Wednesday, December 19, 2012




Great are the achievements of faith!  

“In the fountain of  flames, as though refreshing water,
the holy three servants rejoiced. 
Prophet Daniel showed himself to be a shepherd 
of lions as if sheep.

These holy men were Christians before Christ was born!
They were Christian martyrs before holy church martyrs.
They were baptized in fire before holy Baptism.
  They were filled with Holy Spirit before Pentecost
They were in the company of the Son of man before He became a man!
They radiated Christian virtues before Christianity.  

      Their faith and lives remain an example for all Christians, especially  martyrs.  Behold, before us are Daniel and his fellow three servants, Shadrach,  Mesach and Abednego also known as Ananias, Azarius and Mishael. The king sent out his decree demanding worship of his huge golden idol or being thrown into the fiery flames of the furnace. The three youths did not bow and this was reported to the king, who asked them if they did indeed refused to bow down. The three servants bravely and unhesitatingly defied Nebuchadnezzar, rejecting the command to bow down before his golden idol,  and thus the king consigned them to death in the fiery flaming furnace. (details below) Then O wonder of wonders, the flames were not burning them,  but were like a cool breeze as they stood rejoicing and chanting praises to the  God of heaven, and these hymns have been immortalized and are continuously sung in the Church.

       The three servants nourished with prayer,  their perfect faith being in God whom they loved with all their hearts.  They were God-fearing, faithful, humble,  brave, holy, and their lives were filled with divine hope of everlasting life. Their martyrdom and way of life served, and continues to serve,  as an example for countless of Christian  martyrs.  The Church repeatedly raises its voice in hymns of praise which rises to heaven like incense, praising the three holy servants.  Praising their faith and hope inspires us to emulate them, their character and nature. How blessed are they for from selfless love of  God, fearlessly endured the fiery flames, and thus were joined with  the Son of man as they sang their songs of praise.

     Upon hearing of the glory of the three servants*  we ought to further consider why these three servants are commemorated so often, and who they are.  As the Orthodox Church is the true church in our day, worshiping the true God, keeping His commandments,  so the Hebrew faith was the true faith in their day, worshiping the true God, and keeping His commandments given by God to Moses. We too ought to faithfully obey the commandments of Jesus Christ, diligently keeping  every word, for in doing so we will be blessed like the servants.   The three youths, having done everything as one,   symbolize the Holy Trinity, not yet revealed to them but depicted by them to us in the fiery furnace.  In the present Christmas season, together with Daniel the Prophet, the beloved of God, they are commemorated during this week since Monday the 17th.  The  glorious events took place  during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews about six centuries before Christ.

     There are three descriptive nouns being used in churches: the three children, the three servants, and the three youths.  Children is inappropriate because these three were soldiers, also Nebouchadnezzar refers to them as three men. Youths is better for they were young men, but in the writer’s opinion, more accurate  is servants especially servants of God. The word used for children (pethes) also means servants in  the original Greek.

       The holy Prophet  Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, (in Hebrew form) and Ananias,  Azarius and Misael in the Greek Septuagint,  were all from Judah, of the royal tribe of the house of David.  Daniel the Prophet being  graced with Holy Spirit from God could read people’s minds and hearts and interpret dreams sent by God, and his grace from God radiated toward all, especially toward king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was humbleminded, meek and benevolent toward everyone.  Because he alone was  to interpret the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar, therefore the king respected him and his wise advice.  He and the three servants, although in captivity in Babylon,  far from their native home,  always remained  close to God.  They knew that God never abandons those who love Him and keep His commandments. They  loved God even more for His goodness and compassion and love toward Israel, His beloved.


    Daniel being a great Prophet foretold the coming of different kingdoms into the world and finally he prophesied of the coming  Kingdom of Christ, the Messiah:

“The stone was cut out of a mountain without hands, and it smote the image . . . and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:34-35).

Many Byzantine hymn-writers called the Virgin Theotokos, the “uncut mountain”. In the Akathist we hear: “Rejoice, Mountain whole and unhewn by man!”

St. Theophanes the Hymnographer, Bishop of Nicaea says:  “The divine Daniel clearly describes you as a mountain,  Pure Virgin” and  “Daniel; perceived the Ever-virgin. The all-pure maiden, as the noetic mountain from where was cut the chief Cornerstone who has crushed all falsehood.”

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and his kingdom shall not be left to another people, but it shall beat to pieces and grind to powder all other kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  Whereas you saw that a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands, and it beat to pieces the earthenware, the iron, the brass, the silver, the gold. The great God has made known to the king what must happen hereafter; and the dream is true and the interpretation thereof is certain”  (Dan.2:44-45).

   King Nebuchadnezzar realized that Daniel worshiped the true God because of his beautiful character and  ability to correctly interpret his dreams.  He gave the three servants a high position , while Daniel remained in the King’s palace as an advisor.

 Then king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and bowed down to Daniel, and gave orders to offer him gifts and incense.  And the king answered and said to Daniel, Of a truth your God is a God of gods, and Lord of kings, who reveals mysteries, for you have been given to reveal this mystery. And the king promoted Daniel, and gave him great and abundant gifts . . . and he appointed Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego over the affairs of Babylon.

However, the king had his own ideas about the true God and  gods, and did not really honor the true God as we next hear from  him.


    “Then in his 18th year, Nebuchadnezzar erected a huge golden idol in a Babylon province on the plain of Dura.  He then called forth all the various authorities and rulers in his kingdom, and sent his herald to announce:

    “To you it is commanded, you peoples, tribes, and languages, at the hour you shall hear the sound of the trumpet, and pipe, and harp, and sackbut, and psaltery, and every kind of music, you shall fall down to worship the golden image which King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  And whoever shall not fall down and worship, in the same hour he shall be cast into the burning fiery furnace ”
 (Dan. 3:4-6).

      Then wicked accusers came to the king, saying: “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon  – Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego – who have not obeyed your decree, O king” (Dan.3:12).  The king called for them to be brought to him in order to frighten the m with his threats:  “Then Nebuchadnezzar in wrath and anger commanded that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be brought before him, and he asked them, Is it true Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not bow down to my gods and do not worship the golden image which I have set up?”

Then he severely threatened them, saying  that if they refused to bow down and worship his golden image: 

     “You shall be cast into the burning fiery furnace, and who is the god that shall deliver you out of my hand ? They answered and said to king Nebuchadnezzar, We have no need to answer you in this matter.  For our God whom we worship is in the heavens, able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will rescue us from your hands O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not worship your image which you have set up.”

  Then Nebuchadnezzar, filled with wrath ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual.  He commanded that they be tied and cast into the furious flaming furnace. The furnace was now exceedingly  hot.

     “They fell bound in the midst of the furnace, and walked in the flames singing praises to God, and blessing the Lord. When Nebuchadnezzar heard them singing, he wondered, then said to his nobles Did we not throw three men bound  into the furnace? And they said: Yes O king. And the king said, But I see four men loose, and walking in the midst of the fire. And there is no harm afflicting them, and the appearance of the fourth is like the Son of God.


     Seeing before his eyes what had happened, the king had them taken from the furnace, and he blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and threatened with death anyone who should reproach their God, for there is no other God who can deliver like this, said the king. Later the Prophet told the king what was going to happen to him for his great sins, which was fulfilled. He  lost his sanity, went into the wilderness and became just like an ox, on all fours eating  grass or hay. After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar, stood up on his feet and prayed to the God of heaven and He returned him to sanity.

   Is it any wonder, that we experience great joy when we hear of their encounter with Nebuchadnezzar, their being cast into the terrible flames and remaining  unharmed, even their clothes were not damaged.  For they had a flaming fire in their souls, fiery flames of fear and love for God, and complete willingness to lay down their lives for truth and the true God.  The three were as one in all their lives and witnessed to the true God, and were thus images of the Holy Trinity.

     Their entire ordeal with King Nebuchadnezzar are among the martyrdoms of the Orthodox Church, which in 2012 was on December 17th It is important to note, that they completely kept the fast, offered daily prayers in the morning, noon and night. They placed nothing in this world before God, and they became His faithful and worthy servants.

     Daniel and the Three Servants, did not live during the time of the Incarnation when the Son of God became the Son of man, and   lived among us filled with grace and truth. They did not have the Mysteries of Baptism or Chrismation nor the royal Priesthood. They did not witness the Godman hanging on the Cross, nor did they partake of His life-giving Body and Blood. They did not witness the Resurrection nor where they present at Pentecost. But they were extremely faithful and humbly practised their true faith. They loved God with all their souls, long before Christ came down to us. They did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives for God in the fiery furnace . They did not seek worldly treasure but treasures in heaven and eternal life.  What will happen to us Christians if we neglect such a great salvation, which has been offered to us, and  which they did not receive?  What will happen to us if we love the world and the things in the world, and neglect obedience to and love of Jesus Christ, who hanged on the Cross for us? What will happen to us when we partake of his awesome Mysteries and fail to change our lives and live in the newness of life? Daniel and the three servants will shine like the sun and we will be ashamed. What must we do?

       With the coming Feast Day of the birth of Christ by the Virgin in the manger, let us decide this day to also give birth to Christ, by keeping His commandments, by coming alive in prayer, and by loving Him more than anything in existence. Then partaking of Him in the Eucharist, we will be enabled to give birth to Him by our works and Christ-like example.  We must become red hot for the Lord Christ, for He warns us: “I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot, but because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 4:15-16).

In next sequence: 
A calendar question.  Does heaven celebrate Christmas on the old or new calendar?

Which Christmas icons are done improperly, contradicting truth?
Why the magi should not be shown at Christmas, according to Scripture?


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