|04 - Launch into the Deep, Sept 27, 2015 (with audio)|
[For audio click here]
II Corinthians 6:16-17:1
This obviously is no ordinary fishing expedition in our Gospel this morning. Simon Peter and the others are seized with amazement (qamboV) when they behold the great catch of fish and Simon Peter falls to his knees beseeching the LORD: “Depart from me, O LORD, for I am a sinful man!”
St Simon Peter’s words are not unlike Isaiah’s when he saw the LORD in His heavenly temple: “Woe is me! I am lost! For, I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) Out here, in the “deep”, the disciples have come upon the vision of Isaiah and they see Jesus as “the King, the LORD of hosts” standing before them in the boat. What is going on in this extraordinary fishing expedition?
The prophet Ezekiel sees a mighty river. (Eze 47) flowing from the eastward facing gate of a heavenly temple into Galilee. Wherever it goes, it heals and makes every soul to live. There is an exceedingly great multitude of fish. Fishermen are standing by the river spreading their nets. (47:8-10) The Theotokos is the temple, Christ in the Holy Spirit is the mighty river. I think here in Ezekiel we find why this was no ordinary fishing expedition. The Kingdom of heaven, seen by the prophets in visions, has broken into the world and taken shape as this particular fishing expedition in “history”.
If I may dare say, the net of my mind catches here a vision of history that seizes me with amazement. I find myself launching into the deep. I want you to catch this vision, too, so that we might sink into the depths together.
So launch your ears into the deep and listen closely: In the flesh, God the Word becomes “historical”, but in a way that shatters history. Is not “history” dead? The present is always disappearing into the past and is no more. Historians recover “what happened” by studying dead things: artifacts, documents, pictures, monuments. But Jesus is the “Resurrection and the Life” who, in the flesh, rose from the dead. The angel chides the myrrh-bearing women: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” The “history” of Jesus is of one who is living. We find Him not in “history” but in the worship of the Church. In the act of Simon Peter falling to his knees in worship in this fishing expedition, I see “history” opening onto heaven in the “history” of Jesus. In the “history of Jesus”, time moves no more into the past where it is no more, but into the eternal Today of Him Who is the King, the LORD of Hosts.
We do not remember this fishing expedition as an event of the past that is no more. Its historical substance is the Kingdom of Heaven. In its “historical” substance, it is with us “here and now” in the Church’s worship.
I see the “history” of Jesus as the Door set up in time, opening onto the Way and leading into the eternal Life of the Kingdom of Heaven. That Door is the Church, the Body of Christ. Rooted at its heart in the worship of the Church, our daily life enters into the “history” of Jesus and we pass over into the eternal reality of Heaven. How so? Where?
The LORD says to Simon Peter and the other disciples: “Launch into the deep!” Having caught the prophetic content of this fishing expedition, perhaps now we can see that its inner substance is Jeremiah’s prophetic vision of the heart, for we see the LORD’s command calling Simon to launch into the deep to mean: descend with your mind into your heart that is deep beyond all things and that is you (Jer 17:9 LXX) to call on the Name of the LORD.
But, the Savior’s command to “launch into the deep” is so close to Psalm 68 (LXX) that we cannot help but see this, too, as the inner substance that makes this such an “amazing” fishing expedition. The Psalmist cries out: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come into my soul. I launched myself into the mud of the deep. There was no place to stand (hypostasis). I came into the depths of the sea and the storm overwhelmed me. I grow weary with crying; my throat is hoarse. My eyes fail me from hoping in my God.” (Do we hear this in Simon Peter’s words to the Savior? “Master, we have toiled all night long and caught nothing!” The Psalm continues.) “O God, Thou knowest my foolishness. My transgressions are not hidden from Thee…Save me from the mire, that I may not be stuck in it. Deliver me from those who hate me, and from the depths of the waters…Let not the deep swallow me up!” (Ps 68:3-16)
The word for deep or depths is associated in the prophets with death, the grave and the pit of Hades. (e.g. Eze 31:13; 32:18 & 22) So, when the Psalmist says, “Save me from the mire, let not the deep swallow me up!” he means, save me from death and from hell!
This is where this morning’s fishing expedition begins to amaze. “To launch into the deep!” means, in its prophetic substance, to make your way to the place of death, i.e., into the tomb of your heart, (cf. Eph 2:1) where we are stuck in the muddy bottom of the deep waters of death that threaten to overwhelm us and swallow us up because there is no place to stand (no hypostasis – where personal tenderness is lost). That’s why this was no ordinary fishing expedition.
But, it says they were obedient to the LORD’s command. “We have toiled all night and caught nothing,” says Simon Peter; “but, by Thy Word, we will launch into the deep and cast our nets!” Can you see that in their obedience they were uniting themselves to Christ in the likeness of His death, which was in obedience to the Father? In His obedience to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross, the LORD Jesus Christ shattered our death because He filled our death, which was the final flower of our disobedience, with His obedience. That’s how His Tomb was made to be the Font of Resurrection to eternal life, the Door that opens onto the Garden (Jn 19:41) of Eden in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And, to be sure, it says that their catch was so great – an image of abundant life – they couldn’t even call out. The force of exertion required was so great they couldn’t speak, another way to describe the amazement that seized them. So, they signaled with their heads to the other boat for help; but then, both boats began to sink into the deep. It’s the theological vision caught in the net of a spiritual understanding woven from the words of the prophets that catches the faithful with such amazement that they can hardly speak! What’s being revealed is that the tomb has become the Font of our Resurrection – not just any tomb, but the tomb of Christ. Death has become eternal life – not just any death but that death which is in Christ; i.e., that death in which the disobedience of the deep heart has been put to death by the obedience of repentance. There seems, therefore, to be a hidden message here. Sinking into the depths in obedience to the LORD’s command, the boats were sinking deeper into eternal life. The deeper our obedience to Christ, the deeper is our death in Christ and the more abundant our life in Christ.
To carry in our body as in a boat the death of Christ or the command of Christ (he who would be my disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross) means to live in obedience to the LORD’s commandments with our eyes, our ears, our hands, our feet, our lips, our thoughts, our hearts. This is how we launch into the deep and come to that point that is within us, our heart, where we “pass over” into the eternal Life of Christ.
The disciples were amazed and the LORD says to them: “Do not be afraid!” When the myrrh-bearing women draw near the tomb of the LORD, they are amazed and the angel says to them, “Do not be afraid!” This was no ordinary fishing expedition because its inner prophetic substance was our own participation in the sacred mystery of the LORD’s death and resurrection.
The boat is the Church. She has taken up the Cross and set out into the sea of the New Year. She is making her way out into the deep, the paschal mysteries of the LORD’s birth from the Virgin in the Cave and of His death on the Cross. Step into the boat, beloved faithful. The LORD is in it! It is the Door that opens onto the way of eternal life. May the LORD grant that we would be seized with amazement! Amen.