REPENTANCE THROUGH SORROW – Иверский Орский женский монастырь



Archpriest Sergiy Baranov

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Iveron Monastery of Orsk



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! 

Today’s Sunday is called the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. The air is already filled with anticipation of Great Lent. Such beautiful notes! Yesterday at the vigil, the choir sang Lenten chants and today as well. Everything approaches us to Great Lent. I would not like you to associate Great Lent with food rationing.  Great Lent should be associated with repentance. The first thing Great Lent speaks about and the first thing that should touch the strings of our heart is repentance, not our restriction of food. Thus, today’s Gospel is a preparation for Great Lent. This is the reading about repentance, about the Prodigal Son. 

The story tells us about a father who had two sons. One of the sons, who was deprived of reason, asked his father, “Give me my part of the heritage.”  More than likely, the father saw and realized that nothing good would work out of it and said, “Son, you are not capable of managing your property yet.” Look, the father knew in advance that he would waste everything, but humbled himself and gave it to his son. The son went away and lost everything that his father acquired through hard work, his third of the estate, as there was one more son. Everything that his father acquired so hard and gave him with a humble heart did he waste. He lost everything, defiled himself in drinking, fornication, wasted his property, came to a total loss of everything, and became a beggar. He was so poor that even had nothing to eat, absolutely nothing, not even a piece of bread. He went and hired himself out to a farmer to take care of the hogs. The only thing he was interested in there was to steal food from the pigs and eat it so as not to die of starvation.  Then he said to himself, “Why do I steal from the pigs here? Even this food is forbidden to me. Meanwhile, at my father’s place, even the slaves eat their fill. I will go, I will go back, not as a son, but as a slave.” He came back and his father accepted him. 

You know, usually, the person of the Prodigal Son is perceived in some negative clue in the Church. It has even become a common name, “a Prodigal Son.” I will be honest with you, for me the Prodigal Son is fabulous at his final point. He had the wisdom to repent. His entire life had been insane, but he had the wisdom to acknowledge that he was at the level of pigs. Can any of us afford such a luxury as to acknowledge that he is at the level of pigs, one of them? I doubt that any of us can afford such a feat. As a rule, there are only excuses untill the end, “This is not my fault. It wasn’t me. Things came around the way that the fornicators seduced me and the alcoholics dragged me with them.” We excuse ourselves, even in part, till the end.  I wish I could kiss this Prodigal Son, who had the courage. He did not have the mind to keep his father’s heritage and reputation of his father and his family, because he was defaming them. Nevertheless, he had the wisdom to say, “I am worse than the pigs.” I wish I could embrace and kiss this Prodigal Son! 

Traditionally, He is worthless, a common name “Prodigal Son” for us. But who of us can repeat his feat of humility? Who of us can admit shortly and unequivocally, “Yes.” Without all those accompanying excuses, “But I had reasons, I was influenced by the circumstances and people.” This is the usual way of things. How rare a short and definite repentance is! “Yes, forgive me.” Lord. Who of us has not sinned? Will there be a sea of hands, if I ask to raise them? I would also add, remember your confessions, those who did not sin. Who of us is better than the Prodigal Son? We just had different circumstances. However, most often it is, “It’s not me. I’m not like this.”   

I would like to relate this even from the Gospel with another Gospel event about a harlot who approached the Lord. Immediately, the Pharisees begin to judge, “Hasn’t He got any discernment? Doesn’t He see who is approaching Him? She is simply besmearing Him by her mere personality. Why does He allow her to approach Him? She is a harlot in the end.” To which the Lord answered those “pure and worthy people,” “Tell Me, there was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. He freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”1 And even that hard-hearted man suddenly said, “The one whom he forgave more.”2 And He said, “Simon, I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.3 Whom did God forgive more, you or her?” Of course, it was her, because she had a global understanding of her fall in her conscience. Meanwhile, you are a pious person, you do not even have anything to be forgiven for, you are not to blame for anything, you are always right, you have fulfilled everything that was needed, you are self-consistent, you have no sins, this is why you have no gratitude towards God. You gave alms to the Church, attended services, confessed and received the Eucharist. You do not even need to come to a confession, as you have nothing to say there, it seems you have fulfilled everything. The only thing is that if the Holy Spirit enlightens your mind, you should start with arrogance, “Forgive me, Lord, I think that I am such a great person.” You are like her. Just the same. No, you are worse than she is because, having the same predisposition to sin, you hypocritically consider yourself better and worthier than her. 

For me, the Prodigal Son is not a common name. “Prodigal Son” is a common name for those who attained something in the Church. But for those who cry over their sins from confession to confession, the Prodigal Son is an example for imitation. He shows how one can come to his senses and come back to the Father. Today’s theme is a subtle and warm one. I somehow admire great people less than the worthless ones, who have come through their worthlessness and allowed themselves an acknowledgment, at first, and then repentance . This is so precious! 

Glory to our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!

1 Lk. 7:41-42

2 Lk. 7:43

3 Lk. 7:44