Today is an unusual day. In this day, two liturgical cycles come together, and we hear two marvelous Gospel reading about the Meeting of man and God. In a certain sense, in this Meeting is the meaning of religion. If we choose to derive the word “religion” from the Latin re-ligare “to re-tie,” then the break which began when “the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Gen. 3:9), ended when the son “arose, and came to his father” (Luke 15:20).
In this time of preparation to the Great Lent, the Church teaches us through examples from the Gospel. Last week, we heard about the foolishness of the Pharisee, who brought to God his imaginary “worth” and “earnings,” and about the wisdom of the publican, who in himself saw the true state of mankind – on its knees, burdened with sin, in the mud of its passions – and who brought to God his illness, sorrows and weakness; that is to say, he brought to God his true self, and not a fake mask.
Today, Christ calls us through His parable and urges us to get up from our knees and to run to Him, as did the prodigal son when he came to himself (Luke 15:17). But how are we to come to Him, Who is so far away and unreachable, to the King of kings, the Creator of the ages, and the Master of the universe? Is it not natural to appear at a royal reception decorated in lace and medals, wearing hats with feathers and brocade dresses? Is it not normal to show off one’s dignity and to pose (Luke 18:11)? But what is the worth of all of these fake props in the presence of Him Who is the fullness of reality?
“My son, give me thine heart…” (Prov 23:26) The Lord is not asking us to give Him anything which did not give to us Himself. It was not Adam who was looking for God, but God Who was calling the lost soul (Gen. 3:9). The son was travelling from far away, but the father was already waiting for him and “when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him… and ran” to him (Luke 15:20). The righteous Simeon prayed to the Master as a servant, but the Master was already lying in Simeon’s arms having Himself become a servant (Luke 2:28). God did not come to us seated on a throne somewhere in the clouds, unreachable, surrounded by armies of angels. God came to us as a weak and helpless Child; He gave Himself completely into our arms, holding back nothing, hiding nothing.
The name of today’s feast is “the Meeting of the Lord.” God wants to meet our hearts, but we continue to hide from Him behind fig leaves (Gen. 3:7), behind our imaginary righteousness (Luke 18:11-12), or behind outright prodigality (Luke 15:13). God gives to us Himself, all that He is He gives into our arms, but we posture before Him like Pharisees: “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12). And that is in the best case…
Today is an unusual day. Today, God is waiting for us. Like a father, He is looking into the distance to see whether His son is coming. Like a small and helpless child, God gives Himself into our arms. We must meet Him as equals. We must call upon Him as He calls us, run to Him as He runs to us, and fully, keeping nothing back, give ourselves into His arms. Only then, the Meeting can happen; and in this reunion of God and man is the sacrament of our salvation.