Wednesday February 23, 2022 / February 10, 2022
Week of the Prodigal Son. Tone two.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Hieromartyr Charalampus, bishop of Magnesia in Thessaly, and Martyrs Porphyrius and Baptus (202). New Hieromartyrs Peter and Valerian priests (1930). St. Anna of Novgorod, wife of Yaroslav I (1050). Venerable Prochorus of the Kiev Caves (1107). Venerable Longinus, monk, of Koryazhemka (Vologda) (1540). St. Galina (III). Martyrs Ennatha, Valentina, and Paula of Palestine (308). Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Areovindus (“Fiery Vision”)
INSTRUCTION ON THE SUNDAY OF THE PRODIGAL SON ON REPENTANCE
Beloved brethren! The Holy Church, the loving mother of all her children, who gave them birth unto salvation, and takes upon herself all care to ensure that her children not lose their inheritance—Heaven, preparing them for the successful completion of the forthcoming podvig of the Forty Days Fast, has ordained that we read today at the Divine Liturgy the parable of our Lord Jesus Christ about the prodigal son.
In what does the podvig of the holy Forty Days Fast consist? In the podvig of repentance. During these days, we stand before the time dedicated largely to repentance, as before the doors of repentance, and sing the song that is filled with contrite feeling: Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of life! What does our Lord’s Gospel parable that we hear today reveal to us? It reveals the unfathomable, infinite mercy of our Heavenly Father for sinners who bring forth repentance. The Lord made it known to people, calling them to repentance: Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Lk. 15:10). So that His words would become even more strongly impressed in the hearts of His listeners, He decided to supplement them with a parable.
A certain man had two sons, says the Gospel parable. The younger of them asked his father to give him his share of the inheritance. The father did so. After not many days, the younger son took his inheritance and left for a far country, where he spent all his inheritance on a wanton life. When he had spent it all, there came a famine on that country. The son of the rich man not only found himself wanting, but was in a desperate state. In this serious plight, he asked assistance from one of the local inhabitants, who sent him to the field to herd his swine. Exhausted with hunger, the wretch would have been happy to fill his belly with the coarsest swine feed! But this turned out to be impossible. In such a state, he finally came to his senses, and remembering the abundance of his father’s house, resolved to return to his father. He prepared mentally what he would say to his father in order to gain his propitiation: he would admit his sin and his unworthiness, and humbly ask to be accepted, not into his father’s family, but as one of his host of slaves and hired servants. With this in his heart, the younger son set out on his way. He was still far from his father’s house when his father saw him. He saw him and had compassion on him; ran, fell on his neck, and kissed him. When his son pronounced the confession and request he had prepared, his father called the servants, saying, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found! The older son who was always submissive to his father’s will was in the field, and he when returned to the house, the feast was on. He found his father’s behavior toward the younger son strange. But inspired by the righteousness of love, before which every other righteousness is pathetic and insignificant, the father remonstrated, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (See Lk. 15:11-32).
According to the holy fathers, the younger son could also be an image of all fallen mankind and of every sinner. The younger son’s inheritance is God’s gifts, with which every person is endowed, especially Christians. The most supreme gifts of God are the mind and heart, and especially the grace of the Holy Spirit given to every Christian. The son’s demand that the father give him his inheritance to use according his own will is man’s attempt to cast off his submission to God, and follow his own thoughts and desires. The father ceding the inheritance is a portrayal of the self-governance with which God honored man for the use of His gifts. The far country is a sinful life, distancing and alienating us from God. The squandering of the inheritance is the exhaustion of the powers of our mind, heart and body; in particular the outrage against the Holy Spirit and its expulsion from ourselves through our sinful deeds. The younger son’s poverty is the soul’s emptiness, which comes about from a sinful life. The permanent inhabitants of the far country are the princes of the darkness this age, the fallen spirits, permanently fallen and alienated from God. The sinner submits to their influence. The herd of unclean animals [swine] is the sinful thoughts and feelings that roam in soul of the sinners, grazing on its pastures. They are the inevitable consequence of sinful acts. In vain does a man think to silence these thoughts and feelings by fulfilling them—they are most impossible to satisfy! Man can carry out these passionate thoughts and dreams, but that does not destroy them—it only rouses them to redouble their strength. Man is created for heaven; only true goodness can be his satisfying, life-giving food. Evil, which attracts and seduces the heart’s taste damaged by the fall, is only capable of despoiling man’s nature.
How horrible is the emptiness of soul brought on by a sinful life! Unbearable is the torment from passionate, sinful thoughts and feelings, when they roil like worms in the soul, when they tear at the soul that has submitted to them, the soul that has been violated by them! Often a sinner who is tormented by fierce thoughts, dreams, and unfulfilled desires comes to despair. He often tries to take his own life, both temporal and eternal. Blessed is the sinner who comes to his senses during that terrible period and remembers the boundless love of the Heavenly Father, and the measureless spiritual riches overflowing in the house of the Heavenly Father—the holy Church. Blessed is that sinner who, horrified by his own sinfulness, wants to be free of its oppressive weight through repentance.
We learn from the Gospel parable that for successful and fruitful repentance, a man needs to provide on his part: seeing his own sin, recognizing it, repenting of it, and confession of it. God sees a person who has made this pledge in heart while he is yet a long way off; He sees him and runs to meet him, embraces and kisses him with His grace. No sooner had the penitent pronounced his confession of his sin than the merciful Lord commanded the slaves—the servants of the altar and the holy Angels—to clothe him in bright garments of purity, to place his ring upon his finger as a testimony of his renewed union with the Church both on earth and in heaven, and to place shoes upon his feet, so that his actions would be protected from spiritual thorns by steadfast ordinances, for that is the meaning of the shoes—Christ’s commandments. To complete the action of love, a feast of love is held for the returned son, for which a fatted calf is killed. This feast signifies the Church feast to which the sinner is invited once he has made his peace with God—the spiritual, incorruptible food and drink—Christ—promised long ago to mankind, prepared through the unspeakable mercy of God for fallen man from the very moment of his fall.
The Gospel parable is a divine teaching! It is deep and exalted, regardless of the extraordinary simplicity of the human words in which God’s Word deigned to be clothed! The holy Church most wisely ordained that this parable be read to all before the beginning of the coming Forty Days Fast. What more consoling news could there be for a sinner who stands trembling before the doors of repentance than this news about the Heavenly Father’s infinite and unspeakable mercy for repentant sinners? This mercy is so great that it amazed the very Angels—the first-born sons of the Heavenly Father, who had never transgressed a single commandment of His. Their bright, lofty minds could not fathom the unfathomable mercy of God for fallen mankind. They needed a revelation from on High regarding this subject, and they learned from this revelation that it is meet for them to make merry, and be glad, for their lesser brother—the human race—was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found, through the Redeemer. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God even over one sinner that repenteth.
Beloved brethren! Let us make use of the time appointed by the holy Church to prepare ourselves for the ascetic labors of the holy Forty Days Fast, in accordance with its purpose. Let us use it to contemplate the great mercy of God for people and for each person who wishes to make peace with God and unite with Him through true repentance. Our time in this earthly life is priceless; for during this time, we decide our eternal lot. May we be vouchsafed to decide our eternal lot unto our salvation, and to our joy! May our rejoicing be endless! May it be joined to the rejoicing of the holy Angels of God! May the joy of Angels and men be fulfilled and made perfect through their fulfilling the will of the Heavenly Father! For, it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones—human beings, deprecated and humiliated by sin—should perish (Mt. 18:14). Amen.
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Translated by Nun Cornelia (Rees)
The PriestMartyr Charalampios, Bishop of Magnezia, the Martyrs Porphyry and Baptos and the Three Martyresses
Commemorated on February 10
The PriestMartyr Charalampios, Bishop of Magnezia, the Martyrs Porphyry and Baptos and the Three Martyresses suffered in the year 202.
Saint Charalampios, bishop of the Thessalonian city of Magnezia (northwest region of Greece), successfully spread faith in Christ the Saviour. News about his preaching reached the governor of the district Lucian and the military-commander Lucius. The saint was arrested and brought to trial, where he firmly confessed his faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. Despite the decrepit age of the bishop (he was already 113 years of age), they subjected him to monstrous tortures: they lacerated his body with iron hooks, while they scourged all his skin from head to foot. During this the saint turned to his tormentors: “I bless you, brethren, ye have restored my spirit!”
Having seen the endurance of the elder and his complete lack of malice, two soldiers – Porphyry and Baptos openly confessed Christ, for which they were immediately beheaded with a sword. Being present at the sufferings of bishop Charalampios were likewise three women who began to glorify Christ and were quickly martyred.
The enraged Lucius himself seized hold of the instruments of torture and began to tear at the priest-martyr, but suddenly his hand was cut off as though by a sword. Also arriving at the place of execution the governor spat in the face of the saint, and immediately he bent backwards. Then Lucius began to beseech the saint for forgiveness, and through his prayer both torturers at once received healing. During this a multitude of witnesses came to believe in Christ. Among them also was Lucius, who fell at the feet of the holy elder, begging forgiveness.
HYMN OF PRAISE
The inexperienced sword was brandished over Charalampus,
only to be lowered!
The saint knelt and, a petition to God, raised:
“O Lord, release them!
Of all sinful men, absolve the sins;
have mercy again.
Bless their labor and grant abundant
fruit to the fields.
Let them have everything; they are flesh and blood;
let them sing to Thee.
Oh, grant them health, health and joy;
let them remember Thee!
Drive away every evil, save them from misery,
have mercy on them all,
And after death, to Paradise take their souls.
Lord Have mercy!
Whoever prays to Thee
and mentions my name,
Because of my suffering, help him,
O God, help him for my sake!”
Then came a voice from heaven: “I accept your prayer;
now render Me your soul!”
The saint released his soul and flew to Paradise,
before the falling of the sword!
Many of the serious infirmities that befall a man have their cause, known or unknown, in his past. The causes of such serious infirmities as, let us say, mental disorder, are nothing other than the transgression of the moral law of God.
When St. Charalampus was being tortured, the persecuting emperor learned of his miracle-working power. The emperor ordered an insane man to be brought before Charalampus, to see if Charalampus could heal him. The devil had tormented this man for thirty-five years, driving him into the wilderness and hills and hurling him into bogs and chasms. When this deranged man approached Charalampus, the demon sensed a sweet-smelling fragrance emanating from the holy man and shouted: “I beg you, O servant of God, do not torment me before my time, but command me and I will depart. And, if you wish, I will tell you how it happened that I entered into this man.” The saint commanded the demon to relate the story. The demon said: “This man wanted to steal from his neighbor and thought to himself: ‘If I don’t kill the man first, I will not be able to seize his goods.’ So he went and killed his neighbor. Having caught him in the act, I entered him and, behold, I have dwelt in him for thirty-five years.” Upon hearing this, the saint of God commanded the demon to depart from the man immediately and to leave him in peace. The demon departed, and the demented man was restored to health and became tranquil.
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Beauty of the entire created world:
1. As the Beauty of all created things, a Beauty dulled from fear and the melancholy of sin;
2. As the Beauty of man, the most rational being in the material world, a Beauty dulled by fear and the melancholy of sin;
3. As the Beauty of a pure, mental, bodiless world of the angels;
4. As the Beauty of the Holy Trinity, revealed by Him and through Him.
on the sin of those who assert that they can see
“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin” (John 9:41).
These words were spoken to the Jews by Him Who gave them the Law through the prophets, that the Law might serve them as the sight of the soul. The Jews received that sight, but they intentionally and evilly shut their eyes. That is why the righteous Lord spoke these righteous words to them.
These are words of true justice, yesterday and today and forever, for a blind man has no sin if he tramples upon someone else’s crop or if he takes someone else’s garment instead of his own. If he who has sight commits this, he will be committing a sin and will incur punishment. If he who has eyes intentionally closes his eyes and does this, he also will be committing a sin and will incur punishment.
Nevertheless, what can be said about those who have received baptism and chrismation, the two eyes of the soul, and still sin as those who are unbaptized? At the Last Judgment, they will not be treated as those who are born blind, rather they will be judged as transgressors who have willfully disfigured and blinded themselves.
And what can be said about those who receive the other Mysteries of grace in the fullness of Orthodoxy, having before them the examples of the saints, and constantly listening to the warnings and admonitions of God’s Church, but who nevertheless depart and go astray? At the Last Judgment such people will not be able to justify themselves by any type of blindness; rather they will be judged as transgressors who have disfigured themselves and others around them with blindness.
O Awesome Lord, save us from sin. O Merciful Lord, open our eyes to the path of salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.