The Fiery Furnace of Christmas

3youths.jpg

The three youths, wise in God,

who shone with joy in the furnace,

proclaimed the birth of Christ on earth;

For just as the Lord sent down a precious dew,

He preserved from the flame her who gave birth;

He keeps her undefiled and enriches her with divine gifts.

Therefore Daniel, pleasing to God, rejoiced and was glad,

For having foreseen the stone from the unquarried mountain,

he now prays in boldness on behalf of our souls.

From the “Lord I Call”, Sunday before the Nativity

The New Testament is indeed a fulfillment of the Old, and nothing can make this more clear than to stand through several of the Great Feasts of the Orthodox Christian year. The average Christian reader of the Old Testament would likely only see in the story of the Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace, a lesson in obedience – it is certainly at least that. But in the writings of the Fathers it is much more. Just as the hymn quoted above notes, their standing in a fiery furnace and yet being alive is seen as a type of Virgin Mary, whose womb will become a “fiery furnace,” when our God, who is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29), is incarnate within her. She is not consumed, but preserved. So too, she will be seen as the unquarried mountain (a Virgin), from whom the very Rock of the Corner will be taken. The images go on and on, one Testament enlightening the other if you have “eyes to see.” Thanks be to God for the liturgical riches of our faith that teach us to see “what eye has not seen” and to hear “what ear has not heard.” What a great mystery we prepare to celebrate!

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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2 responses to “The Fiery Furnace of Christmas”

  1. rdreusebios1 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,
    Fr. Bless!
    All I can say to this is Amin!
    His Unworthyy Servant,
    Rdr. Eusebios

  2. Matthew N. Petersen Avatar

    An–if it be not too wonderful–of us, who are given Christ as bread, as so consume the consuming fire, and though thereby we burn with fire, yet we are not consumed. Anima mea liquifacta est!

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