SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON (February 20th)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE

SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON

"What pleasure and joy you feel when you find some necessary and
valuable object which was lost! You are ready to leap with joy.
Picture to yourself how pleasing to the Heavenly Father is the sight
of His lost child, the sinner who is found; the sight of His lost sheep
brought to life again; the sight of His lost and found piece of silver–
that is, OF THE LIVING IMAGE OF GOD–MAN. It is impossible to
describe this joy. The joy of the Heavenly Father over His lost and
found prodigal son is so great that the whole loving and kind heaven
is moved to joy. "Joy shall be in heaven OVER ONE SINNER THAT
REPENTETH." My lost brethren and sinners! return from the way of
destruction to the Heavenly Father. "REPENT YE, FOR THE KINGDOM
OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND." (Saint John of Kronstadt)

On this day we celebrate the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, a Parable
found in the Sacred Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk. 15:11-32).
The most hallowed Fathers appointed this lesson to be the Second
Sunday service of the TRIODION.

"If anyone should be a prodigal as I, well then, take courage! For the
gates of God’s compassion have been opened to all."

Inasmuch as there are some who are consciously aware of many improper thoughts, and deeds, as they have lived in profligacy from their earliest years, they acknowledge how they have occupied themselves with dissipating habits as drunkenness and wantonness. Furthermore, they have fallen into such depths of evil that they have come to despair of their condition, which is born of one’s false pretensions, boastfulness, and empty babbling. As a consequence, they in no wise desire the diligent pursuit of virtue, putting forward as an excuse their many wicked acts. Since they choose to remain in this bondage, they are always falling into the same bad habits and even worse evils. The Holy Fathers, possessing philanthropic and paternal care for the plight of such persons and desiring to lead them out of their rejection and desperation, prescribed the present Parable at the threshold of the Great Fast. They did so IN ORDER TO MAKE MANIFEST THE MAGNITUDE OF GOD’S BOWLS OF MERCY. Thus, by revealing God’s love for man and His surpassing goodness, the Holy Fathers STRIVE TO UPROOT THE PASSION OF DESPAIR AND TO INSPIRE SUCH SINNERS TO TAKE UP THE LIFE OF VIRTUE. By this Parable given by Christ, the Holy Fathers purposed TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THERE IS NO SIN WHATSOEVER THAT CAN OVERCOME GOD’S LOVE TOWARD MANKIND.

The Parable involves a father and his two sons. The father represents God. Now the God-Man Logos created man very good, but there came came TO BE TWO TYPES: THE RIGHTEOUOS ONES AND THE SINNERS. The two sons in the Parable REPRESENT TWO KINDS OF MEN. On the one hand, the elder son kept God’s Commandments, always doing what is good and never rebelling against the Lord. But on the other hand, the younger son, desiring sin rather than living together with God, took pu a conduct of life that was profligate. He REJECTED GOD, wasting God’s Loving-kindness for man, by means of his shameful deeds. The younger son did not wish to preserve intact the image and similitude in which he was made. Instead, HE CHOSE TO FOLLOW THE EVIL DEMON, BRINGING HIMSELF INTO BONDAGE TO HEDONISM AND DOING THE WILL OF THE DEMON. Bu it came to pass that the younger son still was unable to satisfy his desire. This is BECAUSE SIN IS ULTIMATELY DISSATISFYING, DESPITE HABITUAL PLEASURE THAT IS TEMPORARY.

Christ, in the Parable, then compares the husks, the little-horned shaped carob-pods fed to the swine, which initially taste sweet, but they turn out in the end rough and chaffy, which is how sin takes possession. For the Prodigal had hardly come to his senses when, perishing from hunger for virtue, he says inwardly, "I WILL ARISE AND GO TO MY FATHER, AND WILL SAY TO HIM, ‘FATHER, I SINNED AGAINST HEAVEN AND BEFORE THEE’ (Luke 15:18), AND AM NO LONGER WORTHY TO BE CALLED THY SON (REPANTANCE OR METANOIA) [Luke 15:18-19).  Even before he says anything to him, the father ACCEPTS HIM IN REPENTANCE.  He does NOT REPROACH HIM, but RATHER ENFOLDS HIM WITH EMBRACES ADN KISSES IN A DISPLAY OF DIVINE AND FATHERLY LOVE.


   The Father gives him a garment, which is to say, BAPTISM; as A SEAL and token of earnest, the GRACE OF THE Holy Spirit, by putting a ring on his finger.  He also proceeds to give him footwear, sandals, in order the he might TREAD UPON SERPENTS AND SCORPIONS, AND UPON ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY, so that he should readily CRUSH THEIR HEADS.  Then, on account of his excessive joy, the father sacrifices the wheat-fed calf for him.  The sacrifice is a symbol of THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN Son of the Father Who ALLOWS THE REPENTANT MAN TO PARTAKE OF His Flesh and Blood.

    Thereupon, the elder son wonders at his father's SUPERABUNDANT COMPASSION.  He not only is angry but also IS UNWILLING TO GO IN TO THE FESTIVITIES.  This philanthropic father exhorts his elder son with gentle and calm words, saying,  "Child, thou art always with me, and all that is mine is thine" (Luke 15:31).  The father tells him IT IF FITTING FOR HIM TO MAKE MERRY AND REJOICE, SEEING THAT HIS BROTHER "WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE AGAIN, AND WAS LOST AND IS FOUND" (Luke15:32).  "Indeed, this son of God WAS DEAD IN SIN.  He HAD BEEN REVIVED BY REPENTING OF HIS IRRATIONAL PRACTISES.  "As he was lost and far from Me, God, ON ACCOUNT OF HIS HABITUAL HEDONISM.  He has been found by Me, Who SUFFERED IN My COMPASSION, AND RECALLED IN My sympathy.  It is possible for this Parable to be understood IN REGARD TO THE HEBREW PEOPLE AND US, THOSE WHO WERE CALLED BY GRACE.

   For this csause, this very Parable was prescribed by the Holy Fathers for the Second Sunday.  We who have sinned as the Prodigal are ENCOURAGED TO UPROOT REJECTION, DESPAIR, HOPELESSNESS, FEAR, AND COWARDICE BY MEANS OF GOOD WORKS (WORKS OF CHARITY) WITHOUT STUMBLING.  This account icites us TO A CHANGE OF MIND (METANOIA), REMORSE, AND REPENTANCE EVEN AS THAT EXHIBITED BY THE PRODIGAL.  ThIs is indeed a mighty weapon and strong bulwark that prevents and averts teh sadversary's arrows.

                                          In Thine ineffable love for mankind, 
                                O Christ our God, have mercy on us.  Amen.

(Source:  The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)

[To be continued]

__________________

"Glory Be To GOD
For
All Things!"

– Saint John Chrysostomos

+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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