The Return of the Prodigal Son, Conclusion, pt.2

This evening we are gathering for our final discussion of Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.  We will be generally discussing the parable overall and looking at Fr. Nouwen’s conclusion that we are ultimately called to become the father. His conclusion brings forth the question of what we mean by salvation.  On the one hand, salvation can be seen as simply a geographic question of moving from one place (Earth) to another place (Heaven). This isn’t much different than crossing the River Styx or ascending into Asgard.  We are forgiven, punishment is averted, and we are allowed to progress to the next level. 

An alternative way of seeing salvation is what we read about in St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation, in which salvation is not geographical but ontological – where our location does not change, but who we are does change.  In this work, Athanasius writes that God created us out of nothingness into his divine image.  But, because of sin, that image was being undone and we are falling back into uncreated nothingness which is death. It is through Jesus’ incarnation, passion, and resurrection that we are reborn into the Image of God and thereby partake of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4. Athanasius concludes his work with the observation that God became Man so that we might become God.  And, therefore, our very being is reborn into God’s image. And in this rebirth, we become the father in the parable.  The father is the die in whose image we are cast. 

Dinner is at 6. Menu is corned-beef and cabbage. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.   

Now there is singing and joy in the father’s home. What happened is the result of the Father’s grace and loving kindness. Not only does he bring his son back from death, but also through the Spirit he clearly shows his grace. To replace corruption, he clothes him with an incorruptible robe. To satisfy hunger, he kills the fatted calf. The Father provides shoes for his feet so that he will not travel far away again. Most wonderful of all, he puts a divine signet ring upon his hand. By all these things, he begets him anew in the image of the glory of Christ. 

St. Athanasius, Festal Letter VII

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *