By the Protopresbyter Dr Georgios Lekkas, priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium.
Repentance is the way to return home, and home is our spiritual self, what the Orthodox Tradition calls our ‘heart’. It is there that the Triune God was worshipped before the Fall, and it is there that we are called to worship Him again.
The journey home is usually much more painful than we could ever have imagined, because each of us is called upon to retrace the whole arduous route that our ancestor Adam travelled after he departed from his home.
Returning home would be impossible if God the Father, our Father, were not always there waiting for us, and if he did not do everything, even sending His own Son, to gather us there again in the Holy Spirit.
However, because man left Paradise freely, and freely lost the knowledge of his spiritual self as the preeminent place for a worshipful encounter with his Creator God, so only freely can he return there again.
To be sure, the free choice to return home would never succeed without divine support, which always eases the agonies of our painful return, without however eradicating them altogether, so that our freedom to return is kept struggling and unambiguous.
The joy of returning home is joy at the rebirth of our spiritual self, which has opened its doors fully, in order to accommodate its Creator God and all of His Creation just as He wished to create it.
The joy of rebirth makes us forget all the pains we needed to undergo in order to be reborn, just as the joy of the birth of her child makes the mother forget all the pain that she had to suffer before she could take him in her arms.
Indeed the joy of spiritual rebirth is so great that it makes man rejoice even at the fact that he had to suffer in order to be reborn. The one who has been reborn now sees everything with new eyes and is grateful for everything (both beautiful and ugly, pleasant and painful) because he now recognizes in all things – in each individual thing and in all things together – the means by which the infinite love of God made it possible for him to be reborn.
The person who has returned home celebrates because he sees the God of all things permitting Himself to be worshipped in his own heart. His joy is so great that he wants to worship God wholly and in all things, because there is no greater joy than worship of the Lord.
He takes joy in worshipping his Lord wholeheartedly in his own home and in seeing realised in the home of his own heart the reason for which man and the world have been created. This joy is unbounded, and the man who takes delight in the joy of meeting his Lord in his own home would perish instantly from an abundance of joy, if he were not protected in his joy by the Lord Himself.
By worshipping the Lord in his home, man finally discovers his own home; as a result he is no longer able to live outside it. Thus whoever has discovered the Holy Altar of his own heart wishes to live around it permanently, just like the All-Holy Mother of Christ in the Temple. He wishes to surrender even the least particle of himself, in order to be glorified by the Lord even in his darkest point, just as he would wish to surrender to Him even the least particle of His Creation in unceasing and complete worship, if possible, of His All-Holy Name.
A person who has returned to the home of his heart has made the whole world his home, all people his brothers and sisters, and all the works of God his own family. The man who has returned home can, in the abundance of his own joy, endure all except for one thing – to live outside of it. For anyone who returns home, the failure to repent is not simply an alternative choice: rather it is spiritual suicide.
Sunday of the Prodigal Son, 20.2.22.
Protopresbyter Dr. Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium. He studied Law, Philosophy and Theology at the University of Athens. He has a PhD in Greek Studies from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Research Agency (2000-2005). He taught Greek philosophy in Greek Higher Education (2005-2017). His latest poetry collection, PROSECHOS ANAGENNISI (IMMINENT REBIRTH) was recently published by To Koinon ton Oraion Technon (Athens, 2021, pp.79).