Getting to Know Our Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Faith — 20141214

Although it is not evident from the proper prayers we use for the Divine Liturgy on this weekend when we remember the Forefathers of Jesus Christ, the prayers of Vespers highlight in particular the Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Children who were miraculously saved from the fires of a furnace and were said to have been companions of Daniel. In one of the prayers we say: Faith can accomplish great things. Through it, the Three Holy Children rejoice in the flames as if they had been in refreshing water and Daniel, in the midst of lions, is like a shepherd among sheep. Through their intercession, O Christ God, save our souls.

As another Vesper prayer states, the Three Holy Children are believed to have prefigured the mysteries of the Holy Trinity and of   the Incarnation of Christ. They were, the prayer state, a prefigure of Your coming from the Virgin, which enlightened us without burning us.

Tradition has maintained that Daniel prophesied, especially in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, the coming of the Son of Man. As we all know, it is said that Jesus chose to use this title during His public ministry.

Daniel is one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. The biblical account of Daniel begins as he and other young men from Judah were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon around the year 604 BCE. This captivity of citizens of Judah in Babylon lasted for 70 years, as God had foretold through the prophet Jeremiah. During this time, Daniel served in prominent positions in the governments of several Babylonian and Medo-Persian rulers, which included Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus.

In the first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel came to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah that   predicted a 70-year captivity of the people of Israel. The Book of Daniel was written primarily for the purpose of encouraging the Jews to remain faithful to their ancestral religion at a time when they not only felt   the allurement of the worldly culture of Hellenism but were suffering a bloody persecution. Daniel was concerned in particular with demonstrating the superiority of the wisdom of Israel’s God over the merely human wisdom of the society. Difficult given the fact that they were in captivity. His message, which has true meaning for us, is that God is the master of history, who uses the rise and fall of nations as preparatory steps in the true establishment of his universal reign over all men.

It is not by chance, I believe, that our Church, following the Byzantine tradition, integrates these ideas into our preparation for the winter feasts which celebrate God’s Manifestation of Himself to the world. As Daniel called his people to reject the allurement of the world of their time, our Church does the same. Christmas can be anything but a Holy Day. Don’t get caught up in the materialism of our society!


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