Κυριακή 28 Ιανουαρίου 2018

Sunday of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (1st Sunday of Triodion in the Orthodox Church)

Orthodox Archbishopric of Zimbabwe & Angola

This Sunday, which is well known as the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, constitutes an important event within the liturgical life of our Church. From today we begin to utilize the common prayers of our church, the Triodion hymns. These prayers are centralised in the meaning of prayer and repentance and are the means which prepare us spiritually with faith, love and humility to live the great events of the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To learn from His humility, from His miracles, from His sacrifice on the cross and from the majesty of His love for the distressed and the deprived, for the ailing, the orphans and the widows. So that with the help and spiritual advice of our clergy, we may heal our passions and our weaknesses, so that in the end we might be able to live the joy of the Resurrection and the common hope of our salvation through Christ.

Icon from here
Hence, within this timely period of the seventy days before Pascha, our church urges us through her hymns, to acquire real humility and repentance – which are the necessary means for attaining the purpose of our life, namely our salvation through Christ.

Repentance is becoming conscious of the human insufficiency of independence. At a point when a human being thinks he knows it all, the result is that he errs, that is, he “makes a mess” he does injustice to himself and others, he sins and suffers. Repentance is our effort to live closer to God, obeying His Divine Will. Real repentance is our effort to live according to the Divine Commandments, to have therefore a personal communication with God and the people whom we meet on the daily path of life.

Finally, the matter of our repentance is change in the manner of our existence; it is the Christian life, like the enlightened example of our Holy Ones, like the example of Saint John the Forerunner, like the example of the holy life of our Saints whose names we bear.

Humility and the simplicity of character of our Saint’s lives are their holy gifts, which motivate them to love all people. For those people however where conceit and selfishness rule, not only do they not have the willingness to help their neighbours but they need to criticize and slander all those who, with humility and simplicity, try to assist their fellow human beings.

closely observe the Pharisee in the parable of today’s Gospel extract with the way in which he comes into the temple in order the pray. This reveals to us his whole internal psychological world.

We see him with arrogance, having complete trust in himself and his supposedly good deeds. This is why he considers himself the greatness of Saints. Namely, he has arrived at a righteousness of himself. He considers himself to be completely different from others. For the Pharisee, all people are sinners who must be punished by God.

The Pharisee is without compassion towards his fellow human beings. He thinks that only he is just and a keeper of God’s law.

This why the Pharisee blames, despises and rejects the Publican, like every other man, considering them big sinners, who have no hope of salvation!

The Pharisee relates his good deeds to God, but in order to elevate himself, he considers himself unconsciously a God, to some extent, he positions God’s place upon himself. He considers God superfluous in his life and therefore he becomes a God-player.

Next to the Pharisee is the Publican, who with his continuous humble prayer and with his entire behaviour in the temple, shows us his great respect for God, he shows us his great faith, he shows us his unworthiness and his complete consciousness of his sins.

The publican does not concern himself with the behaviour and the sins of other people. He remains engrossed in the criticism of himself. He prays , in a well-intentioned manner, for others and he considers them to be better than himself, before God. Hence, it is evident that he lives the condition of humility and simplicity and he is driven by God’s grace towards complete worthiness and justice from God.

Thus, humility becomes the bridge which connects us to God. Strictness towards ourselves and leniency towards our fellow human beings, is the correct attitude in life, as effective and responsible Christians. No one has the right to feel himself worthy, to condemn others as sinners. Our responsibility for our fellow human beings, is to pray for them, and when we can, to help them, just as our Lord Jesus Christ did; just like our Saints.

See also

The Lenten Triodion, starting point for Easter - warnings against pride and hypocrisy 

Orthodox Spiritual Legacy: A Guide to the Triodion and Lent, on the Road to Easter

The Pharisee and the Publican

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi 

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in the Temple (Luke 18:9-14) is rich with spiritual truth. In fact, it contains the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As verse 9 tells us, Jesus spoke this parable to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others”. Jesus spoke often of the issue of righteousness, pleading with His hearers to understand their utter inability to be righteous enough to attain the kingdom of heaven. This knowledge was essential if they were to understand His mission on earth, which was to save sinners—those who knew they could not save themselves.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, thought their own goodness was so impressive that it could not fail to make them acceptable to God. They held rigorously to the ceremonies and traditions of the law, making a public show of their religiosity, all to be seen by other men, many of whom they despised as being beneath them. The Pharisee in the story is the epitome of one who is self-justifying. Notice that his prayer has no elements of confession. He does not ask forgiveness for his sins, perhaps because he believes he has nothing to confess. Nor is there any word of praise or thanksgiving to God. His prayer is all about him. Even the thanks he does offer is designed to exalt himself and place himself above others whom he treats with disdain. Going to the temple to pray with the condition of his heart as it was, he might as well have stayed home. Such a “prayer” is not heard by God.

Unlike the Pharisee, who stands boldly in the temple reciting his prayers of self-congratulation, the tax collector stood “afar off” or “at a distance,” perhaps in an outer room, but certainly far from the Pharisee who would have been offended by the nearness of this man. Tax collectors, because of their association with the hated Romans, were seen as traitors to Israel and were loathed and treated as outcasts. This man’s posture spoke of his unworthiness before God. Unable to even lift his eyes to heaven, the burden of his guilt and shame weighed heavily upon him, and the load he carried had become unbearable. Overcome by his transgressions, he beats his breast in sorrow and repentance and appeals to God for mercy. The prayer he speaks is the very one God is waiting to hear, and his attitude is exactly what God wants from all who come to Him.

The tax collector exhibits precisely what Jesus spoke about in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Being poor in spirit means admitting we have nothing to offer to God to atone for our sin. We come to God as empty, impoverished, despised, bankrupt, pitiable, desperate beggars. The tax collector recognizes his sinful condition and seeks the only thing that can bridge the gap between himself and God. “Have mercy on me,” he cries, and we know from the end of the parable that God heard his prayer for mercy and answered it. Jesus tells us in verse 14 that the tax collector went away justified (made righteous) because he had humbled himself before God, confessing that no amount of works could save him from his sin and that only God’s mercy could.

If we are truly broken-hearted over our sin, we can be assured of God’s boundless love and forgiveness in Christ. He has promised in His word to accept us, love us, and make us alive again through His Son (Colossians 2:13). No amount of good works, church attendance, tithes, community service, loving our neighbor or anything else we do is sufficient to take away the blot of sin and enable us to stand before a holy God on our own. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross. His death is the only “work” that is able to cleanse us and make us acceptable to God.

In addition, we must not make the mistake of comparing ourselves with others and gaining confidence from what we see in that comparison. In fact, Jesus specifically warns us against this attitude at the beginning of the parable. When we try to justify ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, we naturally end up despising them. Our standard for comparison is God Himself, and we all fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23).

The Gospel of the Sunday

Orthodox Metropolis of Zambia and Malawi

Luke 18:10-1421st Century King James Version (KJ21)
10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican.

11 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.
12 I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
14 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.”


Lucas 18:10-14
10 Dois homens subiram ao templo, a orar; um, fariseu, e o outro, publicano. 11 O fariseu, estando em pé, orava consigo desta maneira: Ó Deus, graças te dou, porque não sou como os demais homens, roubadores, injustos e adúlteros; nem ainda como este publicano. 12 Jejuo duas vezes na semana e dou os dízimos de tudo quanto possuo. 13 O publicano, porém, estando em pé, de longe, nem ainda queria levantar os olhos ao céu, mas batia no peito, dizendo: Ó Deus, tem misericórdia de mim, pecador! 14 Digo-vos que este desceu justificado para sua casa, e não aquele; porque qualquer que a si mesmo se exalta será humilhado, e qualquer que a si mesmo se humilha será exaltado.


От Луки 18:10-14
10 – Два человека пришли во двор храма помолиться. Один из них был фарисей, а другой – сборщик налогов. 11 Фарисей, встав, молился о себе так: «Боже, благодарю Тебя, что я не такой, как другие люди: воры, мошенники, неверные супруги или как этот сборщик налогов. 12 Я пощусь два раза в неделю и даю десятину со всякого дохода». 13 А сборщик налогов, стоя вдали, не смел даже глаз к небу поднять, но бил себя в грудь и говорил: «Боже, будь милостив ко мне, грешнику». 14 Говорю вам, что именно этот человек пошел домой оправданным перед Богом, а не первый. Потому что каждый возвышающий себя будет унижен, а каждый принижающий себя будет возвышен.

Лука 18:10-141940
10 Двама души възлязоха в храма да се помолят, единият фарисей, а другият бирник.

11 Фарисеят, като се изправи, молеше се в себе си така: Боже, благодаря Ти, че не съм като другите човеци, грабители, неправедни, прелюбодейци и особено не като тоя бирник.
12 Постя дваж в седмицата, давам десетък от всичко що придобия.
13 А бирникът като стоеше издалеч, не щеше нито очите си да подигне към небето, но удряше се в гърди и казваше: Боже бъди милостив към мене грешника.
14 Казвам ви, че този слезе у дома си оправдан, а не онзи; защото всеки, който възвишава себе си, ще се смири, а който смирява себе си, ще се възвиси.


ﻟﻮﻗﺎ 18:10-14
10 «ذَهَبَ اثْنانِ إلَى ساحَةِ الهَيكَلِ لِكَي يُصَلِّيا. كانَ أحَدُهُما فِرِّيسِيّاً، وَالآخَرُ جامِعَ ضَرائِبَ. 11 فَوَقَفَ الفِرِّيسِيُّ وَصَلَّى عَنْ نَفسِهِ فَقالَ: ‹أشكُرُكَ يا اللهُ لِأنِّي لَستُ مِثلَ الآخَرِينَ، اللُّصُوصِ وَالغَشّاشِيْنَ وَالزُّناةِ، وَلا مِثلَ جامِعِ الضَّرائِبِ هَذا. 12 فَأنا أصُومُ مَرَّتَينِ فِي الأُسبُوعِ، وَأُعطِي عُشراً مِنْ كُلِّ ما أكسِبُهُ.›

13 «أمّا جامِعُ الضَّرائِبِ فَوَقَفَ مِنْ بَعِيدٍ، وَلَمْ يَجرُؤْ عَلَى أنْ يَرفَعَ عَينَيهِ إلَى السَّماءِ، بَلْ قَرَعَ عَلَى صَدرِهِ وَقالَ: ‹ارحَمنِي يا اللهُ، فَأنا إنسانٌ خاطِئٌ!› 14 أقُولُ لَكُمْ، إنَّ جامِعَ الضَّرائِبِ هَذا، قَدْ عادَ إلَى بَيتِهِ مُبَرَّراً أمامَ اللهِ، أمّا الفِرِّيسِيُّ فَذَهَبَ كَما أتَىْ. لِأنَّ كُلَّ مَنْ يَرفَعُ نَفسَهُ يُذَلُّ، وَكُلُّ مَنْ يَتَواضَعُ يُرفَعُ.»


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