The Prodigal 1 Son
And he said: A
certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father: Father,
give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto
them his substance.
And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad
into a far country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously. And
after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country; and he
began to be in want.
And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent
him into his farm to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly
with the husks the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And returning
to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father's house abound
with bread, and I here perish with hunger? I will arise, and will go to my
father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before
thee: I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
And rising up he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off,
his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and running to him fell
upon his neck, and kissed him.
And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before
thee, I am not now worthy to be called thy son.
And the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first 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 make merry:
Because this my son was dead, and is come to life again: was lost, and is
found. And they began to be merry.
Now his elder son was in the field, and when he came and drew nigh to the
house, he heard music and dancing: And he called one of the servants, and
asked what these things meant.
And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted
calf, because he hath received him safe.
And he was angry, and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began
to entreat him. And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many
years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and
yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends: But as
soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots,
thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine.
But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother
was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found.
By Macarius Chrysocephalus
1. What choral
dance and high festival is held in heaven, if there is one that has become
an exile and a fugitive from the life led under the Father, knowing not that
those who put themselves far from Him shall perish; if he has squandered
the gift, and substance, and inheritance of the Father; if there is one whose
faith has failed, and whose hope is spent, by rushing along with the Gentiles
into the same profligacy of debauchery; and then, famished and destitute,
and not even filled with what the swine eat, has arisen and come to his Father!
But the kind Father waits not till the son comes to Him. For perchance he
would never be able or venture to approach, did he not find Him gracious.
Wherefore, when he merely wishing, when he straightway made a beginning,
when he took the first step, while he was yet a great way off, He the Father
was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck and kissed him.
And then the son, taking courage, confessed what he had done.
Wherefore the Father bestows on him the glory and honour that was due and
meet, putting on him the best robe, the robe of immortality; and a ring,
a royal signet and divine seal, impress of consecration, signature
of glory, pledge of testimony (for it is said, "He hath set to his seal that
God is true,") and shoes, not those perishable ones which he hath set his
foot on holy ground is bidden take off, nor such as he who is sent to preach
the kingdom of heaven is forbidden to put on, but such as wear not, and ate
suited for the journey to heaven, becoming and adorning the heavenly path,
such as unwashed feet never put on, but those which are washed by our Teacher
Many, truly, are the shoes of the sinful soul, by which it is bound and cramped.
For each man is cramped by the cords of his own sins. Accordingly, Abraham
swears to the king of Sodom, "I will not take of all that is thine, from
a thread to a shoe-latchet." On account of these being defiled and polluted
on the earth, every kind of wrong and selfishness engrosses life.
As the Lord reproves Israel by Amos, saying, "For three iniquities of Israel,
yea, for four, I will not turn him back; because they have given away the
righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, which tread upon
the dust of the ground."
2. Now the shoes which the Father bids the servant give to the repentant
son who has be-taken himself to Him, do not impede or drag to the earth (for
the earthly tabernacle weighs down the anxious mind); but they are buoyant,
and ascending, and waft to heaven, and serve as such a ladder and chariot
as he requires who has turned his mind towards the Father. For, beautiful
after being first beautifully adorned with all these things without, he enters
into the gladness within. For "Bring out" was said by Him who had first said,
"While he was yet a great way off, he ran and fell upon his neck." For it
is here that all the preparation for entrance to the marriage to which we
are invited must be accomplished. He, then, who has been made ready to enter
will say, "This my joy is fulfilled." But the unlovely and unsightly man
will hear, "Friend, how camest thou in here, without having a wedding garment?"
And the fat and unctuous food, the delicacies abundant and sufficing
of the blessed, the fatted calf is killed; which is also again spoken
of as a lamb (not literally); that no one may suppose it small; but it is
the great and greatest.
For not small is "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world,"
who "was led as a sheep to the slaughter," the sacrifice full of marrow,
all whose fat, according to the sacred law, was the Lord's. For He was wholly
devoted and consecrated to the Lord; so well grown, and to such excessive
size, as to reach and extend over all, and to fill those who eat Him and
feed upon Him. For He is both flesh and bread, and has given Himself as both
to us to be eaten.
To the sons, then, who come to Him, the Father gives the calf, and it is
slain and eaten. But those who do not come to Him He pursues and disinherits,
and is found to be a most powerful bull. Here, by reason of His size and
prowess, it is said of Him, "His glory is as that of an unicorn." And the
prophet Habakkuk sees Him bearing horns, and celebrates His defensive attitude
"horns in His hands." Wherefore the sign shows His power and authority,
horns that pierce on both sides, or rather, on all sides, and through
everything. And those who eat are so strengthened, and retain such strength
from the life-giving food in them, that they themselves are stronger than
their enemies, and are all but armed with the horns of a bull; as it is said,
"In thee shall we butt our enemies."
3. Gladness there is, and music, and dances; although the eider son, who
had ever been with and ever obedient to the Father, takes it ill, when he
who never had himself been dissipated or profligate sees the guilty one made
Accordingly the Father calls him, saying, "Son, thou art ever with me." And
what greater joy and feast and festivity can be than being continually with
God, standing by His side and serving Him? "And all that is mine is thine."
And blessed is the heir of God, for whom the Father holds possession,
the faithful, to whom the whole world of possessions belongs. "It was meet
that we should be glad, and rejoice; for thy brother was dead, and is alive
again." Kind Father, who givest all things life, and raisest the dead. "And
was lost, and is found." And "blessed is the man whom Thou hast chosen and
accepted," and whom having sought, Thou dost find. "Blessed are those whose
iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered." It is for man to repent
of sins; but let this be accompanied with a change that will not be checked.
For he who does not act so shall be put to shame, because he has acted not
with his whole heart, but in haste.
And it is ours to flee to God. And let us endeavour after this ceaselessly
and energetically. For He says, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And prayer and confession with humility
are voluntary acts. Wherefore it is enjoined, "First tell thy sins, that
thou mayest be justified." What afterwards we shall obtain, and what we shall
be, it is not for us to judge.
4. Such is the strict meaning of the parable. The repentant son came to the
pitying Father, never hoping for these things, the best robe, and
the ring, and the shoes, or to taste the fatted calf, or to share
in gladness, or enjoy music and dances; but he would have been contented
with obtaining what in his own estimation he deemed himself worth. "Make
me," he had made up his mind to say, "as one of thy hired servants." But
when he saw the Father's welcome meeting him, he did not say this, but said
what he had in his mind to say first, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven,
and before thee." And so both his humility and his accusation became the
cause of justification and glory. For the righteous man condemns himself
in his first words. So also the publican departed justified rather than the
Pharisee. The son, then, knew not either what he was to obtain, or how to
take or use or put on himself the things given him; since he did not take
the robe himself, and put; it on. But it is said, "Put it on him." He did
not himself put the ring on his finger, but those who were bidden "Put a
ring on his hand." Nor did he put the shoes on himself, but it was they who
heard, "and shoes on his feet." And these things were perhaps incredible
to him and to others, and unexpected before they took place; but gladly received
and praised were the gifts with which he was presented.
5. The parable exhibits this thought, that the exercise of the faculty of
reason has been accorded to each man. Wherefore the prodigal is introduced,
demanding from his father his portion, that is, of the state of mind, endowed
by reason. For the possession of reason is granted to all, in order to the
pursuit of what is good, and the avoidance of what is bad. But many who are
furnished by God with this make a bad use of the knowledge that has been
given them, and land in the profligacy of evil practices, and wickedly waste
the substance of reason, the eye on disgraceful sights, the tongue
on blasphemous words, the smell on foetid licentious excesses of pleasures,
the mouth on swinish gluttony, the hands on thefts, the feet on running into
plots, the thoughts on impious counsels, the inclinations on indulgence on
the love of ease, the mind on brutish pastime. They preserve nothing of the
substance of reason unsquandered. Such an one, therefore, Christ represents
in the parable, as a rational creature, with his reason darkened,
and asking from the Divine Being what is suitable to reason; then as obtaining
from God, and making a wicked use of what had been given, and especially
of the benefits of baptism, which had been vouchsafed to him; whence also
He calls him a prodigal; and then, after the dissipation of what had been
given him, and again his restoration by repentance, He represents the love
of God shown to him.
6. For He says, "Bring hither the fatted calf, kill it, and let us eat and
be merry; for this my son" a name of nearest relationship, and
significative of what is given to the faithful "was dead and lost,"
- an expression of extremest alienation; for what is more alien to the living
than the lost and dead? For neither can be possessed any more. But having
from the nearest relationship fallen to extremest alienation, again by repentance
he returned to near relationship. For it is said, "Put on him the best robe,"
which was his the moment he obtained baptism. I mean the glory of baptism,
the remission of sins, and the communication of the other blessings, which
he obtained immediately he had touched the font. "And put a ring on his hand."
Here is the mystery of the Trinity; which is the seal impressed on those
who believe. "And put shoes on his feet," for "the preparation of the Gospel
of peace," and the whole course that leads to good actions.
7. But whom Christ finds lost, after sin committed since baptism, those Novatus,
enemy of God, resigns to destruction. Do not let us then reckon any fault
if we repent; guarding against falling, let us, if we have fallen, retrace
our steps. And while dreading to offend, let us, after offending, avoid despair,
and be eager to be confirmed; and on sinking, let us haste to rise up again.
Let us obey the Lord, who calls to us, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour,
and I will give you rest." Let us employ the gift of reason for actions of
prudence. Let us learn now abstinence from what is wicked, that we may not
be forced to learn in the future. Let us employ life as a training school
for what is good; and let us be roused to the hatred of sin. Let us bear
about a deep love for the Creator; let us cleave to Him with our whole heart;
let us not wickedly waste the substance of reason, like the prodigal. Let
us obtain the joy laid up, in which Paul exulting, exclaimed, "Who shall
separate us from the love of Christ?" To Him belongs glory and honour, with
the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
1 "Prodigal" means "recklessly extravagant;
characterized by wasteful expenditure; lavish; yielding abundantly." As a
noun, it refers to someone who spends or gives lavishly and foolishly.