Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

Joy of all the Sorrowful - Mays Landing, NJ (f. 1966)

Gospel parables, an Orthodox commentary

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"The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matthew 13:44).

The parable of the treasure hidden in the field shows the priceless Kingdom of God, for which we ought to sacrifice all earthly goods. The people of antiquity had a practice of hiding treasures in a secret place, in time of war or disaster, hoping to retrieve them later. Of course, some one else could find these treasures and use them. Christ's parable at hand is about such discovered treasure: A man working and tilling a field finds a treasure hidden in it. He rejoices at the find, but keeps it secret. Hoping to make use of it, he carefully hides it again in the field, so that no one else would find the treasure. He sells everything that he owns and buys the field. Now he is the owner of the field and has the right to the treasure.

By the treasure, Christ means the Gospel and the moral life it teaches, supported by the Church. The Gospel is a genuine treasure, beside which all earthly goods are nothing. Man may obtain the whole world, but without a moral life according to the Gospel, he is nothing. On the contrary, he is rich whoever follows the Gospel although in all else he be poor.

But the Gospel is hidden from him who listens only with his ears and not with his heart. Perhaps the man of the parable had passed by that buried treasure hundreds of times, not knowing it until he discovered it. Just so, man may listen to the Gospel for years and not see its treasure, until it penetrates his heart, thanks to the word of a pastor or spiritual friend.

The man in the parable sold all he had to buy the field of treasure. Saint Gregory the Dialogist writes concerning the price of the Heavenly Treasure: "No fixed price exists for it. Every man must give up everything that he possesses for it. The Apostle Peter gave up his nets to gain the Kingdom of Heaven. The widow gave up two mites. He who has millions let him give up millions, and he who has nothing let him give up his will."

Blessed, eternal life is hidden in the treasure of the Gospel. It is only necessary to find the treasure in order to make use of it. But where is one to seek it; in which field? Here Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow answers, with eloquence:

"In many places! For example, in the field of solitude and reverent silence, in the field of chastity and abstinence: only spare nothing in order to gain possession of such a field, and thou shalt find the treasure. But a field particularly close and accessible for all, is that in which the treasure of grace is secretly placed, that is, the Church. What a treasure is hidden in her sacred assemblies! In them is hidden the presence of Christ the Lord Himself, and in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), as well as the treasures of all other gifts spiritual and Divine. What a treasure there is in the prayers and doxologies of the Church! In them breathes the grace of the Prophets, the Apostles and the saints; still more, in them the Holy Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). What a treasure there is in the readings of the Gospel! The same power, which, proceeding forth in Christ's word, cast out demons, healed infirmities, raised the dead and enlightened with the Divine light, now too abides in His word, in His Gospel. What a treasure there is in the Mysteries, and especially in the Mystery of the Body and Blood of the Lord! In it there is hidden eternal life with its inscrutable good things, in accordance with that which was said by the Lord: "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life" (John 6:54).

"One needs only to know how to use such treasures, and for this it is necessary to sell, that is, to scorn, to reject all that thou hast, namely pleasing thyself, thy passions, thy depraved habits, thy carnal desires, thy laziness, thine inattentiveness, thy dissipation. An even closer field of treasure is our inner man. The depth in which the treasure is hid signifies the heart of man. Herein, the Spirit of God breathed invisibly in the Mystery of Baptism, and by His breath introduced new life from God."

"And so, treasure is put into our field, but has each of us found it? If we bury this hidden treasure deeper and deeper under the dung and refuse of vain, impure and iniquitous thoughts and deeds, then our treasure lies without being used, our spiritual life is embryonic or in a faint."

The man who found the treasure hid it in order not to lose it. For a spiritual life, this parable means that whoever is proud of the gifts of grace will lose the treasure because of his pride. And a member of the Church who has gained the grace of God should humbly cherish it in his soul in humility. A humble man, rejoicing in the Lord, does not start to boast before everyone, but goes to a man close to him in spirit, to share his joy and his wealth.

Here is how Blessed Augustine writes about this joy, about his conversion to Christ: "How suddenly it became pleasant for me to do without worthless pastimes, and I with joy left off that which previously I had feared to lose! For Thou didst remove them far from me, and Thou, the true and highest Joy, Thyself didst dwell in me, O Sweetest of all joys!" And let us do the same!

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