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We are in the Paschal season – the time between Christ’s triumphant resurrection and Pentecost.  It is fitting to remember what occurred during this time among the apostles and the disciples of Christ.  My thanks to Handmaid Leah for posting this quote on her blog, Christ is in Our Midst!

“What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands—We proclaim now to you” (1 St. John 1:1).

Behold, such is the apostolic preaching! The apostles do not speak as worldly sages, nor like philosophers and even less as theoreticians who make suppositions about something in order to discover something. The apostles speak about things which they have not sought but which unexpectedly surrounded them; about the fact which they did not discover but, so to speak, unexpectedly found them and seized them. They did not occupy themselves with spiritual researches nor have they studied psychology, neither did they, much less, occupy themselves with spiritism. Their occupation was fishing – one totally experiential physical occupation. While they were fishing, the God-Man [Jesus] appeared to them and cautiously and slowly introduced them to a new vocation in the service of Himself. At first, they did not believe Him but they, still more cautiously and slowly with fear and hesitation and much wavering, came toward Him and recognized Him. Until the apostles saw Him many times with their own eyes and until they discussed Him many times among themselves and, until they felt Him with their own hands, their experienced fact is supernatural but their method of recognizing this fact is thoroughly sensory and positively learned. Not even one contemporary scholar would be able to use a more positive method to know Christ. The apostles saw not only one miracle but numerous miracles. They heard not only one lesson but many lessons which could not be contained in numerous books. They saw the resurrected Lord for forty days; they walked with Him, they conversed with Him, they ate with Him, and they touched Him. In a word: they personally and first handedly had thousands of wondrous facts by which they learned and confirmed one great fact, i.e., that Christ is the God-Man, the Son of the Living God, the Man-loving Savior of mankind and the All-Powerful Judge of the living and the dead.

O Resurrected Lord confirm us in the faith and ardor of Your Holy Apostles.

~St Nikolai Velimirovic

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More from John Chrysostom and his homilies on Philippians:

For I have learned, says he, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.

Wherefore, this is an object of discipline, and exercise, and care, for it is not easy of attainment, but very difficult, and a new thing. In whatsoever state I am, says he, therein to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things have I learned the secret. That is, I know how to use little, to bear hunger and want. Both to abound, and to suffer need.

But, says one, there is no need of wisdom or of virtue in order to abound. There is great need of virtue, not less than in the other case. For as want inclines us to do many evil things, so too does plenty. For many ofttimes, coming into plenty, have become indolent, and have not known how to bear their good fortune. Many men have taken it as an occasion of no longer working. But Paul did not so, for what he received he consumed on others, and emptied himself for them. This is to know. He was in nowise relaxed, nor did he exult at his abundance; but was the same in want and in plenty, he was neither oppressed on the one hand, nor rendered a boaster on the other. Both to be filled, says he, and to be hungry, both to abound, and to be in want.

Many know not how to be full, as for example, the Israelites, ate, and kicked Deuteronomy 32:15, but I am equally well ordered in all. He shows that he neither is now elated, nor was before grieved: or if he grieved, it was on their account, not on his own, for he himself was similarly affected.

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The joy at the dramatic return of the younger son in no way means that the elder son was less loved, less appreciated, less favored. The father does not compare the two sons. He loves them both with a complete love and expresses that love according to their individual journeys. He knows them both intimately. He understands their highly unique gifts and shortcomings. He sees with love the passion of his younger son, even when it is not regulated by obedience. With the same love, he sees the obedience of the elder son, even when it is not vitalized by passion. With the younger son there are no thoughts of better or worse, more or less, just as there are no measuring sticks with the elder son. The father responds to both according to their uniqueness.  The return of the younger son makes him call for a joyful celebration. The return of the elder son makes him extend an invitation to full participation in that joy.

“In the house of my father there are many places to live,” Jesus says. Each child of God has there his or her unique place, all of them places of God. I have to let go of all comparison, all rivalry and competition, and surrender to the Father’s love. This requires a leap of faith because I have little experience of non-comparing love and do not know the healing power of such a love. As long as I stay out in the darkness, I can only remain in the resentful complaint that results from my comparisons. Outside of the light, my younger brother seems to be more loved by the Father than I; in fact, outside of the light, I cannot even see him as my brother.

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri J.M. Nouwen

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I have been rereading The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen.  It is a marvelous discussion and analysis of the parable told by Jesus while at the same time using Rembrandt’s famous painting of the same name.  As Nouwen tells the tale of the  younger son who demanded his inheritance, left home, and foolishly squandered it all, he considers the true meaning of “leaving home.”

Leaving home is, then, much more than an historical event bound to time and place. It is a denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God with every part of my being, that God holds me safe in an eternal embrace, that I am indeed carved in the palms of God’s hands and hidden in their shadows. Leaving home means ignoring the truth that God has “fashioned me in secret, moulded me in the depths of the earth and knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home and must look far and wide to find one.

It is easy for us to think, “Well, I can’t identify with the prodigal son, because I never did that.”  But we need to think beyond the external facts. Consider Nouwen’s verbs:

  • denial of the spiritual reality that I belong to God
  • ignoring the truth that God has created me
  • living as though I have no home and must look for another

Which of us can say these aren’t daily struggles? The battle is great and constant. God have mercy!

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