In the name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit!
The parable of the prodigal son, which we just heard, has two meanings. The first, of course, is the return of Man to God within in the scale of all creation. This is the chance for the sinful Adam to return to Heaven, the opportunity that the Son of God opened for us by creating His Holy Church here on the Earth. The Church is a piece of Heaven on Earth - the threshold of Paradise. The Church is the Body of Christ and only in it can the Holy Spirit create true life and quicken the soul. This is because there is life and death of the body and there is life and death of the soul. Man may eat and drink, be married, go to work, but all of this is simply the life of the body. Yet his soul may be dead.
What is the life and death of the soul? After the sin of Adam, as we know, his soul died then and there. The Venerable Symeon, the New Theologian, writes: “As the death of the body is the departing from it of the soul, so is the death of the soul the departure from it of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit left the soul of Adam for the sin of disobedience, because the Holy Spirit does not know darkness. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness” (John 1:1-5), - says the Apostle. And sin is darkness. This is why the Holy Spirit distances Itself from the place where sin is committed. Thus, It distanced Itself from Adam’s soul, immediately after the crime, and his soul died, yet bodily he continued to live to 900 years, as the Book of Genesis tells us. And this death of his soul became a punishment and a curse not only for him, but for his descendants - all of us. This death damaged human nature. Having been formed clean and holy, through the crime our nature darkened and became dead. And from Adam, dead of soul, were born children, also dead of soul. That is, their life was of the body and spiritually, there were dead. Thus became human nature after the sin of the First Man.
And then God comes to Earth! In the womb of the Most Pure Virgin Mary He united his Divine Nature with our human nature. He offered himself as a sacrifice for the sin of Adam and gave us his holy God-Man Flesh, so that be partaking of his flesh, our soul could be alive. He says directly, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). And here, of course, He is speaking of the life of our soul, not our body. Just as in another place he answers a disciple who asked to be dismissed to attend his father’s funeral: “‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” (Matthew 8:22)
And now, through repentance and Holy Baptism, Man’s soul can be born anew and from death become alive. Peter said to the Jews who asked him what they should do, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) That is, The Holy Spirit that left Adam’s soul, through which it became dead, returns to us and our soul becomes alive.
That is first lesson of the prodigal son. Man, through the atonement of Christ’s sacrifice gains the opportunity to come into his own and return to The Father, who, taking Man into his embrace, says with joy, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24)
The second lesson concerns each of us personally. Before we accepted Holy Baptism we were spiritually stillborn children of Adam. But, to our grief, even after Baptism many died anew, since, after coming into the light one day, they did not hold dear their Christian calling and plunged again into the darkness of the world. One cannot remain at the same time in friendship with both the world and God. This is why only “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” may we become “partakers of the divine nature”. (2 Peter 1:4).
This corruption is the spiritual death, of which Adam perished, the death of those amongst us in whom instead of The Holy Spirit does live the spirit of the world. And this lust is not just sin of the flesh, but any desire of the soul of the Man of old - our human nature, dead from sin. This is any sin, great or small, that we commit by following our own will and not the will of God. And, having fallen into sin, our soul spiritually falls away from the Church, and falls away from The Body of Christ, in Whom is life, and we die again. “For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 18:31), laments the prophet for us. And this is we, Christians, who are the new Israel.
How then can we, having been enlightened one day and having lost the grace of the Holy Spirit, restore to life our soul, dead from sin? For this there is a special mystery in the Church - the Sacrament of Repentance. The Holy Fathers called the tears of repentance the second baptism. And so, the Church offers us, God’s prodigal children, this parable today. Today, since we one step closer to Great Lent, to the time of special repentance. There are only two weeks left until the beginning of Lent, but the Church already today asks us to collect ourselves and think about how we live and with what things we feed our soul. The world, full of temptations, calling us to sin, offers us nothing but fodder for swine. But are we truly swine who indiscriminately consume all before them? We are children of God and for us the Bread of Life has been prepared. But we can not eat this bread if we are unclean in sin. Each of our souls are precious to God, and He, like a loving Father, waits for us to awaken and cry out: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son”. Everyone who wants to return to The Father looks forward to the labor of repentance.
So let us now, as the Holy Church advises us, prepare ourselves for labor. Let us keep in our minds thoughts of Great Lent which is coming soon, of the approaching spiritual journey and, of course, pray that God may open for us the door of repentance. Remember, that if our soul does not become alive in this life, as the Venerable Symeon said, then it will not have life in the ages to come. Here, in this life, is the time of trial and labor. After the death of the body, there is no chance for repentance anymore. This is why we must hurry to ready ourselves, so that we will not lose courage during the holy days of Lent, but instead we may find worthy fruits of our repentance! Amen.