The  Sunday 

of the 

Holy Forefathers 

The Great Supper

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen

Today is the Sunday  of the Holy Forefathers, which is always celebrated
two Sundays before the Nativity. Next Sunday is the Sunday  of the Holy
Fathers, and Nativity follows shortly thereafter on Tuesday. This is
part of our preparation for the great feast of our Lord-s incarnation.
We have already been preparing by fasting. Now the pace is quickening.
You can feel it. 

Let us ask ourselves why is it that we have this particular reading,
about the Great supper,   two Sundays before the Nativity? What is it
that the church is trying to teach us, and why do we remember the Holy
Forefathers today?  It is hard to explore all the aspects of this
reading. We cannot but scratch  the surface of what this parable means
in the Christian life, but it is here primarily because one cannot
celebrate a feast without being morally prepared. This parable tells us
sins to avoid, attitudes to avoid. It tells us to wake up! It tells us
to be ready. We commemorate the Holy Forefathers today, because they
indeed were part of the preparation for Christ. Without them, there
would have been no God-man, Jesus Christ, because He was born  of a
woman, who was of their lineage, and,  if this is not exactly so in a
physical sense, their prophesies and piety prepared the way for the
coming of Christ. That was part of God-s plan. We Orthodox Christians
never forget from  whence we are come from. We not only remember that we
are from the dust of the earth, but we also remember those who have
preceded us, and indeed, are joined to us, in piety, and in faith, and
in struggle. We never feel disassociated from our history. 

I tell you, if you do not  take this time today, and in the remaining
days to prepare yourself for Nativity, you will MISS it. You may come to
church, but you will miss  the incarnation. It will not touch you. A man
must be prepared for anything that is of value. You must prepare, so
that you can inculcate virtue into your hearts, and know what it is that
the Lord wants you to know. Now, we prepare not as the world prepares,
right? The world prepares with frivolity, and partying.  Now, they are
already forgetting. I saw a sign on the way to church yesterday,
?classes start January seventh¦. On the Nativity of our Lord, most are
going back to their merchandise, and their business. 

There is some background preceding this parable which we must know. The
Lord was at a gathering, and discussing theology with Pharisees and
such. This parable is in reaction to what a Pharisees has just said.
Let-s look hear the verses immediately preceding Jesus- response. 

?Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a
supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor
thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be
made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the
lame, the blind:  And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense
thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. And
when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said
unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.¦

This Pharisee made a correct statement, but with an incorrect
understanding. He  was thinking, blessed is the Jew that shall eat bread
in the kingdom of God, and our Lord  gave this parable partially to say
to him, and all the Jews, ?No, Pharisee, it is not just the Jews  that
will eat bread with me, it is all that will worship me as God. It is all
that live according to who I am. Your inheritance is  not in your
bloodline, but it is in how you  live, and how you act, and how you
believe.¦ After all, in another time, just  before they were going to
crucify Him, what did He say: ?And think not to say within yourselves,
We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of
these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.¦ And you know what? I am
 a stone, you are a stone. The Gentiles are the stones that He would
raise up as children to Abraham. Now, in the church,  those that have no
Abrahamic blood in them outnumber those that are Jews by race. 

This parable is much more than  an indictment of the misunderstanding of
the Pharisee. It is very important to understand this, but even more
important, here we see God-s economy,  His great love for mankind. It is
truly awesome, and difficult to speak of, how God loves us so, and  how
He is so assiduous in His care for us, that we would know Him. Listen
carefully, as we go through the short verses of this parable. Listen to
the care God is taking in preparing us for the revelation of Himself in
us. Then, contrast  that with the heedlessness of these people He spoke
with, and tremble and learn. See if there is anything in your  heart
that is like any of these people, and amend yourself. You don-t have
much time, I tell you. Your life is but a vapor. You have  very little
time to repent, very little time to inculcate virtue in your heart.
Whether you live a hundred more years, or  whether you die today, you
still have very little time, and this is the period, right now, to
especially think on these things, and prepare yourself, so that when God
reveals Himself, as He surely will, you will know Him. You won-t miss

?THE LORD SAID THIS PARABLE: A certain man made a great supper, and bade
many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were
bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. ?

Such theology, in one sentence! Such  symbolism, such truth, such love.
What is this great supper?  It is the incarnation of our Lord  and
Savior, Jesus Christ, and all the implications of that great event. And
it is great, because we cannot fathom  it. It is the mystery of our
salvation, which we cannot understand, but we can be warmed by it, and
enlightened by it, and saved by it, even though we don-t completely, and
never will completely understand God. It is a supper, not a dinner.  I
did not understand this distinction until I came to the South. In the
North, we considered supper and dinner to be the same meal, but
actually, supper indicated the evening meal.  The evening meal is Christ
coming in the latter times. At  a particular time he made the supper,
and at supper time He said to His servant, go to them that were bidden. 

And Who is this who is that is making the supper? It is God, our Father,
who loves  us, and desired good things for us. He spreads a table laden
with delicacies,  and the fatted calf, His own son, for us. Who is this
servant? None  other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who refers to Himself
as a servant, because He was willing to be made  in the form of a
servant. He, being God, despised not becoming man, and becoming a
servant, obedient to His father  in all things, Who He was completely
equal to, as God.  

Who are them, that were  bidden? In the beginning, these were the Jews.
Later, it would be everyone, every man. Did you see that is a double
calling? ?To say to them that were bidden¦ v they were already bidden,
and He is going out again to call them, and say ?Come, all things are
made ready¦.  This call is resounding to us now. It resounds to every

We are called in two ways. First of all, every man has the internal law
written on his heart. Doesn-t the apostle say this in his epistle to the
Romans? It-s written in our hearts v every  man knows something of God,
because God has created Him. And every man reaches our to God because it
is natural for the created to reach out to the creator. There is an
inner reason that will surely lead a man towards God, if he  does not
let his sin interfere. It-s built into us. 

Now, with this inner condition that predisposes a man towards searching
for God, and desiring Him, a man is made ready to hear the Gospel, to 
hear the preaching and the teaching of the holy church, to see the life
of the church, and to be enlightened by every aspect of our life, and 
to have life in Christ. There are these two callings, and both of them 
are operating simultaneously in us at all times. The first calling
prepares for the second. 

?And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto
him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I
pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of
oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another
said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come¦

?They all with one consent¦ v do you know who that was? He was indicting
the Jews, and especially the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who with one
consent would eventually have him crucified. 

And they all made excuses for themselves. These excuses are, in
microcosm, the sins that keep a man away from God. 

One bought a piece of  ground. He was a lover of possessions, He was
looking down. He was a lover of earthly things. He was a lover of
wealth. Another one had bought five yoke of oxen. The fathers speak of
these as indicating the five senses, and a yoke shows  they apply
equally to everyone, to both sexes, because a yoke holds two oxen. 

The senses are a great gift, given to  us by God. Our church understands
this, because our faith is truly a sensual faith. We feel our faith. We
see our faith, in our icons, in the incense, in our  liturgics, in our
preaching and teaching. We use all of our senses. We taste and see that
the Lord is good, literally, as well as in a spiritual way. The senses
are given to us for our enlightenment, and to  bring God into our
hearts. The senses are not evil v far from it - it depends on how one
uses the senses.  We must be always having this prayer on our lips from
the communion prayers, communion prayers: ?Purify my soul, sanctify my
mind, enlighten the simplicity of my five senses.¦ The senses are good
and holy, but when they are used only for pleasure, and the living of
our life, then they contribute to our damnation, because they blind us
to the one who created the senses. 

Another one married a wife, and this is a metaphor for lust, and illicit
pleasures in life.  Of course, we understand that lawful marriage is a
great blessing.  ?Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled:
but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.¦  So it says. Marriage
is good, but to be caught up in pleasures is evil. As an aside, I tell
you, those  that are married, and those that may someday be married, we
fast from the flesh sometimes, during the fasts, according to our
strength, we fast from martial  relations. This is not because in any
way that marital relations are sinful, because the bed is undefiled, but
in order so that we  do not allow any gift that God has given us to
control us, and as the Apostle says, to devote ourselves to prayer. 

Pope Gregory the Dialogist has said some marvelous things about this
parable in his marvelous sermon, and I must share this with you. 

There are two kinds of hunger in the world. There is carnal hunger, a
natural hunger. Everyone has it.  These sins are all carnal type things,
wanting money or wealth, indulging in the pleasures of life, or even in
illicit things. Eventually, the indulging in carnal pleasures leads to
satiety, and even revulsion. A man who gorges himself with food will
eventually pull away from the table, and will not want food for a long
time.  It is the same , really, with any other kind of pleasure. We get
tired of it. We have enough of it. 

Spiritual hunger is much different than this. It takes a longer time to
develop a palate for spiritual things. The sweetness of the Lord is so
sweet, that He  is too sweet for us, until we have lived the Christian
life for a period of time, and struggles, and then He becomes so sweet 
that all we want to do is taste of Him. In the beginning, this food
appears bland, or even unpalatable to us. We must learn to continually
strive to taste of the Lord, to taste of spiritual things, even though
they might not  appear to us to be so pleasurable compared to the
inticements of the world, the flesh pots of Egypt, shall we say. If we
do this, surely the Lord will enlighten us, and He will become sweet to
us, and we will want nothing else beside the Lord. 

Men barter carnal things over and over for their salvation. An honest
man realizes that he does this too, even  if only on a small scale. So I
tell you again, the clarion bell has sounded, the final preparation for
the Nativity. We must make ready. We must consider within ourselves v do
we have a field, or a yoke of oxen, or a wife that we are paying more
attention to than the Lord? I speak in spiritual terms of course. If we
are, is it endangering us, to turn down His invitation? I tell you,
these people, who said they did not want to come to the supper did not
even know what they were turning down. They were too taken with what
they were doing at the moment. They  did not know that they were
rejecting our  Lord permanently. 

?So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master
of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the
streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the
maimed, and the halt, and the blind.¦

Here is something great, and something terrible. It is impossible to
understand v how much our Lord loves us. He sees that the Jews have
rejected Him, and indeed, He  sees that many other men have rejected
Him, and He is angry, but He is full of love. And He says ?go out
QUICKLY, with haste in to the  streets, the lanes of the city. Go find
people that are lost. Go struggle to bring them to me¦. And those that
are poor, maimed, halt and blind are ourselves, brothers and sisters. We
are those things of which the Lord has spoken: ?But God hath chosen the
foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen
the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.¦ 
First the Jews, later the Gentiles v behold the great patience of our
God, and His care for us. 

Now what about these streets, and the lanes?  Streets and lanes
crisscross  and wind, and are hilly, and sometimes are overgrown and
rutted. Sometimes they are very hard to  negotiate. It is very easy to
get lost, and it takes great  labor to find your way along them. This is
what our Lord did. Didn-t He labor more than all? Didn-t He go onto 
lanes to find the Samaritan woman? Didn-t  He  proceed with great effort
across  a tempestuous sea to free the Gadarene demoniac? Didn-t He free
the ten lepers (and yet only one was truly freed)? Didn-t He cure the
affliction  of the Canaanite woman-s daughter? He sought out and found
those that had need, and He  gave them all that they needed. 

?And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet
there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the
highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be
filled. ?

What is this? Our Lord still cares. Do you see how complete  His care is
for us? ?Go out into the highways¦ v and where are highways? They are
far away from the city. They lead a man FAR AWAY from God, like the
prodigal son, far, far away. What of these hedges? Thieves hide in
hedges, and wild beasts and snakes, and they are  dangerous to a man.
Our Lord goes even  into the highways and the hedges. He searches every
corner of the earth for a man that will believe in Him. 

What is this word, ?compel¦? What an amazing thing our Lord says!
?Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled!¦ After all, in
another place, He said that in my Fathers house there are many mansions.
There is room for all, if  only all will believe. 

But what is this ?compelling¦? We have free will, and God does not force
any man to believe, but love compels a man to act. This compelling is
from God caring for us so  much that we finally begin to notice. It is
from Him becoming incarnate for  our sake, living and being born in
humble circumstances, having no roof under which to lay His head, being
hated and despised, and finally crucified, and being maligned and
slandered and blasphemed by so many. And it is the actions of the
Apostles, and the incredible feats of  bravery of the martyrs and the
saints that COMPEL us  to live the Christian life. 

When one looks upon these things, one is so  filled with awe, if you
truly understand  it, you MUST live the Christian life! How can you do
anything else? It is like a spring that is flowing out of your belly.
Didn-t the Lord say that:  ?He that believeth on me, as the scripture
hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.¦? Can you
stop  the river from flowing down the mountain side? Can you stop the
waterfall from falling? It not possible! The water is COMPELLED to fall,
and so are we, by God-s incredible love for us. You see the incredible
beauty, the profound love of our Savior for us. His love gives us no
other option, but to follow Him. But indeed, there are some that  don-t
follow Him. A tragedy. 

?For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall
taste of my supper. For many are called, but few are chosen.¦

He speaks of the men that are bidden  that did not obey the call, and
yet, He tried  to compel them by showing them goodness, and grace, and
mercy. And they did not listen, because they were  concerned about their
grounds, or their lusts, their pleasures, their pride. They were
concerned about everything, save holiness, and sanctity, and

These are marvelous words,  and they are terrible words! They give us
hope that indeed, God  will save us, because we see how much He cares.
We see how much He pursues us. They also show that we will have no
excuse if we do not obey His call, in the end. 

Who are those who are called? All mankind is called, every man. Who are
the chosen? Those are chosen who obey the call. We can decide if we are
of the chosen, or are of the goats on the left hand side. It is our
decision, and although  the Lord desires top compel us, He will not
force us. But, if  we live the Christian life with care, we WILL be
compelled. It  will not be possible for us to do anything but love our
Savior and be pleasing to Him. 

You must, as Christians, struggle to feel in all ways compelled to love
your Savior. In every way. Now, we have a few days left. Let us continue
our preparation. Let us hope, that despite our sins, in  light  of our
Savior-s great love for us, that He will enlighten us, that He will make
us able to see Him,  that He will help us with whatever sins beset us v
because I tell you, our  sins are trivial compared His mercy. We only
need to understand that, we only need  to struggle against our sins, and
God will help us. Amen. 

Bibliography	Old Believer Sermon (unpublished).

The One Thing Needful, Archbishop Andrei	Parables of the Gospel, St.
Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome

Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, St. Cyril, Archbishop of
Alexandria	Drops From the Living Water, Bishop Augustinos N. Kantiotes

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	 This homily was transcribed from one given On December 16th,  1996
according to the church calendar, being the Sunday of the Holy
Forefathers, which is always celebrated  2 Sundays before Nativity

	There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several
footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a
colloquial, ?spoken¦ style. 

	It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the
reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as
attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the
soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the
preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such
circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read
on a page. 

	 The actual progenitors of Christ are commemorated the following
Sunday. This is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, which is always the
Sunday immediately preceding Nativity. The Gospel reading for this day
is from the very beginning of St. Matthew-s Gospel. 

	 Luke 14:12-15

	 Matthew 3:9

	 Economy is a complex term that indicates God-s action in the world,
and His revelation of Himself to mankind. It is also used (and many
times misused) to indicate the action of the pastors of the church in
applying the canons and all of the Christian law to an individual. For
example, ?by economy¦ a bishop may allow a divorce, or second marriage,
or lessen the usual epitemia (a period of time, during which a Christian
is required to abstain from Communion, and possibly do other things, as
part of their therapeutic treatment from their confessor)  for a certain
sin, such as adultery. It is also used, and grossly misunderstood in may
places to allow certain people to enter the church by means of
chrismation, rather than baptism and chrismation, because of certain
very specialized circumstance that are described in the Holy Canons.

	 Cf. James 4:14 ?Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For
what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little
time, and then vanisheth away.¦

	 Luke 14:16-17

	 Cf. Philippians 2:5-8 ?Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to
be equal with God:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him
the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being
found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even the death of the cross.¦

	 Cf. Romans 1:14-15 ?For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do
by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law,
are a law unto themselves:  Which show the work of the law written in
their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts
the mean while accusing or else excusing one another¦

	 Luke 14:18-20

	 Prayer of St. Symeon the Translator, from the Prayers after Holy

	 Hebrews 13:4

	 Cf. 1 Cor 7:5, ?Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with
consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer;
and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your

	 The church has always understood Exodus 16:3, ?And the children of
Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD
in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat
bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to
kill this whole assembly with hunger.¦, to indicate the turning away
from God that all mankind does when they pursue their own will and

	 Luke 14:21

	 ! Corinthians 1:27

	 Luke 14:22-24

	 Cf. John 14:2 ?In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not
so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.¦

	 Cf. Matthew 8:20 ?And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and
the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to
lay his head.¦

	 John 7:38

	 Luke 14:24

The Sunday of the Holy forefathers

The Great Supper

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