|04 - THE NET OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION, September 25, 2022|
2 Corinthians 4.6-15
At the Tomb of the Savior’s Resurrection, the angel says to the myrrh-bearing women: ‘Go, tell the LORD’s disciples, and Peter, that He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him, as He said to you.’ (Mk 16.8)
The word of the angel takes us with the disciples back to Galilee, where Jesus’ earthly ministry began; and that’s where we are in this morning’s Gospel—in Galilee, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But now, in the Church’s liturgical lectionary, it is the risen Jesus going about Galilee. Now we see the Gospel stories bearing witness to Him not as a prophet, but as the Son of God risen from the dead. We are reading of Jesus ‘in the flesh’ no more but in the mystery of His Resurrection; and so also it is not in the geographical Galilee, but in the Galilee of our own daily life that we see Him going before us, destroying our death by His death in the power of His Resurrection, which is shining invisibly all around us, and we are given to understand, through faith, that the tomb of our heart is becoming an empty tomb; it is being emptied of death and it is becoming a bridal chamber filled with the risen ‘Christ who is in you, our hope of glory.’
But, if His Body that is risen from the dead is the Church, then it is the mystery of the Church, the mystery of the LORD’s risen Body that is shining invisibly all around us. Having made our way this morning, then, into the Church in the midst of our daily life, we have made our way to Galilee and into the luminous presence of Christ risen from the dead.
The nets of Simon and his companions, let down into the deep at the LORD’s command, come into view now, do they not, as the risen Christ coming down to us. We see that we are the fishes swimming around in dark, stagnant waters of death that the LORD’s net is coming down to. He comes down to us and is ‘in our midst’ here and now, today, in our daily life. And from the luminous Net of the Church, of Christ’s Body risen from the dead, a call goes out. It comes from the voice of Him Who Is the Resurrection and the Life, and it calls out to us as it did at the tomb of Lazarus: ‘Come forth!’ Come into the net of my resurrection that my servants, the apostles and evangelists, have let down to you. I have sent them out into the deep, out into the far corners of the universe to draw the whole world into the net of my Resurrection, that they may be healed of death all the way down to the deep of their heart, and be raised from the depths and brought to the shore of My Father’s Heavenly Kingdom.
This morning’s Gospel (this year) follows the Elevation of the Cross, which concluded a 40 day period beginning with the Feast of the Transfiguration. We have just come out of a ‘summer Pascha’ in which we ‘passed over’ from the death to the birth of the Theotokos, an ‘icon’ of our own resurrection in the transfiguring power of the Savior’s Cross. This morning’s Gospel is like a Pentecost Gospel in September. As on Pentecost, when it was Peter who stood up and proclaimed to the nations assembled in Jerusalem that Jesus was risen from the dead, so this morning it is Peter who, with his companions, casts the Net of the LORD’s Resurrection into the depths of the sea—to us who, in our hearts, are ‘dead in our sins and trespasses,’ ‘dead men to God’.
Now the nets of Simon and his companions come into view as images of the Holy Spirit let down to us like this morning’s nets when the priest, like Simon and his companions, brings the Chalice down to us from the altar as from the boat and we receive the Heavenly Spirit in the partaking of Christ’s Body and Blood, and we are drawn into the Net of Christ’s Resurrection and our being raised from death to life begins.
The boat of Simon that the Savior climbs into comes into view as an image of the Tomb in which His Body was placed. But, our epistle this morning opens to us a deeper meaning. Simon’s boat is our own body, this ‘body of death,’ this ‘earthen vessel’ that is hard pressed on every side by the sea of life surging with the storm of temptations, but it is not crushed. In the boat of our body, we are perplexed but not in despair, we are persecuted but not forsaken, we are struck down [by death] but not destroyed because we have a treasure in this earthen vessel. It is the Body of Christ whose resurrection is manifested, marvelously, in our dying. For the deep into which He directs Simon and his companions to launch their boats and let down their nets—the Nets of the LORD’s Resurrection—is the deep waters of our death.
‘Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God,’ we sing on Pentecost. ‘Thou hast revealed Thy fishermen as most wise; for sending down upon them Thy Holy Spirit, Thou didst draw the whole world into Thy Net!’
The net, according to the troparion, belongs to Christ. The nets in this morning’s Gospel belong to Simon Peter and his fellow fishermen. I think we can say that the nets of Simon and his companions are an image of the human soul now deified in her union with Christ. We are not our own because we were bought with a price, the Blood of God on the Cross. Our soul is no longer our own; we are now the ‘property’ of God. In His human soul, which comprehends our own soul, Christ descends into the depths as the net of a fisherman, and raises all the dead. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory!’ This is the ‘mystery of God’ that the nets of Simon and his companions make visible to us this morning. Their casting their nets into the deep at the Savior’s command is an image of Christ descending into the depths of our own soul that He has made to be His own, to raise us up, body and soul, in the Net of His Resurrection.
So, when we come into the ‘visible’ Church we are swimming into ‘invisible’ nets let down from the Boat of the risen Christ’s Body from the Church on high. We are swimming into the net of His Tomb, for we are coming into the Body of Christ that was crucified, dead and buried. But, when we come into the mystery of Christ’s death, we find ourselves in the Net of His Resurrection. Now our dying in this earthen vessel of ours becomes our being raised from death to life in the net of the Savior’s Cross. And so, our dying becomes a manifestation of the life of Jesus, for we now carry in our ‘body of death’ the treasure of the risen Christ.
Now perhaps we hear the word of the angel to the myrrhbearers with new ears. The LORD goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him, as He told you. The risen LORD goes before you into your everyday life and into your dying and into your death. For the LORD says, I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he dies, yet shall he live. And, Whoever denies himself and loses his life for my sake, i.e., out of love for Me, will find it in My death and in the Net of My Resurrection.
It seems clear to me that it is this ‘business’ of denying ourselves and losing our life for the sake of Christ—i.e., in love for Christ—that we begin to see Him, invisibly, in the power of His Resurrection that begins to work ‘in the midst of the earth,’ in the soul of this earthen vessel of ours, this ‘body of death,’ as soon as we take up our cross and begin following the Savior into His Tomb and into His Net to become partakers of His death and Resurrection. How do we swim into His Net so that our dying becomes our being raised to life in the Net of His Resurrection?
St Peter says, ‘by fleeing the corruption that is in this world because of lust and greed.’ Can you see? If I am fleeing the corruption that is in the world because of lust and greed, am I not swimming into the Net of Christ’s Holy Pascha? St Paul says: ‘Put to death what is earthly in you: anger, fornication, impurity, the desires of lust and greed, malice, slander, and deceit.’ (Col 3.5&8) Submit yourselves no more to sin as though you were its slave, but submit yourselves to God for you have been brought from death to life. (Rom 6.13) Put away your old nature with all its practices and ‘swim into the Net of the new nature—the Body of Christ risen from the dead that you were clothed with in the waters, in the ‘deep’ of your baptism. Live now, every day, every hour, every minute in the Life of the Church and no more in the life of the world, and so let your dying in this life become your swimming into the Net of Christ’s Resurrection and your being raised up to the shore of His ‘Church on high’. Amen!