of St Nicholas
Redeeming the Time Vol. 01.16 Sun of the Publican and Pharisee Jan 25 / Feb 8 1998
Redeeming the Time
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Dallas, TX
See then that ye walk circumspectly,
not as fools, but as wise,
redeeming the time,
because the days are evil.
Jan 25 / Feb 8 1998
Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
Confessors of Russia
News and Announcements*
Yearly Parish Meeting February 2 /15*
"Irish" dinner February 2 / 15*
Alms for Haiti*
Preparation for Great Lent*
The New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia*
Troparion - Tone 4*
Act of Glorification of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia*
The Publican and the Pharisee*
A sermon by Blessed Archbishop Andrei*
An explanation by Priest Victor Patapov*
Gleanings From the Fathers*
Keeping the word of the publican*
The Most Important Virtues*
Imitate the Publican*
Many years to Timothy, who celebrated his namesday on Wednesday, and Xenia, who celebrated St. Xenia, Fool for Christ, on Friday.
Sergius (Sumeet) Bahadur will be traveling the entire month of February in India and South Africa. Please pray for his safe return, and spiritual protection during his trip.
Please pray for the sick every day. Your prayer can be very simple: "Lord have mercy upon Thy (suffering) servant…"
This has been rescheduled for Sunday, February 2/ 15 (The Sunday of the Prodigal Son, and the Great Feast of the Meeting of the Lord).
The third "International" meal will be at the rectory, Sunday afternoon, after the parish meeting. We should be hungry by then! These dinners always have a theme emphasizing the Orthodox culture of another country or place, as well as other aspects of that places culture. So, along with the lives of St. Patrick and Columba, bring on the fiddle and harp music, corn beef and cabbage, and green beer!
In response to Fr Jean's letter to ask detailing his extreme needs, individuals among us have donated $150.00. The church is matching this amount, and the treasurer, Reader Paul, has sent a $300.00 check to Fr Jean's struggling mission. Fr Seraphim will follow this with a letter begging Fr Jeans' prayers, with a list of the parish diptychs, so that he will pray for us. Fr Jean's letter is available on our Web page. ( http://www.orthodox.net/appeals ).
The Montreal Police have wound up their investigation of the fire that had destroyed the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Montreal. No evidence of arson was found. However, the firefighters are still conducting their own search to determine the origins of the blaze. Starting on Saturday, services will be held at a chapel of the St.Viateur church on 165 Bloomfield Str., Outremont. The rector and parishioners of this nearby Roman Catholic church have offered the chapel free of charge. The St. Nicholas parish can use it until a permanent site of worship is found. Metropolitan Vitaly, clergy and parishioners have accepted this offer with gratitude. The interior of the chapel is being modified in line with the Orthodox tradition. At a parish meeting last Sunday Metropolitan Vitaly raised the possibility of buying a new church building. He thinks it the cheapest and fastest way to restore a normal parish life. But the majority of parishioners spoke out for building a new cathedral on the old site. Sources say that His Eminence will not force his opinion and will accept the will of the majority. The final decision will be made only after all formalities are settled. Meanwhile, a special fund has been created to raise money for restoration of the burned cathedral. Anyone willing to contribute can send donations to the following address:
ST. NICHOLAS REBUILDING FUND
811, Champagneur Ave.
H3N 2K4, Canada
From: Yuri Bogolepoff <ybogolepoff@MONTREAL.CBC.CA >
(Posted to an Orthodox mailing list)
We have set before us today another step in the preparation we must attempt before Great Lent, because this is the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. This is the first of 4 Sundays that lead up to Great Lent. Following this Sunday, we have a fast free week, in which any foods can be eaten every day, including Wednesday and Friday (Jan 29/Feb 11 and Jan 31/Feb 13). The reason for this fast free week is to remind us of paradise, and contemplate the only way we can regain paradise fully in our lives. Then we come to the Sunday of the Prodigal son. After this comes the Sunday of the Last Judgment, also known as "Meatfare Sunday", because this is the last day on which we can eat meat until Pascha. Then we celebrate the solemn Sunday of Forgiveness, also known as "Cheesefare Sunday", which brings us to the threshold of Great Lent, which begins the next day. We will, of course, begin Great Lent with the solemn Forgiveness vespers, which we customarily serve Sunday afternoon, not long after our morning meal. Only the lazy and those who do not need to ask forgiveness of anyone need not attend!
The church is trying to tell us something by setting before us these Sundays that lead us into the Great Fast. We had better listen, because just as the days pass quickly, and we suddenly find ourselves in the Great Fast, so does our life. Let us "Redeem the time" by trying to learn something from the Publican and from Zacchaeus, the former publican and great sinner whom we recalled last week, and is now numbered with the saints.
ye blossoms of the spiritual meadow of Russia, * who have wondrously flowered in the years of fierce persecutions, * numberless new martyrs and confessors: * royal passion-bearers, hierarchs, and pastors, * monastics and laymen, men, and women and children, * who in patience have brought forth good fruit unto Christ. * Entreat Him as the One who planted you * to deliver His people from godless and evil people, * and that the Church of Russia be made firm * by your blood and sufferings, * unto the salvation of our souls.
Today has, as is usual on a Sunday, two commemorations. One is from the "Menaion", which is the calendar governing the feast days for Saints, the Mother of God, and some of the "Feasts of the Lord". The particular feast we celebrate today from the Menaion is one very dear to our church, and of recent origin: "The New Martyrs and confessors of Russia". The Typicon stipulates that we celebrate the memory of these saints on the Sunday on or after January 22/Feb 9. We call to mind the millions of Christians martyred for their faith, including the Tsar Martyr Nicholas and his family, multiple holy Hierarchs, priests, and deacons, and innumerable lay folk, the names of most of which are known to God alone.
Just as it is impossible to name all of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, it is impossible to even mention every way in which they were killed. An apt description of their struggles is the same as that of the Holy Apostle Paul’s concerning the Prophets, who were also slain by the ungodly because they believed in and lived the truth:
"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (Heb 12:32-38)
The matins canon recounts the names and exploits of some of these holy ones, of whom truly the world was not worthy. No celebration of this feast is complete without a sober recitation of this canon. This canon at the same time informs, amazes, terrifies and chastens us. We are poor examples of Christians, and truly are "not greater than our fathers", and may yet be required to witness our love for our Savior with our own blood, since this is truly an evil and perverse age. It would be a good thing for every Christian to obtain this canon, and read it, and truly believe that "Wondrous is God in His Saints". Just as a Christian should benefit by hearing again the baptismal service, calling to mind his own unworthiness as he hears the prayers that were once said for him, so should he benefit from praying year after year at the service which commemorates the "second baptism" of the New Martyrs of Russia.
And after we have celebrated the vigil, and recalled by name so many of the martyrs, and been amazed by them, what are we to do? Why is it that the Holy Church asks us to remember these great ones, and indeed, any of the Holy martyrs? Is it not for the same reason that the Apostle reminds us of the Holy martyred prophets?
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand
This, brethren, is why we recall the martyrs. We wish the memory of them to somehow stir us up out of our lethargy, which threatens to kill us, and not our body, but our soul. It is always easier to perform a task when we are not alone, and of this we may be sure: we are not alone. Take courage, therefore, take courage, and live the Christian life. If you cannot live it because of fear or faithlessness, take courage, because these martyrs show us that indeed the battle has already been won. If you cannot live it because of sloth, or vice, then recall the martyrs and be ashamed, and let this shame goad you into the putting aside of your sloth and vice. If you cannot live it because of ingratitude or indifference to God’s great mercy, and the call of the Holy Spirit to "Repent and make straight the paths of the Lord", then, you must tremble in fear, because the judgment is very near to you!
The Holy Prophets "... all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise"(Heb 12:39), but to these Holy martyrs the Lord has "lovingly thrown open the portals of heaven for their grievous suffering". (Matins canon, Ode 1) Through the intercession of these Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia, may we also obtain the promise. Amen.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, representing the only free part of the Russian Orthodox Church, with reverence discussed the exploit of the martyrdom and confession of the innumerable believers in the Russian land who have suffered from the hands of the godless -- the persecutors of the Faith of Christ.
From the days of the Great Prince Vladimir, the Russian people with all its heart has accepted the holy Orthodox faith. This faith inspired numerous holy princes, hierarchs and ascetics, sanctifying the Christian order of Russian culture. These were founded on the Christian principles set forth in the Sacred Scriptures and Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Being realized in Russian national life in various degrees in various periods of history, these principles have continued to exist in all layers of the Russian people, from the Tsar to the last pauper. for the course of more than 900 years. However, during the past two centuries, instigated by the enemy of our salvation, the antichristian principles of revolutionary atheism has directed all its strength and means toward the annihilation of these principles in the Russian people.
From 1917, beginning with the sin of the whole people in violating the oath, given before the Cross and the Gospel, of loyalty to Faith, Tsar, and Fatherland -- there began to be put into practice the uprooting by the atheists of the whole Orthodox spirit in the government and in the people's way of life, both of which had turned away from God. This evil was attained by means of a cruel persecution of faith and of the Orthodox way of life; all layers of the population were made victims of this process, from the Tsar and the hierarchs to the simplest believers.
Right away, from the very beginning of the Revolution, there began a persecution and mockery of the imprisoned Tsar and his family and, almost simultaneously, an assault against the representatives of the Church: bishops, pastors, and believers. In the very first year of the Revolution our Church was made purple with the blood of the overthrown Tsar with all his family and the members of royal blood who were within the boundaries of Russia, as well as of numerous believers. Later, to them were joined the victims of persecutions from the renovationist schisms and the confessors who did not agree to any compromise with the antichristian authority in the attempt of the leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate at that time to serve at one and the same time both Christ and Belial. An innumerable choir of many millions of martyrs and confessors was formed. During the 64 years of Soviet dominion tens of thousands of churches and monasteries were destroyed and millions of people were martyred because they preserved their Orthodox faith and did not bow down to the idol of materialism.
Bowing down in prayer before all of them, the Council of Bishops decrees that there should be joined to the choir of saints all the martyrs and confessors who have suffered from the godless in Russia: hierarchs, clergy, monks, nuns, and all Orthodox people who have been tortured and killed for the Orthodox faith and the principles of Holy Russia. The names of these saints are so numerous that they can be fully known only to the All-knowing God, and the Council of Bishops will have to supplement the list of names with those of other people who have struggled for the faith to the glory of God.
A special place in the choir of holy New Martyrs is occupied by the Tsar-martyr Nicholas II, as the anointed of God, the bearer of the idea of the Orthodox state, and his family. Therefore, a special service is to be dedicated to them on the day of their murder, the day of sorrow, July 04/17, together with the reading at the Liturgy of the prayer of repentance established earlier to be read at panikhidas.
To all these holy martyrs and confessors we shall offer praise, entreating them that by their intercession at the Throne of God they might obtain for Russia deliverance from the godless and a rebirth of Orthodox life, and that by their example they might inspire other children of the Russian Church also to enter on the path of struggle for faith and piety.
The general feast of the Russian New Martyrs and Confessors is to be celebrated on the Sunday between the 22nd and 28th of January, according to the Orthodox Calendar. The memory of separate martyrs and confessors should be performed on the day of their blessed repose, when it is known, and otherwise on the day of the general feast of the New Martyrs
Chairman of the Council of Bishops
+ Metropolitan Philaret and Members of the Council
"The publican, standing afar off, would not lift so much his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." (Lk. 18:13)
And involuntarily one turns to last week’s Gospel. There is also told about a publican-Zacchaeus. We saw how the Lord overturned his whole soul. We saw how, after all his sinful life, he repented; and how he was ready to give half his possessions to the poor, and everyone he had defrauded, he would repay fourfold. And undoubtedly he did this. In- voluntarily, Zacchaeus the Publican and the publican in today’s Gospel blend into one image, into one person. After all, both of them were publicans, sinful men. And both repented. If we accept that today’s Gospel is the continuation of last Sunday’s Gospel, that today’s publican, beating himself on the breast, is really Zacchaeus, at least psychologically, then a great science will be revealed to us, a great lesson in the life of one who repents. You see we must repent.
All the injustice which Zacchaeus did, he did for gain, to be dominant. And here, when this dominance came and he considered himself to be a man of power-at this very moment came the Truth of God. The Truth of God tells us that if a person is in his mother’s womb for nine months, then he abides in the womb of the earth if strong eighty years, and after this begin suffering and sickness. And finally, through death man passes into the womb of eternal life for ever.
Zacchaeus saw all this now: he understood all his foolishness, his wrong way of life. And then he began to search for a way out. He was in such a state of mind when he saw Christ walking by. For him this was a rabbi. He couldn’t just go up to Him, and he didn’t want to. First he wanted to find out what kind of rabbi He was. Here we see the fig tree, then we see him in the fig tree, this man who was virtually a dignitary of the Jewish people. And then the crowd. Imagine what this proud man was going through. But Christ approached and said: Today we will be together, I will be in your home. And when Christ was in his home, then He revealed to him that power which immediately filled his heart. And here Zacchaeus said: I will give away everything, and whomever I have cheated I will repay fourfold (Lk. 19: 1-10). And so he did all this.
But what is the matter now? Now he is standing and beating himself on the breast, saying: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" And here, right next to him stands someone else, maybe his peer in society - a pharisee. He stands there and, on the contrary, in complete satisfaction says: I have done everything, I did this and this, I...I. Why didn’t the publican say: I did this also. I gave away half of my possessions. To that one I paid back fourfold. Why didn’t he say this? But on the contrary he said: "Merciful God, be merciful to me a sinner!"
The point is that the Lord endowed him with a gift- He expanded his heart. But as active life resumed, then a tragedy resulted: habit...habit. His inner man was the slave of habit; and this habit was a terrible force. Involuntarily, there appeared thoughts of avarice and the thirst for more and more gain. His looks were already in temptation which came through thought. The heart which had been liberated by Christ suddenly became dirty again. And he felt all this. "Lord God, be merciful to me a sinner." What to do?
Today the Holy Church brings us the full strength of this psychological moment, the full strength of this question: what are we to do? And with similar force, she gives us the answer to this question through the teachings of the Holy Fathers. In fact our Holy Fathers show us precisely what was going on in the soul of the publican. Because his conscience was now free, liberated by Christ, his heart was expansive, there was peace in his heart. His will was also free, and the freedom was in God. But the distance between the heart and God is sin. And here it happened to the publican that shadows started to appear in his heart, and he began to cry to the Lord for help.
How do these shadows come about? As Bishop Theophan the Recluse explains in one of his letters, they come about like this. Thought-it comes, and only if it does not captivate the feeling of the heart, then this is still not sin. It comes and, as today’s snow melts tomorrow, so it will not exist, and the heart remains clean. Even if the thought captures the heart, enters the heart-even this still not a misfortune; there is still a moment in which it is possible to cry, "Lord have mercy" and the heart will be clean. But when the thought has already entered the heart, and when you have already said, "I desire," this is when shadow appears. The mere fact that a shadow has entered, then here sympathy has already taken place, an action. Then, as the Bishop says, a fall has resulted. Sin has become action, and a fall has occurred. And as soon as one has fallen spiritually, sin has entered the heart, a deed has been accomplished, the person has departed from God and has begun to suffer, just as with a man who has fallen physically. We know what a tragedy spiritual sufferings represent. Pride, greed, ambition all kinds of lust gnaw at a man . . .and he is tormented. The heart of such a man becomes like stone.
As we see from the Gospel reading, this is what happened after Zacchaeus the Publican recognized his sin and repented. Christ absolved him of his sin. His conscience became free. But now he had to act; and when he started to act , then thoughts arose, and from thoughts came feelings. And what to do. Here he cried. "God be merciful to me a sinner; don’t let this happen..." And the Lord gives the Grace to prevent it from happening and saves the sinner. What must we do in order to receive this Grace? An active exertion of the will is needed. And next Sunday the Holy Church will teach us how this is acquired.
Continuing to denounce His adversaries, especially the Pharisees, Christ utters a parable that supplements the preceding two those of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. The following parable of the publican and the Pharisee is recorded in the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel according the Luke:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Two men went up into the temple to pray, thus does the Lord begin the parable. In their prayer, Christ discloses the state of both the one and the other. "Prayer is a mirror of one's spiritual disposition", say the holy Fathers of the Church, "Look into this mirror, look at how thou prayest and thou wilt be able to say unerringly what thy spiritual disposition is". In prayer, our good and dark sides, our spiritual abasement and spiritual growth are revealed most fully. It is not by chance that "The Lenten Triodion" (the Church book containing all the divine services, beginning with the Sundays preparatory to Great Lent and ending with Great Saturday) opens with the very significant sticheron: "Brethren, let us not pray as the Pharisee…"
In the parable itself, the Pharisee stands before us as the incarnation of absolute selfsatisfaction. The Pharisee the fulfiller of the law, who observes all the religious rules comes and prays in thanksgiving: God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess and here I am coming and thanking Thee.
It must be said that the Pharisee had some grounds for being satisfied with himself. After all, he was a representative of the intellectual stratum of society, he was in his own way religious, educated and wellread; to all appearance, he firmly preserved the religious beliefs and traditions, fulfilled the religious prescriptions, gave a tenth part of his possessions for the needs of his religion. Evidently, being a religious man in his own way, he did nothing obviously evil, and it is entirely possible that, in the worldly sense, he was not a bad man, whom many, perhaps, regarded with great respect.
But the selfsatisfaction of the Pharisee was, as it were, the dominate feature of his spiritual state; it was so dominant that it completely obscured from him the genuine picture of what was taking place in his soul. Selfsatisfaction, not limited by anything, had seized him to such an extent, that he completely forgot that all his socalled virtues lose all their value and meaning before God's judgment.
But now let us turn to the other the publican, the tax collector. In the ancient world, this profession was held in general contempt. To all appearance, the publican does not fulfill anything from the law; but, sensing his worthlessness, he only beats his breast and prays: God be merciful to me a sinner! The modest publican concentrated his spiritual powers on his sinfulness, on his imperfectness before the face of God. He understood all the futility of justification by outward works.
These, then, are the two different states on the one hand, there is the prayer beginning with thanksgiving: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are. This is seemingly an invocation of God, but in actual fact it is a confirmation of his "ego", for the core of pride, according to Venerable John Climacus, is "the shameless parade of our labours". The Lord, after all, knows the heart of the Pharisee; but he says: I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, and degrading his neighbor as well I am not …as this publican. The Pharisee seemingly both believes in the Lord and loves Him, seemingly seeks His help, but in actual fact degrades his neighbor and shamelessly exalts himself; he is already approaching the greatest degree of pride rejection of God.
What does he need God for, when he has fulfilled everything and only boasts of his virtues before God. John Climacus writes that the passion of pride "finds food in gratitude". For now, the Pharisee is still praying, but in a little while he will stop praying,because prayer is striving toward God in order to receive help from Him.
"I have seen people", says Venerable John Climacus, "who thank God with their mouth, but mentally magnify themselves. And this is confirmed by that Pharisee who said ironically: O God, I thank Thee."
The selfsatisfied Pharisee seriously thinks that he has attained perfection, that he knows everything. He who thinks that there is nothing more for him to learn, will also never learn anything more. Moreover, he is sliding backwards. The Pharisee also slid backwards, and his greatest fall turned out to be that he began to condemn others. Then love inevitably dries up in him, and in its place condemnation of others and contempt for them appear. Selfsatisfaction blinds and forces one to be satisfied with little; it makes a man to be morally a minimalist, who is satisfied with his easy outward successes and thinks about the quantity, and not the quality, of his good works. And so the Pharisee also cites figures: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes…
God does not need these calculations. He needs our heart. To think about the quantity of good works leads to legalism, to formalism. All this was characteristic of those who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees. The Lord says, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). It is important to note here the Saviour's words except your righteousness shall exceed. With these words, the Lord points out the limitedness of the Pharisees and of their approach to spiritual life.
But there is also another approach. Abba Anthony once said to Abba Poemen: "A man's work consists of laying his sins on his own head before God". This is the approach to God of one who needs Him in order to cleanse his sins. Therefore, the publican also prays: God, be merciful to me a sinner. He needs God; he begs, understanding that he has not yet done anything; he also does not proclaim the virtues that he perhaps possesses; he does not lay them, but "his sins on his own head before God".
"Pride is the annihilation of virtue", says John Climacus. In ancient books and in old popular prints one may encounter a depiction of the publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee is depicted racing along in a chariot, and the publican, walking on foot they both are striving toward the Kingdom of Heaven. The Pharisee races along in the chariot and hopes to arrive at the Kingdom of Heaven in it. His chariot is furnished with everything necessary for attaining this end; but at the last moment it breaks down, and we see in the ancient pictures that the publican on foot overtakes him.
For real spiritual life one must train oneself to maintain a balance between the manifestations of inward and outward religiosity. It is essential to keep the law the commandments of God and the regulations of the Church. But this is not enough. If we began to work for the Lord in this way, then in this work we would be like a man, who, according to the words of Climacus, thinks to swim out of the deep using one hand. It is necessary to possess the humility of the publican as well.
It is necessary to hate the exaltation of the Pharisee and the fall of the publican. The publican went out from the temple more justified; but this does not yet mean that he is in the Kingdom of Heaven. Ephraim the Syrian, the teacher of repentance, the author of the GreatLenten prayer "O Lord and Master of my life", commands us in this prayer to see our own transgressions, and not to judge our brother.
Prayer and good works are in vain if they are performed not for God, but for the world, for our vainglory. Every good work done for show is vain.
According to the unanimous definition of the Fathers of the Church, vainglory is fundamentally "trust in one's own efforts", "a rejection of God", "a driving away of His help". For, in doing something for show, I do it not at all in order to render to God what is due, to return the talent to Him multiplied this is Thine but in order that men would praise me. By this, I only assert my own "ego", for I need men here only so that they might render me praise. This is a "visible" idol, according to the definition of the Holy Fathers. I am not serving God here, but men; but I am also serving them not for their sake, but for my own. The Pharisee already rejects God. He comes to the temple and says: I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. Therefore, I am good. Thou didst create me; I still thank Thee. Perhaps Thy help is still needed by the publican, but not by me. I still worship Thee, but Thou art no longer necessary for me. This is the attitude of a man who puts his "ego", his virtue at the head of his life.
The Pharisee fulfills the law, and the law is difficult, for it is not easy to follow all the prescriptions of the law, even if only that of the Old Testament; but this is in vain, for he has no humility.
The devil met a certain Holy Father and said to him: "I am like thee in all things, except one: thou dost not sleep, and I keep vigil; thou fastest, and I eat nothing; but thou vanquishest me with humility". The faithful followers of Christ are known, not by works, but by humility. I can feed someone in God's name, not ascribing anything to myself and in this instance I shall have done a truly Christian work. However, if I should do the same thing, but for any other reason, for any other aim whatever it might be this work will not be Christ's…
The parable of the publican and the Pharisee is Christ's call to think and to uproot the Pharisaism that lives in each of us. The Church hastens to our aid. On the first Sunday preparatory to Great Lent, the Church says to us in Her Divine services: Come, learn from both the Pharisee and from the publican. From the one learn his works, but by no means his pride; for the work by itself means nothing and does not save. But remember that the publican also is not yet saved, but is only more justified before
God than the Pharisee, who was adorned with virtues.
Let us firmly remember Christ's words: Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 18:14).
Priest V. Potapov (Parish Life, August 1994) Fr Victor is the dean of our diocese. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
A Large selection of Homilies on the Parables is at:http://www.stjohndc.org/parables
An old man much given to austerities questioned Abba Ammonas: "Three thoughts occupy me, either, should I wander in the deserts, or should I go to a foreign land where no one knows me, or should I shut myself up in a cell without opening the door to anyone, eating only every second day?" Abba Ammonas replied, "It is not right for you to do any of these three things. Rather, sit in your cell and eat a little every day, keeping the word of the publican always in your heart, and you may be saved."
Repentance and humility are more important and higher than all of the other virtues, continuing until the end of our life. Referring to the words of the Prophet David, St. John Climacus writes, `I did not fast, I did not keep vigil, I did not sleep on the bare earth, but I humbled myself and the Lord saved me.'
Elder Ambrose of Optina, from a collection of letters, Orthodox Life, Vol. 47 #5, 1997.
Amma Syncletica said: "Imitate the Publican and you will not be condemned with the Pharisee. Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water."
All unsigned or unattributed portions Copyright 1997 Fr Seraphim Holland
Address: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071
Phone: 972 529-2754
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