My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE
The Second Sunday of the Triodion (Sunday of the Prodigal)
Saint Gregory Palamas asks: “How did he disperse his substance? Above all, it is our inborn mind that is our substance and our wealth. As long as we are faithful to the ways of salvation, our mind is at one with itself and with God, the first and highest Mind. Whenever WE OPEN THE DOOR TO THE PASSIONS, IMMEDIATELY IT IS DISPERSED, WANDERING CONTINUALLY AMONG FLESHLY AND EARTHLY THINGS, ALL KINDS OF PLEASURES AND PASSIONATE THOUGHTS ABOUT THEM.
“You will see the same happening with all our virtues and faculties, which are truly our wealth. Evil IS ALWAYS NEAR AT HAND, and those who turn aside to it are dispersed. Our mind itself stretches out in longing toward the One God Who Is, the Only God, the Only Desired, the Only Bestower of pleasure unmixed with pain. But once the mind has been enfeebled, the soul’s ability FOR REAL LOVE FALLS AWAY FROM WHAT IS TRULY DESIRED. The SOUL IS SCATTERED AMONG VARIOUS LONGINGS FOR SENSUAL PLEASURES, IS DISPERSED, PULLED THIS WAY AND THAT BY DESIRES FOR SUPERFLUOUS FOODS, DISHONORABLE BODIES, USELESS OBJECTS, AS WELL AS EMPTY AND INGLORIOUS GLORY. So the wretched man IS CUT TO PIECES AND TORTURED BY THE CARES THESE THINGS BRING, AND CANNOT EVEN ENJOY BREATHING THE AIR OR SEEING THE SUN, THE RICHES WE ALL SHARE.
“If our mind has NOT distanced itself from God, it stirs up our anger against the devil alone. Such a mind puts the soul’s courage to use against THE EVIL PASSIONS, THE RULERS OF DARKNESS, AND THE SPIRITS OF WICKEDNESS. But if the mind DOES NOT heed the Divine Commandments of the Lord Who ARMED IT WITH THESE WEAPONS, IT FIGHTS AGAINST ITS NEIGHBORS, RAGES AGAINST ITS FELLOW COUNTRYMEN, AND HUNTS DOWN THOSE WHO DO NOT AGREE WITH ITS OWN ABSURD DESIRES. Such a man, alas, becomes a murderer. He is NOT ONLY like an animal, but like a reptile or some venomous creature: a scorpion, a snake, one of the viper’s brood, although he was appointed TO BE A SON OF GOD. Do you see how the younger son has dispersed and done away with his substance? He did not think yet about returning, profligate as he was, so he joined himself to a citizen of that country.
Saint Joseph the Hymnographer writes: “Ruled by corrupting thoughts, I am full of darkness and separated far from Thee, and I have lost all possession of myself. The Divine wealth that once Thou gavest me, I have sinfully wasted. I have departed from Thee and lived as the prodigal, O compassionate Father.”
“As he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that land; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine” (Luke 15:15).
Saint Ambrose wrote: “That citizen is seen to be the prince of this world (Satan). The younger son is sent to the farm bought by the man who excused himself from the Kingdom. He feeds swine, those, indeed, into which the devil sought to enter, which were cast into the sea of the world as they lived in filth and foulness.”
Blessed Theophylact wrote: “He feeds swine, that is, he became a teacher to others of evil and filthy practices.” And, “The citizens of that land far from God are all the demons.”
“And he was longing to fill his belly from the husks, which the swine were eating; and no one was giving to him” (Luke 15:16).
The husks (κερατίων) are little-horned shaped carob-pods. Saint Gregory Palamas asks: “Who are the citizens and rulers of that country far from God? The demons, of course… The life of pigs, because of its extreme filthiness, is symbolic of all the passions. Those who wallow in the mire of the passions are the pigs, of which the younger son was put in charge, as surpassing them all in self-indulgence. But he could not eat his fill of the husks the pigs ate, meaning that he ould not find satisfaction for his desires. Why is the nature of the body not adequate to seve teh impulses of the dissolute man? If someone who loves money gets gold or silver, his need for it grows, and the more it flows in, the more it increases his desire. So it was that the younger son, who had distanced himself from God, was not able to eat his fill. No one, it says, gave him enough to satisfy him. Who would be able to? God WAS ABSENT. As it is written: ‘I shall be filled when Thy glory is shown to me’ (Psalm 16:15). The devil, for his part, DOES NOT WANT TO SATISFY SHAMEFUL DESIRES. This is because satisfaction naturally produces a change in relation to what is being consumed. It stands to reason therefore taht no one gave the younger son enough to satisfy him.”
Elsewhere, Saint Gregory comments: “Now nothing is more deadly than gluttony. The younger son had embraced a piggish way of life and enjoyed thepig’s filth. He was thrown together with them and, once he had cast aside his similitude to God, he became like them.”
“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; make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:19).
Saint Gregory Palamas comments, “So the younger son, after he abandoned his sonship, came out of his own free will from his father’s holy country and fell into famine, finally passes judgment on himself. He HUMBLES HIMSELF and REPENTS. We were right when we said at the beginning that this Father is God. How could this son who had left his Father have sinned against heaven unless his Father was in heaven? …Brought to his senses BY HUMILITY, he is right to say, ‘MAKE ME AS ONE OF THY SERVANTS.’ Nobody can manage the steps of virtue ON HIS OWN, THOUGH ALSO NOT WITHOUT HIS OWN DELIBERATE CHOICE.’
“And he rose up and went to his father. But when he was yet far away, his father saw him and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and ardently kissed him” (Luke 15:20).
Saint Gregory Palamas writes: “How did the younger son come to him when he was still far away, so that his father, having compassion on him, came out to meet him? He who REPENTS IN HIS SOUL REACHES GOD BY HIS GOOD PURPOSE AND HIS REJECTION OF SIN. He is, however, still far from God, tyrannized mentally by habitual sins and failings, and he needs great compassion and help from above if he is to be saved.”
“And the son said to him, ‘Father, I sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no longer worthy to be called thy son [Luke 15:21]’. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Bring forth the robe, the chief one, and clothe him, and provide a ring for his hand and sandals for the feet” (Luke 15:22).
Blessed Theophylact states: “The slaves signify THE ANGELS, the ministering spirits who are sent to minister on account of those worthy of salvation… The Angels clothed those WHO HAVE CONVERTED FROM EVIL WITH THE ROBE, THE FIRST ONE, THAT IS, THE FORMER ONE OF OLD, WHICH WE WORE BEFORE WE SINNED, THE GARMENT OF INCORRUPTION; OR IT MEANS THAT GARMENT WHICH IS HONORED ABOVE ALL OTHERS, THAT OF BAPTISM… Therefore, you may also signify the slaves to mean the Angels who carry out all those things that are done in our behalf, and by means of which we are sanctified. Also, the priests may be signified by the slaves, for they clothe the repentant sinner with Baptism, and the word of teaching, placing around him the first robe,” which is, Christ Himself.”
Saint Ambrose writes: “What is a ring, if not A TOKEN OF SINCERE FAITH AND AS EXPRESSION OF TRUTH?… Whosoever HAS THE RING HAS THE Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, because God has sealed it. Christ is His Image, and He gave as a pledge the Spirit in our hearts, that we may know that this is the token of the ring which is placed on the hand, with which the INNER PLACES OF OUR HEARTS AND THE WORKS OF OUR DEEDS ARE SEALED. THUS WE ARE SEALED AS WE READ: ‘AFTER YE BELIEVED, YE WERE SEALED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE [Ephesians 1:13]. (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
“Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George