The Sunday of the Prodigal Son is the second Sunday of the Triodion, the three week period leading up to Holy and Great Lent. These three weeks prepare us for the coming rigors of Great Lent and are a reminder of the coming of the Feast of Feasts, Pascha.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is a lesson on the wages of sin and the hope of repentance, of free will and the promise of forgiveness.
The prodigal son approaches his father for his inheritance with a prideful heart. He tells his father of his plans to take his inheritance and go out into the world. His father allows him to make this choice without hindrance. The son is not exiled from his father’s house, instead he leaves of his own free will.
The son goes out into the world and becomes caught up in the sins of the world. Later having lost everything, in his most desperate moments fighting swine for scraps of food, the prodigal son finds in his heart the flickering hope of his father’s forgiveness. This hope gives him the strength not to succumb to his despair, even in the face of the enormity of his sinfulness.
The prodigal son then makes the conscious choice to repent, makes a plan of how he will approach his father in repentance and humility, and puts his feet back on the road to his father’s house. Clothed in rags but with a humble and hopeful heart, he finally returns to his father and receives forgiveness. Luke 15:11-32
Saint Cyril of Alexandria delivers a very interesting and thoughtful explanation of this parable in his Sermon on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son .
Saint John Maximovich gives a short and wonderful talk about the parable of the Prodigal Son in A Word to the Youth
~ Fasting days this week, Wednesday and Friday ~
A note on the icon of the Prodigal Son
This icon (above) is know as a didactic, or “teaching”, icon. Teaching, or didactic icons, do not depict actual people or saints but instead generic types of people.
This particular icon of the parable depicts Our Savior as the father. If you look at the top of the icon where the three angels sit, you’ll notice that the red throne in the center remains empty. This signifies Christ on earth to forgive us our sins. On the right hand, Christ’s embrace of the prodigal son reminds us that no matter the gravity of our sins, His forgiveness is always ours for the asking.