|06 - The Parable of the Sower, Oct 19, 2014|
2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9
Observe, the four different kinds of soil in this morning’s parable represent people. That means the different soils got to be beside the path, rocky, thorny or good not by chance but because of a choice they made. I don’t mean the choice having to do with, for example, what career to follow or what person to marry, as determinative as such a choice is. I mean the inner choice of the heart that determines its orientation; viz., whether or not we seek first the Kingdom of God. This is the choice that determines what kind of soil we become.
Only one of these soils is natural soil: the good soil. It is natural because it’s just plain soil, nothing else. It has no rocks, no thorns in it. Note also that it is not like the soil that is beside “the” path. Note the definite article. Might it be referring to the narrow path that leads to life? (Mt 7:14) Even to Christ who is Himself “the Path”? (Jn 14:6) So, the path that this soil is beside, is it the narrow Path of Christ?
Now, the Psalmist says: “Blessed is the man who stands not in the path of sinners.” (Ps 1:1) Is this soil beside “the” path because it is in the “path of sinners” that the Psalmist is talking about?
Does this mean, then, that this good soil, if it is not beside or away from “the” Path, is in “the” narrow Path of Christ? Then we can say that the good soil is natural not only because it has no thorns or rocks in it, but also because it is in the narrow Path of Christ and not in the path of sinners. That’s why it alone becomes a garden.
We read in Genesis that the soul became living when she received the Spirit of God. (Gn 2:7) There we read: “In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, before any plants of the field had come into being or any herbs of the field had sprung up…At that time, the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
Note that the dust from which God made man was watered by a fountain that watered the earth. It made the dust from which man was made soft and malleable, making the earth ready for God to shape a man out of it. God then breathed into man the Breath of Life, i.e., the Holy Spirit. The waters of that fountain look very much to me like living waters, and so I am inclined to see them as the same Holy Spirit that was breathed into man to make him a living soul.
From the soil moistened by the living waters of the Holy Spirit, God makes man a living soul. Then, it says, He planted a Garden to the East and there He placed the man whom He had made. Holy Scripture indicates that Christ is the Land of Paradise; so, He placed man in the mystery of Christ. He placed Him on the narrow path of Christ as good soil ready to be sown. It is then, it says, that God caused to spring up from the earth every tree that was beautiful to look at, or rather, from the Greek [oraion], that was ripe, full of fruit, and good for eating. The LORD sowed His seed and the good soil of the earth brought forth fruit a hundredfold.
We see from this that we were created from the beginning as “good soil”. As good soil, we are our natural selves when we live in not beside the narrow Path of Christ God. In the narrow Path of Christ, we are free of thorns and rocks and softened, even made good or holy, by the refreshing waters of the Holy Spirit springing forth from the fountain of the Theotokos in the mystery of Christ, receiving the seed of the Word of God Himself deep into ourselves, all the way down, let’s say, to the division of our soul and spirit where the Word of God illumines the intentions of our thoughts (cf. Heb 4:12), i.e., all the way down to our deep heart. Then we become what we were created to be: fertile gardens, trees of life planted by springs of living waters (cf. Ps 1:3), bringing forth not the thorns and tares of anger, pride and conceit, but the fruits of the Spirit: gentleness, self-control, joy and peace in the love of God that abides forever.
In this light, when the Savior tells us that the seed is the word of God, I see the Sower as Christ, the Word of God, and the seed as the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh through the mystery of Christ’s Holy Resurrection and Ascension. The seed of Christ’s Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh in the words of the Holy Apostles’ Preaching and Teaching. Christ Himself hides in those words; and the Holy Spirit is in Christ. These words of the Holy Apostles’ preaching and teaching they received directly from Christ in the Holy Spirit, as the LORD told them: “He (the Holy Spirit) will be sent to you by the Father in My Name, and He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything I have said to you.” (Jn 14:26)
This means that the Sower is sowing His seed in us this morning. The Holy Spirit is falling on our ears hopefully in the words of the sermon, but most certainly in the words of the prayers and Holy Scripture. What happens to that seed of the Holy Spirit when it falls on the ground of our ears depends on the kind of soil our souls have become.
Beloved, when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden because of their disobedience, they were beside or away from “the” narrow path of Christ. Yet, the LORD in His visceral mercy did not leave them without hope. He gave them the work they had to do if they wanted to return to Eden. Eve was given the work to bear children in sorrow and to take refuge in her husband. Adam was given the work of eating his bread in sorrow and clearing the ground of weeds and thorns by the sweat of his brow until he should find his refuge in the ground.
“Refuge”: I am translating directly from the Greek to bring out a meaning that comes to light in the revelation of Christ. The work given to Eve is the inner work of prayer, withdrawing into our secret closet and taking refuge in Christ, the New Adam, that we might by His Grace, cultivate godly sorrow and bring forth from the fountain of a broken and contrite heart tears of repentance. These soften us and make us into good soil ready to receive the seed of God’s Holy Spirit to bring forth from our heart children, the fruits of the Spirit.
The work given to Adam is the outer work of fasting. By the sweat of our brow, the blood of our heart (Heb 12:4), we strive to put to death what is earthly in us, to clear the soil of our soul of the weeds and thorns that grow from the seeds of our disobedience, until we find our refuge in the ground, i.e., in Christ’s death on the Cross. This puts us in hell with Christ, hell that has been harrowed by Christ’s death on the Cross. The image or icon here is coming to the Church at 1130 pm on Pascha night. We are coming into the Church as into hell, but hell that has been transfigured into a place of stillness, hesychia, charged with excitement and anticipation – for we have heard rumor already from those who attended the Divine Liturgy of St Basil that afternoon, that an angel was seen at Christ’s tomb proclaiming that Christ is risen from the dead!
Can you see? This ascetic work of the Church, brothers and sisters, takes us away from the path of sinners that is beside the narrow path of Christ. It makes us to become good soil on the narrow path of Christ that leads all the way down into the tomb of our deep heart. There, like the seed sown by the Sower, we descend into the ground, into the depths of our deep heart, to be buried with Christ. Just as on Pascha night, we stand in front of the stone that sealed Christ’s tomb. We are standing inside the tomb of our heart, our backs to the world now behind us, our face to the gates of Paradise now before us, and we wait for the Heavenly Bridegroom who comes at midnight to come and roll away the stone and to lead us out into the Garden of His Holy Resurrection, the Garden of Eden! (Jn 19:41) We are have been made to become gardeners of divine plants, the fruits of the Spirit, that spring forth a hundredfold from our heart that has been restored to its original goodness as good soil and transfigured to become a garden in the visceral Goodness of Our LORD Jesus Christ. Amen!