Texts are layered, meaning within meaning, depending on the aim of the teacher. The prodigal son, prima facie, describes our journey away from God and our return back.
We leave the Father, no longer living in obedience to Him, are drown in the disease of desire and debauchery, disgusted we,”come to ourselves.” We, on the other hand, can be as the elder brother, ostensibly following God, oblivious to our pride in our performance. Then, at the sight of God’s grace and forgiveness, we object and cry disparity, unfairness.
Saint Gregory takes a mystical approach to this as well. The real description of our apostasy, leaving the Father’s house, is a failure to live in the heart. Here is an excerpt from his discourse to a monk, in what is known as the Triads.
” The Father ever desiring the same wandering man then to return again, and the wanderers to go to His home, as there is no place else possessing peace, at least as far as we know, through kind words, He found the spiritual struggler, to draw him back to this same home.” Triads 1.2.40
God wants us in His house. But how? Let’s go back in the discourse.
“… when the mind instead acts upon the other things, looking around for what it would need,” this Dionysios the Great says is straight movement of the nous, but returning again to itself and energizes by itself, whenever the nous beholds itself; the same Dionysios says concerning it, this is a cyclical motion.” Triads 1.2.40
Gregory says, in accordance with the Great Dionysios, that the mind, nous, has two movements. One is to the outside, it’s attention is dispersed upon the sensible world, which is called a straight movement. The other is to the interior, which is called a circular movement. The Father’s house, connecting the thoughts, is the heart. This is really what repentance is- the change of the direction of the mind. We turn to God from the world. Hence, John says, “love not the world…if any man love the world the love of the Father is not in Him.” (IJn.2:15-16)
“In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you so. I go and prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.”
There are degrees of proximity to God, as there are, “many mansions.” I have retained this translation because it is regal, but literally they are μοναι, dwelling places. St Gregory calls the Father’s house a χορος, a space. The idea is the same. We can have as big a heart for God- a house- as we want. However, knowing the nature of our love, we tend to grow cold in our love, and the χορος, the space, shrinks. Hence David noted, “you have enlarged my heart when I was in distress.” The mansion, the space of the heart, becomes expanded when God stretches it through tribulation, until we know, “the length, breadth, depth and height…of the love of Christ.”