Daily Devotional for February 4 – 10
11 Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring[b] out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”
From St. Theophylact:
Understand that when he sinned, he behaved as if he were not acting in the sight of God, that is, in the presence of God; but once he confesses his sin, then he realizes that he has sinned in the sight of God. And he arose, and came to his father, for we must not only desire the things that are dear to God but must get up and do them as well. You see the warm repentance—behold now the compassion of the father. He did not wait for his son to come to him, but he went and met him on the way and embraced him. God is called Father on account of His goodness and kindness, even though by nature He is God Who encompasses all things so that He could have restricted a man within His embrace, no matter which way the man might try to turn. As the prophet says, The glory of God shall compass thee (Is. 58:8). Before, when the son distanced himself, it was fitting that God, as Father, release him from His embrace. But when the son drew near through prayer and repentance, it was fitting that God again enclose him within His embrace. Therefore the Father falls on the neck of the one who before had rebelled and who now shows that he has become obedient. And the Father kisses him, as a sign of reconciliation, and by this kiss He first makes holy the defiled one’s mouth, which is as it were the doorway to the whole man, and through this doorway He sends sanctification into the innermost being.
**From St. Nikolai’s Prologue
St. Anthony teaches: “Just as a man comes forth naked from his mother’s womb, so the soul comes forth naked from the body. One soul is pure and bright, a second is soiled by sin, and a third is blackened by many sins. If a body comes forth from a mother’s womb unhealthy, it cannot live. Likewise, a soul, if it does not attain the knowledge of God through good behavior, cannot be saved, neither can it be in communion with God. The organ of bodily sight is the eye; the organ of spiritual sight is the mind. Just as the body is blind without eyes, so the soul is blind without a correct mind and a correct life.”
This is how the Householder of both the material and spiritual world speaks. Material wealth He calls “least” and the spiritual wealth He calls “much.” If material wealth is given to a person and he proves himself to be selfish, hardhearted, arrogant, unmerciful and godless, then spiritual wealth cannot be given to him. For if he is unfaithful in small things, he will be unfaithful in great things. When he is unfaithful in the physical, he will be unfaithful in the spiritual. Man undergoes a test in a foreign world, and if he passes the test he will gain his own world. If, however, he fails the test, who will give him his world? Man’s true world, his homeland, is the heavenly, sublime, divine world. The earthly world, however, is the world of coarseness and corruption: a foreign world for man. But man is sent into this foreign world to complete a test for the sake of his true world, his heavenly homeland. These two statements of the Savior are similar in meaning. Oh, how profound and true is their meaning! Just as light disperses darkness, so do these words of the Savior disperse our confusion in relation to these questions: Why are we sent into this life? And what should we do? To whomever is able to read with a pure understanding, everything is said in these two sentences. Therefore, let us know that God will not bestow the spiritual gifts— the gifts of understanding, faith, love, purity, prophecy, miracle-working, power over demons, discernment, or the vision of the heavenly world— on him who has gambled and used for evil, like the Prodigal Son, the gifts of bodily health, earthly riches, glory and position among men, or knowledge of the material world.
He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already (John 3: 18). He who believes in Christ the Lord is not condemned, for he judges himself, and directs his footsteps toward the light that goes before him. As a man in profound darkness adjusts his footsteps according to the candle in his hand, so does the one who believes in Christ— he has embarked after Christ as after a light in the darkness of life. He who does not believe is condemned already. That is, he who does not have a guide on the unknown path loses his way and strays as soon as he takes the first step. He who does not believe in Christ is condemned to ignorance, weakness, anger, staggering along crooked and winding roads, vice, despair and perhaps even suicide. He is condemned in two worlds: in this world to a senseless, physical and delusory existence, and in the other world to eternal damnation! Oh, how dark is the path of the children of unbelief, and how deep is the abyss between their first and third steps!
What is fortune telling? There are three kinds of belief which have their origin in fortune telling: belief in blind chance, belief in things, and belief in the complete power of the spirits of darkness. Through fortune telling, events are prophesied, the power of things are differentiated, and the spirits of darkness are invoked. No faith has so decisively condemned and rejected fortune telling as has the Christian Faith. No faith except Christianity is free and pure of fortune telling. Other faiths are more or less connected to fortune telling, and some consist only in fortune telling. Fortune telling means to subject man to things and beings lower than himself. Thus, fortune telling can be called a belief in darkness. That is why the Apostle Paul said: But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness (I Timothy 4: 7). Christianity is a Faith of light in two senses: first, it elevates man above chance, above all things, and above the spirits of darkness; and second, it subordinates man only to the authority of the Living, Wise and Almighty God. The All-seeing God exists, and that is why blind chance does not exist. In spiritual union with this All-seeing and Living God, man can be made higher than all things and more powerful than all the spirits of darkness.
This is the saving prescription of the greatest Physician of human souls. This is the remedy tried and proven. There is not another remedy for madness. What kind of sickness is this? This is the presence and dominance of an evil spirit in a man, a dangerous evil spirit, who labors to eventually destroy the body and soul of man. The boy, whom our Lord freed from an evil spirit, had been hurled by it at times into the fire and at times into the water, just in order to destroy him. As long as a man only philosophizes about God, he is weak and completely helpless against an evil spirit. The evil spirit ridicules the feeble sophistry of the world. But as soon as a man begins to fast and to pray to God, the evil spirit becomes filled with indescribable fear. In no way can the evil spirit tolerate the fragrance of prayer and fasting. The sweet-smelling fragrance chokes him and weakens him to utter exhaustion. In a man who only philosophizes about faith, there is spacious room in him for the
demons. But in a man who sincerely begins to pray to God and to fast with patience and hope, it becomes narrow and constricted for the demon, so the demon must flee from such a man. Against certain bodily ills there exists only one remedy. Against the greatest illness of the soul, demonic possession, there exist two remedies, which must be utilized at one and the same time: fasting and prayer. The apostles and saints fasted and prayed to God. That is why they were so powerful against evil spirits.
Brethren, what are the works of Christ? These are the works of the Householder Who returned from a journey and found the home robbed and desolate. These are the works of the Physician Who entered into the most contaminated hospital, brought medicines and began to heal. Furthermore, these are the works of the King Who returned to His country and found it divided and ruined, and His subjects as slaves in a strange land. These are the works of the Elder Brother Who journeyed to a distant land to seek His younger brother who, wandering and prodigal, had become impoverished and wild. These are also the works of the Healer, Shepherd, Hero and Provider. Truly, these are not minor works! An ordinary man with the greatest worldly knowledge, skill and courage would not be able to accomplish even in three thousand years those works which Christ accomplished in three years. Not only one man, but all men of all times together, would not be able to accomplish the works of Christ in all eternity. How did the Lord accomplish so many works? He accomplished them with the aid of five main wonders: His humility, His words, His deeds, His blood, and His Resurrection. What do the works of Christ witness? The works witness first of all that the earth did not send Him, but heaven; second, that an angel did not send Him, but the Heavenly Father Himself; third, that for such works no one is sufficient except Him Who is as great as God, as wise as God, as almighty as God, as merciful as God— yes, Who is Himself equal to God.