My dear friends in our Lord, glory to Jesus Christ!
This week again we have a parable from our Lord, one which serves as a prophecy and as an instruction to us. Let us hear what our Lord says:
The Lord spoke this parable: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.
God the Father is here likened to a king. The bridegroom is His Son and Eternal Word. The bride is the Church of God, the true Israël. The marriage is the betrothal of the Son to the Church, and their union, through which we memebers of the Church become partakers of the divine nature. This connection is called a marriage because of its greatness and because of the love which God has for us. Note, however, that it is only in English that we have translated the term as “marriage.” In the Greek, and the Latin, and in Slavonic, the term used would be better translated as “nuptuals,” signifying an even fuller connection between the two parties, uniting families and establishing spiritual relationship. It is a sad commentary that in our day that the word “marriage” has been so devalued so as to mean simply a legal contract between two parties. But that is as it is. So the Lord has the king in our parable today not simply effecting a contract, not simply witnessing a “legal a marriage,” but rather making nuptials for his son, thus showing the Church that the ways of relationship, union, and connection with God the Word are indeed manifold; for closeness to God and union with Him is not all of one sort, but is diversified.
Some are joined to Christ, the immaculate Bridegroom, by virginity and purity; others, by many good works and silent almsgiving; some by teaching, and others by listening; some by action, others by stillness; some by going out into the world, others by retiring from the world and being silent. Some bring forth fruit a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold; for the Master in His love toward man has given us diverse states of life on the path to salvation, not only one. But they are all blessed, and they all lead to salvation.
And he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come… Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited: Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my calves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the marriage.
Of the servants who conveyed the invitation to the marriage, the first were the apostles who first preached the Lord at His Coming; the second group of servants are those who proclaimed Him after His Resurrection and Ascension, and then the fellow-labourers and successors of the Apostles, down to our own times, all teachers, pastors and ministers of the Word. Those invited in the first instance are the jews; they had been bidden before, not once or twice, but many times, bidden by the Law, the Prophets, and by Saint John the Baptist, who proclaimed to them, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight;” and again he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh away the sin of the world.”
And what are the calves and the fatlings? This refers to the abundant food of spiritual gifts, which are more to be honoured than things that are temporal and corruptible; this is the lofty and rational food of the divine dogmas and their understanding. The fatlings signify the fatted calf itself, in hearkening back to the parable of the prodigal son, and the sweetness of spiritual vision, which is rich and most sweet, not weak and feeble. The dinner denotes every sort of spiritual food and nourishment. Moreover, the calves and the fatlings are figures of the mysteries of the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is indicated by the calves, since it is full of animal sacrifices, while the fatlings indicate the New Testament, for now we offer on the altar the full richness of the Unbloody Sacrifice.
God, then, bids us eat of the good things of the Old and New Testaments. Furthermore, when we see someone speaking of divine things clearly and purely, we should acknowledge that he is bestowing rich food, since he nourishes and fills the mind, the will, and the heart by teaching plainly and proclaiming the divine Scriptures.
Sadly, this teaching can and does fall on deaf ears, darkened intellects, and hardened hearts, as we hear in our Lord’s parable:
But they neglected, and went their own ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise. And the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.
Even though the Father, the King, invited them, they excused themselves with inexcusable excuses, citing farms, or merchandise.
The farm refers to any fleshly, passionate, or carnal way of thinking, as well as to all sensual, worldly, and material troubles. Merchandise stands for love of possessions, love of money, love of worldly honours.
These were the things which the jews loved, and therefore they made light of the royal wedding, and mistreated and even killed those sent to invite them to it. For this reason they incurred the wrath of God; and as wicked men they met a wicked end, and were left to their own destruction. When God calls, there is no rational reason to refuse Him; as the Lord Himself said, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Not only did the jews refuse to come, but they also killed those that were sent to them.
But when the king had heard of it, he was angry, and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.
In saying these words, we have a prophecy indeed from our Lord, but also an instruction. For in these words, the Lord foretold What was to happen some forty years after His Ascension, under the emperors Vespasian and Titus, speaking as if it had already happened; for with God the future and that which has not yet come to pass are, indeed, as the present. The armies of God, as Saint John Chrysostom says, are either the heavenly hosts and the angels charged with punishing, or even indeed the Romans themselves in this case, who burned Jerusalem and took all within it captive.
The capture and destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion and loss of the whole jewish nation did not take place immediately after Christ’s Crucifixion, but some forty years later, that God might show His great long-suffering. When they killed the Protomartyr Saint Stephen; when they killed Saint James, the brother of Saint John, with the sword; when they mistreated and drove out the Apostles; then was their suffering and total loss set in motion.
Some of those who heard of these things from Christ Himself were witnesses of what would eventually happen; Saint John the Theologian was still alive, as also many others who had been with Christ, when all was accomplished as the Lord and Master had foretold.
Great and ineffable is the Lord’s mercy; He did many things to show His long-suffering, while He waited for the foolish and ungrateful jews to mend their ways. He planted a vineyard; He gave them time to cultivate it; He sent His servants to receive the fruits in their season. When they were killed, He sent other servants; when they, too, were put to death, He afterwards sent His Son, as we heard last week. Even after the Son was slain, He still summoned them to the marriage, after His Resurrection and Ascension, yet still they did not wish to come. Then He sent even more servants, and they killed these also. Finally, He brought those evil men to an evil end; He punished and destroyed them, since they were hopelessly diseased in their souls. Hence we may understand that, whereas we need forces of order, we ought to honour above all those which are spiritual; we should accept, obey and submit to those who are sent by God and ordained for our spiritual visitation, ministration and care, and not grumble, harden our hearts to them, degrade them, mistreat them, drive them out and kill them, lest we anger God and give ourselves up to perdition.
Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.
Call those who were neglected and whomever ye happen to find; the Church of God can accommodate them. No longer, my friends, do we hear such words as, “The Ammanite and Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord;” instead, we hear, “Come! Come, all of you, to where there is neither Greek nor Jew, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free.” Come!
And the servants, meaning the Apostles and the angels set over the churches of the Gentiles, went and gathered as many as they found. Even to the present day people keep coming, both the good and the bad; and they are vouchsafed the mysteries and enjoy divine gifts.
Lest the nations trust in faith alone, and thereby walk idly and carelessly, the Master then speaks to them also of judgement; He carefully directs His discourse to their life and deeds, as we read:
And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness…
The wedding garment is the state of grace. To be called and to be made clean is the work of grace. To be called and to stay clothed in clean garments, ever keeping them pure, is dependent on the will and desire and diligence of those who are called. It is impossible for a man to enter the wedding feast, that is, the kingdom of heaven, in unclean garments, having an impure soul. Thus we see that the man was shut up, that is, he was silent. In that he had no answer to the king, he rendered judgement against himself. He would not be there without a wedding garment unless he had himself put off the wedding garment that he had been given. Therefore, he was condemned to be cast out.
Now the tortures of the exterior darkness were not made for man, but they were made for the demons. For man there was prepared from the foundation of the world the kingdom and the enjoyment of incorruptible good things, but we ourselves might choose the lot of the enemies of God, and we can condemn ourselves to torments.
Before the enjoyment of the banquet, the just judge pronounces judgement. Those found worthy may enjoy the feast, while the unworthy are cast out; for every one is condemned or acquitted according to his or her own deeds. All who have come to the Master’s marriage feast and tasted the sweetness of the divine mysteries and who yet wilfully and wantonly live with souls clothed in impure deeds, let us listen to those things. Let us be awakened. Let us understand what we will suffer if we are not clothed not in the garment of grace, but rather in sin. And this by our own choice, my friends. Our own choice.
For many are called, but few are chosen.
We have been called by grace, my friends. We have been called by grace. Nevertheless, let us also be among those chosen through free will, lest we prove unworthy of our calling. Let us dare not approach the Master’s table in sin, lest We be found without a wedding garment at the divine marriage feast. Let us reverence the invitation of Him Who has called us to the marriage. We have no need of a variety of expensive clothes for the body; what we need is the adornment of the soul within.
Adornment of the soul has little in common with adornment of the body. We cannot be slaves to our passions and lusts, and still obey Christ as is right. So let us, then, cast off this cruel torment; let us throw aside the filthy robes of shame. Let us throw aside lust, impurity, passions, evil desires and greed. Let us seek, rather, the things which are above, taking hold of the kingdom by our zeal, that we may receive incorruptible good things, in Christ Jesus our Lord.