Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ Reveals our Orthodox Christian Heritage

The value of being a witness was very important in the ancient Church. We can see this value in the Gospel Reading for the Sunday before Christmas wherein we read the genealogy of Christ. Saint Matthew begins his Gospel with this account of Jesus’ earthly heritage to confirm His humanity and lineage according to Jewish tradition. When the ancient Church was establishing the method of selection leaders the value of witness was confirmed. “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” (Acts 1.21-22) The Holy Apostles taught us that a living witness was critical in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. Once selected new leaders were ordained with the “Laying on of hands,” (Acts 6.6) to confirm this connection as a living witness.

The Church has stood for two thousand years as a living witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our leaders have been elected and confirmed following this same ancient practice of physical continuity established by the Holy Apostles. Just as the genealogy of Jesus Christ was taught to affirm the reality of who Jesus Christ is, similarly the genealogy of the Church is taught to affirm the reality of what the Church is – the living Body of Christ which came into the world for the salvation of the world. The genealogy of the Church is nothing other than Apostolic Succession and our unique heritage as Greek Orthodox Christians can be traced through Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle. Our current Patriarch, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinopole is the 270th successor to the Holy Apostle Andrew.

From Abraham to Christ and from Saint Andrew to Patriarch Bartholomew, our heritage has continued for more than two thousand years as a “light for the revelation of the Gentiles and glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2.32)

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