Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

Before Christmas

People generally trace their genealogies from honour to honour, from glory to glory, remembering those people in their line who were great and remarkable before God or before men. Christ’s genealogy which is read on the Sunday before Christmas is a long tale of human faithfulness and also of human treachery. It is a tale of man in his search for God, with his soul reaching out towards Him, who by His whole life tried to subdue himself for the sake of God and His truth and for eternal life. And at the same time, interwoven with this tale, is a long thread of names that speak of human disgrace, of human frailty, of human unfaithfulness. Christ does not trace His genealogy through glory – for that would have been enough to say “He is the Son of God”. He traces His line through all the human paths, both glorious and inglorious, that are described in the Old Testament. But the Old Testament is not only the story of a people, the true tale about the people in which the Saviour Christ was born, it is also the image of the human soul, the confession all mankind, the vision of its ways as God sees them. In this respect Christ’s genealogy also tells us what goes on in our own souls and in our own lives when we search for God, vacillating between sincere love and directedness towards Him, faith, true hope, and on the other hand, extreme weakness of failure, and therefore betrayal, the betrayal of God Himself, and of other people who have a right to depend on our faithfulness in their ascent to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why before Christmas we are presented with this long, and to many people perplexing reading. How few among us, probably, would read this genealogy even once in our lives in their spare time and follow it up in the Old Testament to see who these people were who gave us Christ. We know the faith of Abraham, we know the sacrifice of Isaac, we know the purity and integrity of Joseph the Beautiful, and occasionally another name flashes by that tells us something. Yet most of these names are rich in content. Christ took everything upon Himself, and the greatness of a man is that without him God could not have taken flesh. Only because man is so great that he can contain the fullness of Godhead, could God become man in the flesh. But at the same time Christ accepted all the weakness, all the frailty and all the horror of our human destiny. Therefore, let us read these names attentively, as we might remember the people who played an important, a decisive role in our lives. Let us read these names attentively and remind ourselves that Christ’s flesh was woven of these people’s flesh. Let us remember them with deep reverence, with tremulous gratitude. They gave us Christ; Christ’s body is their body; His birth is the culmination of their earthly destiny, their faith, their fidelity, their searching and directedness towards God, in spite of weakness, frailty and sin. Let us learn to follow in this path, depending on all that is Godly in them and in us, and overcoming by God’s grace and mercy all that is unworthy of Him and of our human dignity. Amen.

 

Published: NEWS LETTER

No. 34

December 1972