17th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday (Year II)
The net in the Gospel parable caught fish of every kind, just like the net after Jesus’ resurrection:
“So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn” (John 21:11).
In Christ the Eternal Tao, a book exploring the insights of the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (founder of Taoism) and Christianity, Hieromonk Damascene wrote eighty-one poems mirroring the eighty-one poems of the Tao Te Ching. Each poem reveals the compenetrating insights of Christian revelation and the pre-Christian philosophy of Lao Tzu. Poem 22 speaks of the post-Resurrection net and shows the marvelous power of grace to transform persons.
Chapter 22 of Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene
He was condemned as a friend of harlots
And the harlots became virgins.
He was condemned as a friend of thieves
And the thieves restored their stolen goods fourfold.
He was condemned as a friend of poor fishermen
And the poor fishermen caught the universe in their nets.
He was condemned as a friend of outcasts
And the outcasts inherited His Kingdom.
He was condemned, and they were created anew.
He wept over what His creation had made of itself,
And by His tears was it remade,
Restored to its true nature, its primitive origin.
The first creation was of the dust of the ground;
The second, of Water and Spirit.
Lao Tzu had a profound intuition of the merciful and transforming character of the Tao (the word used to translate Logos in St. John’s Prologue). Tao manifested in the world is called Teh, or Grace—the Light seen by Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Lao Tzu intuited the nurturing character of the Absolute when he described it as “the mother of the ten thousand things,” meaning everything that exists (Tao Te Ching, chapter 1).
The parable of the net warns us to be watchful that we may be caught in the mesh of grace. The net that “caught the universe” motivates us to pray that none may slip through.
“Vast is Heaven’s net;
Sparse-meshed it is, and yet
Nothing can slip through it.”
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 73, translated by John C. H. Wu)
Lao Tzu joins Plato, Aristotle and other pre-Christian philosophers who were led by the Holy Spirit to glimpse the mystery behind visible phenomena by meditation and insight. They belong to the great journey of humanity in its return to the Trinity.