|04 - Coming To Be in the Deep, September 24, 2017|
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2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Our Gospel this morning begins with: Egeneto: It happened, or it came to be. This is the word for the creation (cf. Gn 1). It denotes creation responding in obedience to the command of God: “Let there be!” “And it came to be!” Says the Psalmist: “The LORD spoke and it came to be; He commanded and they were created” (Ps 33:9).
It seems to me that St John, e.g., uses this word intentionally to describe the WORD of God Who Is (Jn 1:1), Himself becoming flesh (Jn 1:1-14). How can the Creator Himself become a child of the creation without creation becoming a new creation?
This is to say that this seemingly insignificant word may not be so insignificant. In our Gospel this morning, it lifts the veil to reveal this fishing expedition as one of the mighty works of the Divine WORD’s Incarnation by which He Himself comes to be precisely to finish His creation of the world in fulfillment of the “veiled” prophecy already “let down” in the beginning, as given in the Septuagint (Gn 2:3: “God rested from all the works He had begun to do), at the foundation of the world (cf. Rev 13:8).
This Jesus sitting in Simon Peter’s boat is the WORD (Hebrew: Dabar) of God incarnate (Jn 1:14). He is the Truth in and from whom the world “comes to be”. The Creator, He stamps it with the indelible shape of His Image, so that it is “good” as He is good (Ps 73:1, Mar 10:18). He establishes the world so that it shall never be moved (Ps 93:1); so that it moves according to His will (Isa 55:11, Eph 1:11), not man’s.
It says: when the LORD ceased (pauo) from speaking, He spoke to Simon Peter. He gave him a command: “Go into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” It says in Genesis that the LORD ceased (kata-pauo) on the Seventh Day from all the works He had begun to do (Gn 2:3); inasmuch as the LORD made heaven and earth by speaking, when He rested, He ceased from speaking.
I dare to say from this: it is in His “Sabbath Rest” (2:3) that God fashions Adam from the ground, breathes into Him the breath of life, and raises him up as a living soul (2:7): a prophetic work of the LORD re-fashioning Adam in the mighty creating work of His Holy Pascha. According to the Scripture, the LORD God does not speak again, He does not set out to finish the work of His creation, until after He fashioned Adam and placed Him in the Garden. As He does this morning, when He speaks or sets out to finish His creation, He gives a command: “Do not eat from the tree.” Is it not clear that this command is, in effect: “Let the creation come to be finished through your obedience?”
Pair this commandment, do not eat, with the other “first” commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gn 1:28). Can you see in the inner substance of these two commandments, the commandment given by the LORD in last Sunday’s Gospel: “Lose your life for my sake (do not eat) and you will find it (be fruitful and multiply)? Follow these commandments, which are but the command to “deny yourself and take up your cross for the sake of Christ” (Mk 8:34) and you will come to be a child of God, born of the Spirit from above (Jn 1:12-13 & 3:3), and the creation will be finished – for your becoming a child of God, your deification, is its purpose.
So also in this morning’s Gospel, sitting in the boat (v. 3), the posture of His Glorification following on the victory of His Cross, after He has ceased from speaking, a foreshadowing of His Sabbath Rest in the Tomb, the LORD gives a command to Simon Peter in the boat as He gave to Adam in the Garden. For, the boat is the icon of the Theotokos, the tree of life who carried Christ as a cluster of grapes, whose womb came to be a spiritual Paradise. The boat is an image of the Church, the Bride of Christ – you are sitting in the nave; and, in the Church, in the Body of Christ, Eden has been opened to all. Enter the Church’s sacramental and liturgical mysteries with your whole heart (as the Psalmist says many times), and you find yourself placed by the Hand of God in Eden.
And, what is this command He gives to Simon Peter? From Peter’s reaction, it was a command to deny himself. For, Peter answers: “LORD, we have been laboring all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, by Thy WORD, I will cast my nets.” Or, could we take him to say: “Nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done”?
On the Cross, the LORD speaks: “It is finished!” As Man, He finishes on the Cross His work of creating the world that He had begun to do; and now, He enters into His Sabbath Rest, His life-creating death – because it is His death in obedience to the will of the Father that destroys our death, the fruit of our disobedience. He ceases from speaking; and then, from out of His Sabbath Rest, in His Holy Resurrection, He speaks a command to His disciples: “Go and teach all nations!” Go into the deep! “Baptize them!” Let down your nets for a catch! “Teach them all I have commanded you!” And, they caught a great number of fish so that their nets were breaking! “Be fruitful and multiply!” Can you hear the call of Isaiah? “Sing, O barren one, for more are the children of the desolate than she who has a husband!” (Isa 54:1)
The first letters of Jesus’ Name and titles spell the Greek word for Fish – icquV: IhsouV CristoV, Qeou UioV, Soter: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior. The hymns of Pentecost teach us to see the nets of the disciples, who by Christ’s WORD came to be or were created anew as fishers of men, to be the Holy Spirit. I believe it true to say that the net of the Holy Spirit is woven from the Life and Resurrection that is Christ Jesus Himself, whom all the words of the Church’s hymns, prayers, doctrines, and Holy Scriptures carry, like nets, as well as all the liturgical movements of her sacramental worship.
At our baptism, we were “let down” into the deeps of the baptismal waters. What are these deeps? To be sure, they are the deep of the heart (Jer 17:5/9 LX), but they open onto the deeps, the abyss of the love and compassion of God (St John Damascene: prayer of preparation for communion). But, if the deep of the baptismal font is the incomprehensible compassion of God (from the Canon of preparation for communion), they are the mystery of the Cross, which is the concrete demonstration of God’s love for the world. “Go into the deep,” now is revealed to mean: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. Lose your life for My sake and the Gospel’s and you will find it.”
For, there, in the deep of the baptismal font, we were caught in the nets of the holy disciples – the net of their preaching and teaching, the net of the Gospel, the Proclamation of Christ’s victory over death – and we put on Christ. (According to an ancient Syriac Christian Tradition, at His Baptism, Christ placed in the depths of the Jordan the Robe of Glory with which Adam was originally clothed.) The priest cried out – in the words of the Church, not his own words! – “The servant of God is baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!” In the deep of the baptismal waters, we were clothed in the Robe of Glory, we put on Christ; and, raised up dripping wet in the garment of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior, we came to be the “fish” caught in the disciples’ nets, stamped, clothed with the Name of Christ!
Into what were we raised up? The boat of Simon Peter, the embrace of the Holy Theotokos, the Body of Christ, the mystery of His Resurrection in the Garden. Eden has been opened to us in the baptismal font!
Beloved faithful: if we would receive this Name of Christ given to us at our baptism, if we would put on Christ and let Him, not our ego, take the seat in the boat of our body and soul, we will find ourselves being raised from the deep and placed in the boat of the Church, the Garden of Christ’s Resurrection! If, having been raised up into the boat by the nets of the LORD’s fishers of men, we would with them leave behind our boats on this earth (cf. II Pt 1:4 & 13-15!) and forsake all and follow Christ into the deep in fulfillment of our baptismal oath – I unite myself to Christ! – we will come to be a new creation, children of God. Our life in this world will come to be shaped in the Image of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior! Even all the ordinary fishing expeditions of our daily life will be taken up into the immutable movement of God’s will and purpose: to raise us from our graves (Eze 37:12f.) and into the depths of His love and into the Garden according to the immutable movement of His love and mercy by which He has overcome the world so that it shall never be moved, so that the gates of hell will not prevail against it, so that the darkness that assails you in all the trials and afflictions of your life in this world will not overcome the light of Christ who is in you in His Holy Resurrection! And, so we will say with St Paul: “dying, yet we live: chastened, yet not killed; sorrowful, yet we rejoice; poor, yet we make many rich; we have nothing, yet we have all things.” Amen!