On 16 February 2014, the 34th Sunday after the Pentecost, His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of Romania celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest assisted by a group of priests and deacons.
In the sermon delivered after reading the Evangelical Pericope of the day (Luke 15:11-32), His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel emphasised the spiritual teaching conveyed: “The Church scheduled this Gospel fragment for the second Sunday of the Triode just to teach us what is very important to do during the Lent. Thus, after the devoted prayer shown in the pericope of the Tax collector and of the Pharisee we have the sincerely repentance of the Prodigal son who comes back to his father after a painful experience and asks for his forgiveness. Thus, the Gospel shows us three great truths. First, it is the power of the repentance of the sinful man. Secondly, it is the great mercy or merciful love of God. The third great truth of today’s Gospel is the joy to forgive the sinful repenting man and to recuperate him because he was spiritually dead as a result of his sins and is spiritually resurrected through repentance. This is why the father says in the end: This son was dead and has come to life, he was lost and has been found. The Gospel also shows us on one hand the relationship between the Pericope of the Prodigal son who repents for his sins and comes back to his father’s house, and on the other hand the Holy Sacrament of Repentance or the Sacrament of Confession which is the mystery of man’s reconciliation with God as well.
God respects man’s freedom even if very often he chooses to use it contrary to the will of God
His Beatitude emphasised the fact that God observes man’s freedom even if most times he decides to use it in quite a wrong way, moving away from Him: “A father had two sons, reads the pericope. One day, the young son asks for his share of property and soon after leaves his father’s house going to an unknown destination, to a distant country, as the Gospel reads. The distant country is the space of man’s freedom who very often moves away from God just to show his freedom and maturity. The distant country is the alienation from God. Quite surprising, the father shares his property and gives his share to the young son and lets him go where he wants to. This Gospel shows us that God observes man’s freedom even if this freedom is used contrary to the will of God.
God enjoys the return of every sinful human
After the dramatic experience of freedom as alienation from God the prodigal comes back to his father’s house where he is received with much joy. His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel emphasised the fact that the father’s joy for the return of the prodigal son represents God’s joy for the return of every sinful human: “The Gospel reads that while he was still far off, his father saw him and he did not stay in front of the house to receive him, but ran to meet him. After the prodigal son said: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son’, his father embraced and kissed him. Here we see that God rejoices the return of every sinful human, and when the sinful man takes his first steps to confession, God comes to meet him. The Gospel shows that the father did not walk slowly, but running. When God sees a man coming back to Him to ask for forgiveness and make a new beginning to his life, He meets him with joy running to the one who wants to change his life. This running of the Father to the son show the merciful love of God and meeting the one wants to meet God again.
Then, His Beatitude Daniel explained the significance of the material things that the father offers to the son who came back home: ‘The best robe is the bright coat that man receives at Baptism. But after baptism, the man soils this best robe through his sins and this is why the robe of the soul is cleaned through the Mystery of Repentance, namely the robe of the soul whose sins were forgiven. The ring that the father puts on the finger of the son who came back home means God’s unlimited, permanent and unchanged love for us. The sandals signify the grace or help of God to reject temptations, and the fatted calf symbolises the Holy Divine Eucharist given to the humans who received the forgiveness of their sins through the Holy Confession”.
During the Divine Liturgy the Patriarch of Romania ordained Valentin Nicolae deacon, counsellor within the Canonical-Juridical Department of the Archdiocese of Bucharest, for the parish of Caramidarii de Jos, district 4, Bucharest. To end with the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude Daniel congratulated the new deacon: “It is a great joy for the Cathedral and for the eparchial centre of the Archdiocese of Bucharest. Father Valentin Nicolae has been in the service of the Church for many years as jurist. He is the first of the seven jurists of the Eparchial centre both with the juridical and theological studies. He graduated the “Patriarch Justinian” Orthodox Faculty of Theology of Bucharest with high marks. We thought it was a good thing to have a jurist to defend the rights of the Church to help a lot the parishes to recuperate the goods confiscated by the communist regime and to be a servant of the Holy Altar too, so that this work should be a holy work, for the benefit of the Church with missionary purpose to help the poor parishes, the sick and the lonely ones. We wish him blessed deaconship, consecrated through prayer and celebration. We also congratulate him and his parents who gave birth to him and raised him in faith, his father confessors and professors who spiritually formed him, as well as his family who supports him in his administrative work, and now in the liturgical one too, through prayer and good understanding.