|07 - The Sower, Oct 16, 2016 (with audio)|
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Hebrews 13:7-16 (Holy Fathers)
2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1
John 17:1-13 (Holy Fathers)
The holy fathers tell us that the different kinds of soils in our Gospel parable this morning are different states of the soul; moreover, these different states are the result of choices each person makes relative to the “path”. The path, of course, is the way that ascends to heaven and to eternal life in communion with God the Holy Trinity, His Mother the Theotokos, and all the saints and all the angels and hosts of heaven.
But, the Way is not an impersonal road kind of thingie, whether material or immaterial; it is the Person of Jesus Christ. And so, the Way is also the Truth and the Life. Truth and Life are personal mysteries. Reality at its root is personal because in the beginning, where everything came from, is the Word or Logos of God, and this, Our LORD Himself tells His disciples, is the seed that the Sower sowed. So, what the Sower sowed wasn’t a message or a school of thought with which we agree or disagree, or that we accept or reject; it is the mystery of Himself; and indeed, if He Himself is the Logos, the Seed from which everything comes to be, then what He sowed was the mystery of who and what we really are.
This isn’t to say that there is no message; but, the message itself comes from Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The doctrine of the message is about Him and it points to Him;, it carries Him. He is present in it so that, if one were to receive and confess the doctrine, one would be brought beyond the logos or word of the doctrine to Jesus Christ, the Logos or Word of God who dwells in the word of the doctrine.
I emphasize the personal nature of the Church’s doctrine because it is our fallen inclination to treat it like we do any other doctrine of the world: as a set of ideas we either receive or reject, that we can parse and analyze and argue over, that we come to know better by reading more books.
We can come to know the word of the Church’s doctrine better by reading more (sober and responsible) books, but if the words do not confess Jesus as the Christ come in the flesh they are not of God, (I Jn 4:1); if they do not direct our intellect into that inner stillness of the heart, our true “self” where we are “deep beyond all things” (Jer 17:9 LXX), beyond all words, to wait for the Bridegroom Who comes at Midnight, the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14), then we are still, for all our learned scholarship, not on the path. We are either on the wayside or in the weeds or on the stony ground. We are still in the world, we are still of the world.
It says that the “Sower went out to sow”. Where did He go out from?
He Himself tells us that He came from the Father (Jn 16:28). He went out from the Father “in the beginning”; He is the Word that the Father spoke when He created the world in Wisdom (Ps 104:24). Through His Word, in His Holy Spirit, the Father created the world in His love so that the world is full of His steadfast love (Ps 119:64) and it extends to the Heavens (Ps 36:5); He created the world not for death but for life (Wisd Sol 1:15); man He made in the image of His own eternity (Wisd Sol 2:23). This seed of the Sower who went out from the Father, then, that falls on the world is the seed of the Father’s mercy and steadfast love.
In that love, the Sower went out from the Father (Jn 3:16) and was conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. He became flesh and dwelt among us; and so, He went out from the Holy Theotokos as the New Adam. In that love, He was obedient to the Father even to the point of death on the Cross and ascended the Cross that He might become a corpse (Mk 15:45). He became dead (Rev 1:18) that He might become perfectly one with us (Heb 2:14); and so, He went out from the tomb in the Glory of His Holy Resurrection, giving life to those in the tombs.
The seed of the Sower, then, is full of life and it is life-creating. But, it is not just life at the mercy of biological processes; i.e., it is not impersonal life whose root is biological chemistry. It is spiritual life whose root is the steadfast love of God that endures forever.
Creation is the epiphany of the divine love and tender compassion of God – heaven and earth are full of His Glory. The heavens declare His handiwork. And man, as the pinnacle of creation, is a theophany, even the embodiment of God’s love. To say that God made man in the image of His own eternity, then, means He made man in His divine love and compassion. Man, as I believe our own experience would tell us if we would but be attentive to it, is love just as God is love. The ideologies that reduce man to a utilitarian collection of chemical actions and reactions are refuted by our own experience. We see and experience how we come to life, how we are healed deeply and transformed when we love and are loved. I would even say that the deeper we love, the younger we feel. If our capacity to love grows cold, we begin to feel old, cynical, angry, indifferent. Life loses its meaning and we look forward to death as the end of our misery. But, when we grow in love, the more alive we feel, life is a joy even in the aches and pains of old age, and we look forward to death because we will see face to face the God who first loved us and become like Him (I Jn 3:2) in the joy of the communion of the Holy Theotokos, the saints and martyrs, and all the angels and hosts of heaven – the Church of God.
The Sower, then, went out to sow from the bosom of the Father that He might draw all men to Himself. He went out from the Father and made His Throne in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos that He might dwell among us (Jn 1:14). He went out from His Throne in the womb of His Holy Mother to be laid in the tomb as a corpse that He might become perfectly one with us.
Can you see how all of these that the Sower goes out from are the mystery of the Sanctuary, the Holy of Holies; and so, the Holy of Holies is the ineffable mystery of God’s love? From the altar of the Holy of Holies, the Sower now goes out to cast His seed in the words of the Church’s doctrines, her prayers, her preaching. Those who would receive these seeds of the Church are brought to the Holy Gates to receive into their body and soul as into the ground the Seed of God, sown in the consecrated Bread and Wine that have become the very Body and Blood of the Word of God incarnate. This Seed of the Sower that we eat and drink in the sacred mysteries of the Church is the Word of God that is living and active. Like a seed taking root it penetrates the ground of the soul all the way to the division of soul and spirit and into the heart to discern our thoughts and intentions for the purpose, if we would receive it, of purging us as with hyssop in order to create in us the good soil of a clean heart that brings forth the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy and peace.
The parable of the Sower, then, points to and illumines the essential quality of the Church’s ascetic disciplines, given to us as the Cross we are called to take up. But, the Cross itself carries God’s inexpressible love for us, so that when we take up the Church’s ascetic disciplines, we take up the love of God that heals and raises from death to life. It is the might of the divine love, the mystery of Christ Himself that the Cross carries by which we are given grace, strength, and courage to work our soul, to break up the rocky ground and to clear out the thorns so that our soul becomes good soil, ready to receive the Seed of God’s love into the tomb of our heart, into the Holy of Holies of the temple of our own body.
The parable’s garden imagery gives us to understand that transforming or rather restoring our souls into good soil (the good soil of Eden) is not instantaneous. To grow the seed of divine love sown in our souls by the Sower takes patience, resolve and perseverance. It requires sunshine and rain, i.e., Christ the Sun of Righteousness, and the Living Waters of His Holy Spirit. Like farmers, then, we grow the seed of God’s love by choosing to listen to the word of God, not to the word of the world, and by persevering in patience in love for the Sower who first loved us. Amen.