September 25, 2022

Homily for the First Sunday of Luke - A Return to the Depths (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the First Sunday of Luke

A Return to the Depths

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"And when he had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, 'Return to the depths and let down your nets for a catch'" (Luke 5:4).

Beloved brethren,

With today's Sunday begins a long period in the Church, during which passages from the Gospel of the Evangelist Luke will be read every Sunday and this will happen until the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ.

The Gospel written by the Evangelist Luke has some particularities that distinguish it from the other Gospels, because it shows more of Christ's love for the poor, the despised, women, children, sinners, and it has a universal character within it, since it shows the interest of Christ in both Jews and Gentiles. A medical terminology is also used, since it comes from the Evangelist Luke, who was a doctor by profession.

In today's Gospel reading, the calling of the first Disciples is presented as a theme, and this was done on the occasion of the miraculous catching of the fish. The fishermen hadn't caught any fish all night and were washing their nets. Christ entered one of the ships belonging to Simon Peter and began to teach the people. As soon as He finished his teaching, He told Simon Peter to return to the depths of the lake and cast the nets again. Simon Peter, because he knew as a fisherman that this could not have a result, raised an objection, but finally obeyed and collected many fish. This filled him with awe and Christ called him and the sons of Zebedee, James and John, to follow Him, as it happened.

Therefore, this "return to the depths" that was said after He finished his discourse is of great importance. That's how it should be for us with a different, of course, meaning. We notice in our days that all of the modern life and activity of man moves externally, man's attention remains on the surface.

First of all, an intense sensuality prevails, a satisfaction of the senses with the enjoyment of pleasure. Everywhere the image, the news, information and enjoyment dominates. A "virtual reality" dominates our life, which is a false and illusory pleasure. Happiness is also associated with sensuality. In the best of cases, people deal with the logical processing of concepts, words, images, which is characterized as logicocracy (only focus on logic) which is connected to imagination (fantasy).

Of course, we cannot reject the world of the senses and logic, but we cannot reduce them to authorities, by isolating them from the whole life of man. The senses are one thing and sensualism is another; logic is another and logicocracy is another; right reason is another and rationality is another.

Unfortunately, this preoccupation with the surface is also observed in church life. We are overly concerned with what is seen, we like the external decorations, the external activities, which is called activism, and we are not concerned with the depth of our life which is in the mind, in the heart, in God, in our salvation, in our eternal future. Therefore, the words of Christ "return to the depths" have a lot of meaning in our days.

First of all, it must be emphasized that Christ said these words when He finished his discourse, which means we hear and read the words of Christ and the saints. And this is necessary in an era where people's arguments, from various directions, distract us and disorient us. Thus, after we keep the commandments of Christ and our mind begins to concentrate from the confusion of its wandering in the sensible and imaginary world, then we will enter the depth of our soul. Then we will hear Christ's words to follow Him and become His disciples, that is, disciples of the Kingdom of God.

"Return to the depths" means to start thinking correctly according to the will of Christ, since we are Christians, to constantly have good thoughts, because from these good thoughts will come spiritual health, we will put off autonomy, hopelessness, despair, sadness.

Then, "return to the depths" means that we have to do a self-examination within ourselves to see in what state our soul is. Just as in order to find the cause of various diseases of the body we do all the necessary examinations, in the same way we must examine ourselves with self-knowledge, self-examination in the spirit of repentance.

Also, "return to the depths" means to find the place of the spiritual heart, where God dwells. This is done by praying to God, with the Jesus Prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me" and with all the tradition that our Church has, which is characterized by a hesychastic, philokalic and neptic life.

Because people do not actively participate in this inner contest, that is why they suffer from pain, suffering, sadness, depression. And some of them end up in medicines, tranquilizers and drugs, and others end up in methods of Eastern philosophy and religion, which at their base are, as they have been characterized, "psycho-narcotics".

Unfortunately, we, the Orthodox Clergy, theologians and monastics, are also responsible for the fact that, while we have in our Church a rich neptic and hesychastic tradition which helps in this "returning to the depths", we neither know it nor teach it, so many Christians either remain in the external, hedonism, sensuality and with what this entails for spiritual, mental and physical health, or they seek this inner calm in alien traditions that involve them in other adventures. We must find a way to practice Christ's words: "Return to the depths", in order to find our lost self.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.