On the Holy Ancestors.
In the Byzantine tradition, the second Sunday before the Feast of the Nativity is the Sunday of the Holy Ancestors, commemorating the human forebears of Jesus Christ. As Father Stephen Freeman noted yesterday, this reminder that Jesus had ancestors challenges those of us who live in a culture in which, to borrow from the title of a book on a different, but not unrelated, topic, many are 'without roots':
Such feasts [as this one] are absent in most of Christianity – as though Christ had come at a point in time without preparation – without ancestors. Just as many Christians refuse to recognize the blessedness of Mary, from whom Christ took flesh, so do they also refuse to recognize that "flesh" involves ancestry. It is a bothersome aspect of the incarnation of Christ. It would be so much easier for many to speak of Christ’s humanity if His humanity did not involve any other humans. Thus there are Christians who worship a God made man, who is no man at all.To read the rest of Father Stephen's post, click here. AMDG.
The traditional title for the grandparents of Christ (the parents of the Virgin Mary) is "the holy and righteous ancestors of God, Joachim and Anna." They are honored at every liturgy, being invoked as part of the dismissal. If the title, "Mother of God," can be tolerated by some, the title, "holy and righteous ancestors of God," is yet more problematic.
In many ways this is not surprising. The modern world is largely devoid of ancestors. Ancestors are inherently part of tradition, and modernity despises tradition – it rebels against tradition. Living in America, I am deeply aware the many of the current generation cannot cite their ancestors further back than grandparents. It is as though we were a culture that came from nowhere. Perhaps this has an element of truth.
To come "from somewhere," is to come with restrictions on freedom. It is to come with a history – perhaps a history of friends and enemies. This can, indeed, be destructive and counter-productive. But it also means that we come into the world without identity, and thus find the need to "invent" ourselves. And so it is that modern Christians think nothing of inventing their own version of Christianity – for they themselves have no inheritance – no received tradition.