воскресенье, 31 января 2010 г.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. SUNDAY OF PRODIGAL SON.

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
                  SUNDAY OF PRODIGAL SON
                    26 February 1989
                           ----

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

The  last  reading  of  the Gospel a week ago spoke to us of the sharp
pain  of  sin,  and of the sharp pain of repentance. It called us to a
sense  of  responsibility  and  to  be aware that unless we forgive we
cannot be forgiven. But this does not mean that we can, simply because
we  wish to forgive, be able to open our heart completely, receive the
other  into  our  heart  and  give  him  peace, as at the same time we
receive peace ourselves.

I  was  asked  after  my  sermon  what  should  a person do who cannot
forgive?  Is it impossible to say then, in the Lord's prayer, ▒Forgive
as  I  do▓?  Indeed,  we  can  turn to God, and if we have not got the
courage  to  say these words, forgiving with all our strength, all our
ability  to  our  neighbour,  we  can at least say, ▒Lord! With all my
awareness,  with  all  my  heart  I wish I could forgive ≈ forgive me,
Lord,  for  that at least, and give me to grow into such a maturity of
soul,  to  understand  what  tragedy  it  is  to  be separated from my
brother,  that I may say, one day, with all my heart, all my mind, all
my being: Indeed I forgive!

Today's Gospel speaks of something quite different; one could say that
the Gospel comes under the words of the Psalm, ⌠They that sow in tears
shall  reap  in  joy■.  Think of the prodigal son; it speaks to us not
only  of  sin  ≈  and  indeed,  it  does  ≈  not only of brokenhearted
repentance  ≈ as indeed it does ≈ but of the glorious, exulting joy of
reconciliation.

The  son  comes  home,  and  the  father  is waiting for him, has been
waiting  for  him  all the time this son of his was away, forgetful of
home,  forgetful  of  his  father,  forgetful  of  his  own honour and
dignity.  At  no moment had the father forgotten, all the time the son
was  away  from the father, the father followed him with his heart and
his  love.  And he knew something very tragic, which neither the young
boy nor his older brother understood.

The  son  went away rejecting his father, saying in the first place to
him,  ⌠I  cannot wait long enough for you to be dead for me to be able
to  enjoy  life to the full! Let us agree that you are, as far as I am
concerned,  as  though  you were dead. I don't need your life ≈ I need
your  goods;  I  need  the fruits of your life that I may enjoy life.■
That  was  the beginning; and then, it was years perhaps, a long time,
unspecified.

And  in  the life of each of us it is unspecified when having received
from  God  all  that  God  can  give  us, we spend it, living in a way
unworthy  both  of  God  and  of ourselves; until one day we come to a
point  when  hunger  comes  upon  us.  In  the  case of the boy of the
parable,  of course it was physical hunger, physical misery; but there
are  other  ways  in which hunger comes: the hunger of loneliness, the
hunger  of  rejection,  the  dark hunger that assails the soul when we
become  aware that we are dead, that the spark of life has died in us,
that  no  joy  is  left,  that  nothing  is  left, except not only the
possibility  but the cruel necessity of existing when life has already
gone; no longer alive ≈ dead, and yet existing.

This  is the condition which the father recognises when he says to his
servants  and  then to the older brother: ⌠My son was dead, and now he
is alive.■ And we have examples in the Gospel, in the New Testament of
what  this  deadness  means. Remember the woman taken in adultery: she
lived,  she sinned, she was happy; and one day she was found out. Then
she  discovered  with horror that the Old Testament Law commanded such
as  she to be stoned unto death. And of a sudden she realised that sin
and death were one and the same thing; she understood that because she
has  been  dragged to her own stoning, to her own death, and there was
no other reason but her sin for it.

The  father  understood  this ≈ that sin kills: kills joy, kills life,
kills  relationships,  kills  everything, and there is only one way in
which life can come back: awareness, and a return, a reconciliation.

In  the  story  which  we  have  read  today, the son came back to his
father,  he came back home, that home he had rejected, contemptuously,
this  life  he  had  rejected  contemptuously; and because he had come
home,  life could well up again. Yes indeed, he has sown in tears, and
now it was joy, resurrection! Can we imagine what Lazarus felt when he
came  out  of the grave, alive but with a new experience: he knew what
it meant to be dead, and now he was alive again! That is what this boy
felt:  he  knew  what  life  was  dead, destroyed, hopeless, without a
father,  without a home ≈ and now he was back: he had a father, he had
a  home,  he  had  love,  he  was acknowledged. More than this: no one
waited  for  him  to  come  and eat humble pie; no one expected him to
humiliate himself: the moment he appeared, the father ran to meet him,
embraced, brought him back ≈ isn't that a wonder!? Isn't that both the
resurrection  of  the  sinner  and the resurrection of the father! The
father  was  also wounded unto death by the rejection, by the betrayal
of  his  son; and now, he could breath deeply, his heart beat, joy was
in  the  heart,  he had become aglow with joy and new life because the
son had come back.

This  is  something which the older son did not understand, because he
did  not  love  his brother much; he was just a brother as others were
workers  on  the  farm.  The  father  loved.  The  older son had never
perceived  that  the  boy  had  died by turning away from all that was
love;  he  had never perceived, what he felt was that here was a young
man  who had left home to enjoy himself as best he could; perhaps, was
he  jealous  of  him?  He  certainly despised him, he certainly had no
compassion.  And  then the boy was back: how differently did it matter
to the older son and to the father...

So, let us think of our return to God and our return to one another in
repentance  or,  if you prefer, to be reconciled, to become again one,
to  atone,  in  terms  of joy, of victory. It is a miracle of joy that
conquers,  a miracle of love that is resurrected, the faith of the one
who comes in repentance and find that he can be loved in spite of all,
and  the  joy of him who can say: ⌠However far my son, my daughter, my
friend  has  gone away from me, he believes in my love ≈ o, the wonder
of this!■

Let us therefore think of the coming Sunday of repentance in the terms
of  the  wonder  of  reconciliation, of giving back life to the person
whom  we  will  forgive,  and  receiving life from the person who will
receive  us. And then indeed the words of the Gospel will be fulfilled
that  there  is  more joy for one sinner that repents than for all the
righteous  people  who  need  no repentance. Because the one was still
alive, perhaps plodding along, half live, half dead; and the other one
was dead, and a word came, and he came again to life.

Let  us  all  give life to one another, receive life from each other ≈
and rejoice in this victory! Amen!
                              ----

 * All texts are copyright: Estate of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

           Metropolitan Anthony of  Sourozh Library
                   http://www.mitras.ru/eng/

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