Δευτέρα, 26 Δεκεμβρίου 2016

"Out of Egypt Have I Called My Son"



Faith Encouraged
 
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
The Christian Church has been around a long time! And the place it’s existed the longest is the place where it first sprang up. The Church is, at it’s heart, a Semitic Faith, an Eastern Faith. And that’s because the Christian Church is the fulfillment of the promises made by God to Abraham, the father of the Faithful. So there are a lot of Jewish elements in the history of the Christian Faith. In fact, all of the early Christians were Jewish!
But Christianity didn’t stay there in Palestine, because Judaism was an empire-wide religion in the Roman Empire. And the fact that the Church quickly covered most (if not all) the territory of the Roman Empire meant that it included people from different cultures, language, and ethnicity.
Look at our lesson today Matthew 2:13-23:
When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Why did God send the Holy Family to Egypt? Was it because God wasn’t able to protect the Lord and His mother and foster-father? Of course, that’s ridiculous. God isn’t weak.
Photo from here!
But He is loving, and He loves all His creation. And God wants all His creation to know Him in His fullness. And, since that’s actually not possible because God is forever beyond us, God enters His creation as a human through one of our human race. The eternal reality of God’s difference from us is insurmountable to us. He is Uncreated and we are created. He is the Cause of being and we are beings. He is Noncontingent; we are forever contingent. We are dependent for our existence on Him and He is dependent on no one for His existence. This is a big deal!
And it’s why we Orthodox insist on the cosmic worship that draws us to awe and not merely reduce worship to religious education or moral education. We NEED AWE to ever enjoy being with our AWESOME God.
So, after all that, why Egypt? And the reason is because God wanted Egypt to have a heritage of Christianity; to have a cultural memory that would be the seed of Faith for the African continent. And, in fact, the Christian Faith was planted in Egypt by St. Mark the Apostle around 50 AD. The Faith spread there quickly and St. Mark may have encountered people who “remembered” the Holy Family in Egypt when Christ was born! What an amazing reality!
St Mark (from here)
The whole purpose of this narrative about the Family escaping to Egypt and eventually returning to the town of Nazareth was to further the planting of this amazing event of God Enfleshing Himself for our sakes! And to do this in such a way that would change human history forever!
So, today, as we continue the celebration of the Incarnation; God’s loving invasion of rebel planet Earth, know God’s purpose is to have you fully embrace the amazing message of Joy and Hope in seeing God’s display of His loving Power in coming as a humble and weak baby that would grow to be the Risen Conqueror of Death and hell!
Merry Christmas!

P.S. Just a few days left in this year. Start turning your thinking to 2017, not with dread, but hope and joy. And do that by embracing the rhythm of prayer and worship in our precious Orthodox Church!

Fr. Barnabas PowellAbout Fr. Barnabas Powell
Fr. Barnabas is the parish priest at Sts. Raphael, Nicholas, and Irene Greek Orthodox Church in Cumming, Georgia. He is also host of Faith Encouraged Live on Ancient Faith Radio and author of the Faith Encouraged podcast.

“Out of Egypt have I called my Son.”
 
Icon from here
 

St. Matthew is quoting the prophet Hosea; who, in turn, was speaking with the voice of God. He said, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt have I called my son.” Hosea continued, “But the more I called Israel, the more they went from me. They sacrificed to the Baals, and burned incense to graven images.” (Hos. 11:1-2)
The prophet Hosea was speaking of the Exodus of the Jews from Israel. St. Matthew gives a new perspective: What had occurred with the deliverance of the Jews had taken place long before the prophecy was spoken. Thus, the prophecy was not fulfilled until Christ was born, and fled with Joseph and Mary into Egypt. The Jews had gone down into Egypt to avoid death by famine; Christ went down to avoid death from Herod’s jealousy and hatred. Life can be found in the most unlikely places.
The fathers tell us that, with Babylon, Egypt is a symbol of the world’s ungodliness [Note of our blog: because of idol worship]. In the coming of the Magi to worship Christ, we see Babylon acknowledging Him as king, and more. With Christ coming to Egypt, that land also will be transformed. Egypt is sanctified by Christ’s entry there; and Egypt over time turns to Him, becoming a paradise of monastics, such as St. Anthony the Great. “Out of Egypt have I called my Son”; and out of Egypt come many who glorify Him by being living bearers of His holy likeness.
We also are called to be sons of God; and we, who are worldly, we, who are ungodly, are sanctified by the entry of Christ. He enters us at the time of our baptism; and we receive Him, He enters us, when we receive the Mystery of Holy Communion. We are meant to turn to Him, and to be holy, leaving behind the things of this world, and applying ourselves to the toils and struggles by which the virtues we lack are to be obtained.
Brothers and sisters: The prophecy is fulfilled: “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” We are called out of this world to live for Christ. We are called out of sin and ungodliness to holiness. We are called out of death to life eternal. Let us not be as those before, who, having been delivered, turned their backs on God. Let us embrace the Orthodox Church, and faith, and way of life, so that we may be transformed; and so bear witness to the Son of God. 


Orthodox Christmas 2016 in Cairo, photo from here

See also

The Flight of the Holy Family Into Egypt

Ancient Christian faith (Orthodox Church) in Africa 
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
 

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