From the shadow to the truth

EIA1019ADISSt Bartholomew (24 Aug.)II NOCTURN

From a Sermon by Theophanes Cerameus, Bishop

“Philip,” says the Gospel, “found Nathaniel and told him: We have found the One whom Moses wrote about in the Law, and whom the Prophets also wrote about, Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”  It is as if he cried out: There is no need for us to pore over the sacred books any longer, dear Nathaniel, for we have met the One they tell about: we have found him for whom we have so long been searching.  “Nathaniel asked him: Can anything good come out of Nazareth?  Philip answered: Come and see.”  The Gospel continues: “Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him: Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no deceit.”  He saw him coming from the shadow to the truth, from the fig tree of the Law to the One who had dried up the leaves of the fig tree of the Law because it lacked the fruit of good works; and seeing him he called him a true and not a false Israelite.

Then note the steadiness of Nathaniel and how incapable he was of feeling flattered.  Our Lord’s praise left him totally unmoved, but in asking: “How dost thou know me?” he showed his eagerness for mystical knowledge.  And the sign was at once given to him.  “Before Philip called thee, I saw thee under the fig tree.”  Nathaniel was indeed sitting under the fig tree when Philip instructed him in the divine mysteries concerning Jesus.  But in his remark our Lord was also hinting at the fig tree as a symbol of the Law, whose shadow was keeping Nathaniel from receiving the light.  For just as the trunk of a fig tree is bitter to the taste, and the leaves rough to the touch, while its fruit is very sweet, so too the punishments of the Law are bitter and its observances harsh and hard to keep; but the fruit of the Law and the synagogue, the fruit of the root of Jesse, is the fairest of men and sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.

Let us listen to Nathaniel acknowledging the Divinity of Jesus: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel!”  Surely a divine light illumined his holy mind to enable him to see something deeper than the testimony of Philip, and something worthy of a noble Israelite!  Philip said that Jesus was the son of Joseph, but Nathaniel, who earlier had called him “something good”, now proclaimed him more explicitly Son of God and King of Israel, pointing to the two natures in Christ.  For being by nature the Son of God, as man he is said to have received the kingdom from his Father.  Jesus, therefore, seeing Nathaniel thus speaking of divine truths, led him by his words to thoughts still more sublime.  “Thou believest,” he said, “because I told thee that I saw thee under the fig tree, but thou wilt see greater things than this.”  In these words he promised to show him the Resurrection.

Responsory.  Blessed is the man || to whom the Lord hath not imputed sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile: * Mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.  V. Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile! * Mercy shall … Glory be … Mercy shall …