|04 - THE RIDDLE OF THE SOWER, Oct 17, 2021|
2 Corinthians 6.16 – 7.1
The LORD said to the prophet, Ezekiel: ‘Son of Man, pose a riddle, speak a parable to the house of Israel.’ (Eze 17.2)
A parable, that is to say, is a ‘riddle.’ Now, the Hebrew word translated as ‘riddle’ means a dark, obscure saying. It’s dark and obscure because it is drawn from the deep waters of the ‘mystery,’ which is the ‘place’ hidden beneath the surface of the waters where everything begins and ends. A riddle is dark and obscure, then, because the content of its imagery is drawn from the mystery, beneath the surface of the waters, from out of which everything on the ‘island’ of this life emerges and to which it will all return.
Knowing now what the ‘mystery’ is, we can therefore be more precise and say that the mystery from which the LORD’s riddle to Ezekiel is drawn is the mystery of God hidden from the ages in the deep waters of His compassion and extreme humility. In these Last Days, God Himself came out from the mystery onto the island of this life and became flesh—He became visible, tangible, audible. And now you are the mystery in whom God is hidden!
St Paul is even more precise. The mystery of God is Christ in you! (Col 1.26-27) He is hidden in the ‘house’ of your heart where you in your ‘true self’ are to be found in the deep, beyond all things (Jer 17.9 LXX)—i.e., in the mystery of God hidden from the ages.
The Hebrew word translated as ‘parable’ also denotes a ‘poem’. This explains why the parable deals in ‘images’ that are often strange, and why a parable for that reason is a ‘riddle’. Its images convey what’s found in the ‘home’ or the ‘house’ of the heart which, because the heart is in the deep beyond all things, is invisible. It may be found on the island of this visible world but it is not of this visible world. It can be seen, but only invisibly. St John of Damascus, I believe it is, says: ‘We see but in an unseeing way; we know but in an unknowing way.’ It can be seen and known spiritually in the waters of the mystery of God hidden from eyes formed from the dust of the island that have not yet returned to the dust—another riddle!
Therefore, joining the LORD’s conclusion to this morning’s parable (‘Let him who has ears to hear, hear!’) to His word to Ezekiel (‘Pose a riddle, speak a parable to the house of Israel’), we begin to ‘see’ that the LORD is speaking directly to our hearts where we are found in the mystery of God. Those whose ears are turned toward their heart will hear and understand the meaning of this parable of the Sower sowing His seed. Those whose ears are turned toward the cares and values of this world that has rejected God, will not.
But even, ‘Let him who has ears to hear!’ is a riddle. The fact is, everyone has ears to hear, because everyone has a heart! Everyone begins and ends in the mystery of God in the deep beyond all things. So, what the LORD means is: let everyone hear! But the only way anyone will hear and understand the LORD’s riddle is if he descends from the visible surface of this life to the invisible depths of his own heart, there to listen to or to receive not the words, the ‘seeds’ of his own wisdom, his own understanding (Prov 3.6), but to the words, the ‘seeds’ of the Sower. For the Sower is Himself the Mystery of God hidden from the ages. He is the LORD Jesus Christ, the WORD of God incarnate in whom you and all things both visible and invisible begin and end.
Now, in the religions of the Far East, the teacher gives a riddle to his disciples, but he doesn’t give them the solution because the solution cannot be gained by discursive thought. It can be known only by seeing it immediately in one’s own inner experience. The student therefore must follow the prescribed way in order to break through the surface of this phenomenal world into the mystery to see with the eyes of his own soul the Reality hidden in the mystery that is the solution to his teacher’s riddle. His learning the riddle’s solution is his spiritual, invisible ‘diploma’ that proves he has ‘graduated’ from the visible to the invisible realm.
Note, then, that the LORD, after giving His parable to the people, immediately, upon His disciples’ request, gives its meaning to them. This in itself is a riddle! What does it mean that Jesus does not send his disciples off to pursue in their interior depths, by various ascetical disciplines and techniques, the meaning of His parable? It means that Jesus is Himself the Really Real hidden in the mystery of God. (Heb 10.1) He is not just a teacher teaching about the mystery of God. He is Himself the Mystery of God hidden from the ages. He is Himself the Source of any riddle; He is the true Reality that is the Solution to all riddles any disciple would see if he could find the path into the ‘house’ of his heart where he is deep beyond all things. The disciples of Jesus don’t need to go off somewhere to find the Reality that would reveal the riddle’s solution. They’re already in the presence of every riddle’s Solution. The Mystery of God in whom everything originates and ends is standing right there in front of them, in the flesh! And what’s more, they can see him, hear him and feel him not just with the eyes and ears of their soul but with the eyes, ears and hands of their flesh!
Dear faithful, the Church is the Body of this Christ Jesus, this Solution to all riddles. The Church is the fullness of the Mystery of God that is Christ in you, in the ‘house’ of your own heart. Coming into the visible Church this morning, we stand with the disciples in the invisible Mystery of God and we can see, hear and feel, visibly, the invisible Mystery of God that is Christ in us. For if the Church is the Body of Christ, the fullness of Him who is all in all, then the Church is the Mystery of the WORD of God incarnate. The Church, if it is the Body of Christ, is the invisible mystery of God revealed to us visibly, audibly, tangibly, in all the ‘things’ of the Church.
To apply the words of the LORD to ourselves—‘Let him who has ears to hear, hear!’—therefore means to hear all the audible words, to ‘attend’ to all the visible things of the Church. They all are tangible seeds of the Sower falling onto the spiritual ground of our heart all around us here in the Church—as though we are coming into a drenching mystical rain whose invisible raindrops, made visible and audible and tangible in the ‘things’ of the Church, are so many drops of the LORD’s uncreated Light, saturated with the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit. They are falling on us and drenching our eyes, our ears, our nose with the invisible Living Waters of the Holy Spirit in the tangible prayers, hymns, Scriptures, icons, liturgical movements of the Church’s worship. This mystical rainstorm is accompanied by wordless, invisible flashes of uncreated lightning that flash forth from the ‘darkness of the LORD’s secret place,’ (Ps 17/18.11), that is, from the Mystery of God hidden in the dark depths of our own heart. They are revealed and they can be experienced—seen, heard, felt—in both our outer and inner man as we take in the beauty of the Church’s worship and feel them stirring our soul within us. That is to say, the Sower is sowing His seed all around us here and now. And to receive His seed into the ground of our heart, we need ‘only’ to listen to all the ‘things’ of the Church that we hear and see.
This listening begins with the turning of our spirit to listen to the words, to receive the seeds of the Church and not to the words, the seeds of the world or of our own ideas, our own thoughts, or to our feelings and emotions. This turning of the ears of our soul to listen to the riddles the LORD is speaking to the ‘house’ of our heart is the essence of repentance, and it must never end. We must be constantly ‘listening,’ constantly orienting our ears to the ‘East’ to discern if in the house of our heart we are receiving the words, the seeds of God or the words, seeds, of the world, the seeds of our own head, seeds that blossom as weeds, thorns and thistles in the conclusions we come to when we listen to the passions that make deaf the ears of our soul when we cultivate the seeds, the words of the world that are not from God.
These seeds of God falling on us are so many rays of Life falling like rain (cf. Isa 45.8 & 55.10) from the uncreated Life of the crucified and risen Body of the incarnate LORD Jesus Christ. They are saturated with the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit. They have the effect, therefore, of opening our soul always to ever deeper depths, for they are leading us to the Savior’s Cross all the way down into the ‘tomb’ of our heart, to reveal to us the thoughts and intentions of our heart (Heb 4.12). If we listen to these seeds of the Sower, the Living Water that saturates them will put all those thoughts of ours that are not from God to death together with the actions and behaviors and habits in which those thoughts become incarnate until we have ascended the Cross with Christ and the tomb of our heart opens onto and becomes one with the Tomb of the Savior. Then, our heart is ‘emptied’, it is cleansed of all death and defilement and we are transfigured into incorruptible and immortal children of God in the Mystery of God now hidden from the ages in the Resurrection of Christ that is in you as your hope of glory!
Behold, receiving the seed of God, the WORD of the LORD Jesus Christ, we are buried as seeds sown by the Sower in the ground of our heart with Him, and having united ourselves to Him in His death, we rise with Him in His Resurrection as seeds sprouting and bearing fruit a hundredfold.
Now we know the riddle’s solution because we are living it. We know it in what we begin to experience when we hear and do—when we receive—the words, the seeds, of the LORD. For if they are so many seeds of the Sower’s divine, uncreated life, then that divine life begins to work in us, it begins to grow in the ground of our soul, to multiply a hundredfold as soon as we receive the Sower’s seeds and begin to cultivate them by listening, always listening to the words of Christ’s Holy Church. Amen!