Sunday of Orthodoxy
Today, on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, we hear of the calling of Philip and Nathanael, and particularly of Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael. Nathanael initially doubted Philip’s report that he had found the Messiah, for he had been expecting the Messiah to come from Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. However, it was his personal encounter with Jesus Christ that convinced him that he had indeed truly found the Messiah of whom the prophets had spoken.
This encounter shows us that it is only by a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that we will truly be able to see Him for who He is. However, such encounters do not usually just happen. While God can break through our defences and come to us unexpectedly, the reality is that our spiritual sight is often dulled so that we do not recognise the many ways in which He does come to us. Moreover, He comes to us in a particular way in the Divine Liturgy, but to what extent do we truly recognise His presence and respond to Him appropriately?
Recognising the Lord when He comes is not simply about acknowledging Him intellectually, important though this is. Rather, it is about developing the inner eye of the heart that Saint Paul speaks of when he prays,
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you. (Ephesians 1:17-18)
If we truly want to see God in this way, then we need to be prepared to purify our hearts, which is the purpose of this Lenten season. By reigning in our desires and cutting down on distractions, we can learn to quiet our minds so that we become more receptive to the many ways in which God comes to us.
Sight will suffice for faith. All you need to do is talk with Him, and you will be all the more ready to confess and say without hesitation that He is indeed the expected One. But we must also believe that there was a divine and ineffable grace flowing from the words of our Saviour that proved alluring for the souls of is hearers… For since His word is mighty in power, it is also efficacious to persuade.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria
At that time, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and he said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” ` Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”