And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
Read Chapter 15
Ambrose of Milan
He rightly returns to himself, because he departed from himself. For he who returns to God restores himself to himself, and he who departs from Christ rejects himself from himself.
For the son who has the pledge of the Holy Spirit in his heart seeks not the gain of an earthly reward, but preserves the right of an heir. These are also good husbandmen, to whom the vineyard is let out. They abound not in husks, but bread.
How merciful! He, though offended, disdains not to hear the name of Father. I have sinned; this is the first confession of sin to the Author of nature, the Ruler of mercy, the Judge of faith. But though God knows all things, He yet waits for the voice of your confession. For with the mouth confession is made to salvation, since he lightens the load of error, who himself throws the weight upon himself, and shuts out the hatred of accusation, who anticipates the accuser by confessing. In vain would you hide from Him whom nothing escapes; and you may safely discover what yo...
But he returned to himself, when from those things which without unprofitably entice and seduce, he brought back his mind to the inward recesses of his conscience.
But whence could he know this who had that great forgetfulness of God, which exists in all idolaters, unless it was the reflection of one returning to his right understanding, when the Gospel was preached. Already might such a soul see that many preach the truth, among whom there were some notled by the love of the truth itself, but the desire of getting worldly profit, who yet do not preach another Gospel like the heretics. Therefore are they rightly called mercenaries. For in the same house there are men who handle the same bread of the word, yet are not called to an eternal inheritance, but hire themselves for a temporal reward.
For he was lying down. And I will go, for hewas a long way off To my father, because he was under a master of swine But the other words are those of one meditating repentance in confession of sin,...
There are three different distinct kinds of obedience. For either from fear of punishment we avoid evil and are servilely disposed; or looking to the gain of a reward we perform what is commanded, like to mercenaries; or we obey the law for the sake of good itself and our love to Him who gave it, and so savor of the mind of children.
To the affection of a son, who doubts not that all things which are his father's are his, he by no means lays claim, but desires the condition of a hired servant, as now about to serve for a reward. But he admits that not even this could he deserve except by his father's approbation.
That is, his working, that by works faith may shine forth, and by faith his works be strengthened.
And when he came to himself, or, as the Arabic renders it, "when he was considering within himself." Euthymius says, becoming master of himself, and as it were waking up from the deep sleep of the drunken." "Returning from his wanderings abroad." Theophylact. "For," says the Interlinear, "he who has gone away from himself does well to return;" and the prodigal had been in a manner beside himself, and a raving madman, but his misery gave him understanding, and hunger taught him to be wise. So S. Gregory Nyssen. (Trad de Oratione) writes, "He did not return to his former state of happiness until, coming to himself, he felt the full weight of his cares." And S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang. lib. xxi.): "He turned his thoughts (intentionem) from these things, which act externally as snares and temptations, to his inner conscience" "For," says S. Ambrose, "he who returns to it returns to himself, but he who departs from Christ forfeits his rights in Christ."
How many hired servants of my father...
But he returned not to his former happiness before that coming to himself hehad experienced the presence of overpowering bitterness, and resolved the words of repentance, which are added, I will arise.
Now this prodigal son, the Holy Spirit has engraved upon our hearts, that we may be instructed how we ought to deplore the sins of our soul.
His meditating confession so won his father to him, that he went out to meet him, and kissed his neck; for it follows, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. This signifies the yoke of reason imposed on the mouth of man by Evangelical tradition, which annulled the observance of the law.
After that he had suffered in a foreign land all such things as the wicked deserve, constrained by the necessity of his misfortunes, that is, by hunger and want, he becomes sensible of what had been his ruin, who through fault of his own will had thrown himself from his father to strangers, from home to exile, from riches to want, from abundance and luxury to famine; and he significantly adds, But I am here perishing with hunger, As thoughhe said; I am not a stranger, but the son of a good father, and the brother of an obedient son; I who am free and noble am become more wretched than the hired servants, sunk from the highest eminence of exalted rank, to the lowest degradations.
When he says, Before you, he shows that this father c must be understood as God. For God alone beholds all things, from Whom neither the simple thoughts of the heart can be hidden.
Or by heaven in this place may be understood Christ. For he who sins against heaven, which although above us is yet a visible eleme...
By the servants (or angels) you may understand administering spirits, or priests who by baptism and the word of teaching clothe the soul with Christ Himself. For as many of us as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ.
As then with respect to the condition of his sins, he had been despaired of; so in regard to human nature, which is changeable and can be turned from vice to virtue, he is said to be lost. For it is less to be lost than to die. But everyone who is recalled and turned from sin, partaking of the fatted calf, becomes an occasion of joy to his father and his servants, that is, the angels and priests. Hence it follows, And they all began to be merry.
The man who until now had been prodigal came to himself. This is because he was “outside himself” and had taken leave of his true self so long as he committed foul deeds. Rightly is it said that he wasted and spent his essential property. This is why he was outside himself. For he who is not governed by logos, but lives irrationally without logos, and teaches others to do the same, is outside of himself and has abandoned his reason, which is his very essence. But when a man regains his logos (analogizetai) so as to see who he is and into what a state of wretchedness he has fallen, then he becomes himself again, and using his reason, he comes to repent and returns from his wanderings outside reason. He says hired servants, signifying the catechumens, who have not yet become sons because they have not yet been illumined by Holy Baptism. Indeed the catechumens have an abundance of the rational bread, the sustenance of the Word (Logos), because they hear each day the readings of Scripture....