The Shepherd, June 2007
FROM THE FATHERS
THE LORD, after He had chosen His disciples, and before His resurrection, bade them cast their nets into the sea (Luke 5:4-11). They cast them, and they took such an innumerable multitude of fishes that the nets broke, and the ships being overladen were near to sinking. He did not say to them on what side they should cast their nets, but only: Let down your nets. For had He told them to let down their nets on the right-hand side, they would have caught only good fish; if on the left, they would have caught only the bad. Because they cast at random, neither to the left nor to the right, they caught both good and bad. This is a figure of the Church at the present time, in this world.… This the Lord did before His Resurrection. But in like manner after His Resurrection, He again found His disciples fishing. He again bade them cast in their nets, but not anyhow and at random, for now it is after the Resurrection. For after the Resurrecion His Body, which is the Church, will no longer contain the bad. Cast the net, He says, on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find (Jn 21:6). They cast the net, as He told them, on the right-hand side of the ship, and they caught a certain number of fish. For those caught which were not numbered (Luke 5:6) are those from the draught by which the Church is signified as it is now. I declared and spake: They are multiplied beyond number (Ps.39:8). These are understood to be above the due number, and, in a measure, superfluous. Those, however, caught on the right-hand side are great fishes, and numbered (Jn 21:11). Whosoever shall do and teach, He says, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:19). And so there were taken great fishes, to the number of one hundred and fifty-three. And who does not feel that this number was not mentioned without reason? … This number, one hundred and fifty-three, also signifies something. And the Evangelist had a purpose in telling this, as though he were looking back to that first draught, where the broken nets foreshadowed schisms, because in the Church of eternal life there will be no division, and all shall be great, for all shall be filled with love.… What, then, is the meaning of the number one hundred and fifty-three? This assuredly will not be the number of the blessed. The saints will not be limited to one hundred and fifty-three, for they alone who were not defiled with women are numbered a hundred and forty and four thousand (Rev. 14:1-4). The number seems to grow like a tree from some seed. The seed of this great number is a certain lesser number, which is ten and seven. Ten and seven make a hundred and fifty-three; if you count from one to seventeen, and add up all the numbers. If you simply add the numbers from one to seventeen, all of which you counted, there will only be seventeen. But if you add them up this way: one, two and three make six, six plus four and five make fifteen, and so on up to seventeen, you reach a total of one hundred and fifty-three. Recall now what I reminded you of and commended to you a while ago, and think of what and Whom ten and seven signify. Ten means the Law; seven the Holy Spirit. By this number what are we to understand but those who will be in the Church of the eternal Resurrection, where there shall be no schisms, where death shall no more be feared, for after the resurrection it shall be no more; those therefore shall live forever with God, who have fulfilled the law by the gift of God, the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Blessed Augustine of Hippo, + 430 A.D.