Sunday of the 7th Ecumenical Council, Luke 8: 5-15
There is a beautiful story I read this week about a German scholar who once toured many monasteries throughout Asia Minor before eventually coming to the Monastery of the Holy Virgin of Soumela. As he was walking through the monastery, he noticed the beautiful and vibrant gardens of flowers that were spread out in front of the monastic cells. Anyone who has been to a monastery knows that this is a rather common sight – monasteries are truly “escapes into paradise” for us. They offer us the ability to run away from this darkened world and back into a “Garden of Eden.”
The scholar was so struck by the beauty and fragrance of the various flowers and greens, that he stopped for a moment to take it all in. The monk who was keeping the gardens noticed him and came out to greet the visitor asking, “Do you know where all of these flowers come from?” The scholar shook his head, “No.” The monk quietly retreated back to his cell and returned with a small bag. He said to the scholar, “Inside this bag are seeds of every flower single one of those flowers which you have been admiring. Now I ask you, isn’t it an incredible miracle that these colorful, sweet smelling flowers come from these small and simple seeds?”
Have you ever taken a minute to pause, look out a window, and take in all of the beauty and power that is found in creation? Every tree, every blade of grass, all the plants and flowers that you see, have all come from simple seeds. These tiny miracles are something that we often are too busy to stop and appreciate.
In the Gospel (Luke 8:5-15), we learn about a different and more powerful seed than the ones we find in our backyards. Our Lord speaks of the Divine Seeds in the parable of the sower who went and planted them in various types of soil. The first set was trampled and eaten by birds. The second set landed on some rock and eventually withered and died. The third set fell in the middle of thorns, and the plants were choked and withered away. The last set fell on “good soil” where the power of those seeds was able to take affect and yield a crop that was a hundred fold.
At the end of the parable, Christ doesn’t leave any room for personal interpretation. He says that the seed that he spoke about is the word of God – the words and teachings given to us by our Lord then repeated by hundreds of thousands of Saints throughout the centuries.
It is interesting that right around the time we hear this Gospel lesson, the Orthodox Church also remembers and celebrates the Holy Fathers of the 7th Ecumenical Council. Remembering Church History, this was the council that defended the use of Icons within the Church. We are grateful for their wisdom every time we enter into the Church. Just as we are able to look outside our windows at home to see the power of earthly seed at work, we have the added blessing in the Orthodox Church to look at the “windows into heaven” that are found inside the Church. Icons allow us to see the incredible crop that has sprung up from the Divine Seed that has fallen on the Good Soil.
We can look to St. Matthew – a man who led a truly sinful life as an unjust tax collector. When he heard those two simple words from the lips of Christ, “Follow Me,“ the Divine Seed took to the good soil of his heart and produced the fruit that is the Gospel of St. Matthew.
We can say the same about St. Paul – a man who was present at the murder of St. Stephen the Deacon. He had a horrible reputation amongst the Christians because the Chief Priests gave him the authority to bind and punish those who mentioned their faith in Christ. Yet while on his way to go and persecute more Christians in Damascus, he heard the word of God who asked him, “Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
God’s words were a Divine seed that once again took root in the heart of a broken man and eventually produced many flowers in a “garden of epistles.” Paul’s epistles have brought so many people to the foot of Christ throughout the centuries.
We can say the same about our own patroness, St. Mary Magdalene. After our Lord expelled seven demons from her, St. Mary became one of the most ardent followers of our Lord. She followed Him not only throughout His earthly ministry, but also long after He Ascended into Heaven. In a roundabout way, if we want to see the crop that sprung from the Divine Seed in her life, we need simply to look around us this morning. St. Mary serves as our patroness and our example. Two thousand years later, by her prayers, we are still producing fruit here in Fenton, MI.
For St. Matthew, St. Paul, and St. Mary Magdalene, all it took was one moment. One word, one “seed” from our Lord, not only changed the direction of their lives in the present, but effected the entire world millennia after they fell asleep in Christ. This same power and miracle is available to us here today! Regardless of how we individually have lived our lives in the past, how many times we have missed the mark, how often we have spent our lives in darkness, we are reminded today that all it takes is one moment, one Divine Liturgy, or one word from THE Word, to penetrate the soil of our existence so that we can bear Divine Fruit to others.
May we all strive to make the soil of our hearts fertile ground for the word of God, and allow our parish community to prosper, flower, and become that Garden of Eden that stands amidst the chaos of this life!
~ Fr. Gabriel, St Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church, USA