christ who is our life" has already appeared (Col 3:4). We have "beheld His glory" (Jn 1:14). Now that glory is hidden in the "form of a slave" (Phil 2:7), but it will be revealed at the end of the ages in power for those who "have loved His appearing" and "live in Him" (2 Tim 4:8; Col 2:6).
You shone as heaven's lights upon the earth
Enkindling the light of piety.
You called forth the choir of all creation
As you sang to the Master who saves all from temptation,
"Bless Him, O children! Exalt Him, O priests!
Praise Christ, all people, throughout all the ages!"