Great Lent

First Pre-Lenten Sunday : Publican and Pharisee

We all know (or should know) this parable of Christ’s from Luke’s gospel. It’s simple enough and the conclusion seems both obvious and perhaps somewhat trite. But in the Matins Canon for this Sunday there are verses that illuminate a deeper and more profound reading of the parable.

Let us examine more deeply the two characters, the Publican and the Pharisee.

“The Pharisee spent his life in virtue, and the Publican in sin; but the one was foolishly brought low through his pride, while the other in his humility of mind was raised up to the heights.”

Virtue and sin, pride and humility – what contrasts of lives lived.

“The Publican and Pharisee both ran in the race of life, but the one was overcome by foolish pride: He was brought to a shameful shipwreck, while the other was saved by humility.”

One shipwrecked by pride, the other rescued by humility.

“The righteousness of the Pharisee proved to be vanity, and was condemned, for it was yoked to pride; but the Publican gained humility, which goes with the virtue exalting men on high.”

“The Pharisee thought to drive swiftly in the chariot of the virtues; but the Publican on foot outran him, for he yoked humility with compassion.”

So here we have a subtle thing; the virtue of righteousness when yoked to pride gives rise to vanity and is condemned, whereas humility yoked to compassion is the virtue that exalts.

“A Publican once went up into the temple with faith, and was justified as he prayed to God. For he drew near in contrition of heart, with tears and cries of sorrow, and obtaining mercy, he laid aside all the burden of his sin.”

The Publican’s faith was justified by his contrition of heart, expressed by tears and cries of sorrow. He obtains mercy and is absolved from the burden of his sin.

How are we to apply this parable to ourselves

“Every good deed is made of no effect through foolish pride, while every evil is cleansed by humility. In faith let us embrace humility and utterly abhor the ways of vainglory.”

“Let us hasten to follow the Pharisee in his virtues and to emulate the Publican in his humility. Let us hate what is wrong in each of them: foolish pride and the defilement of transgressions.”

“The crafty enemy lies in wait for the righteous, despoiling them through pride, while binding sinners fast with the ropes of despair, but let us emulate the Publican, and with haste, escape both these evils!”

What does Christ urge us to do?

“Through parables leading all mankind to seek amendment of life, Christ raises up the Publican from his abasement and humbles the Pharisee in his pride.”

“You have warned Your disciples, Master, teaching them not to think proud thoughts but to be numbered with the humble.”

“Christ has set before us the abasement of the Publican as a path to exaltation and a pattern of salvation: Let us follow his example and reject disdainful pride, and gain God’s mercy through our humility.”

“Let us cast foolish pride from our souls, learning to think with truth and humility; let us not try to justify ourselves, but to hate pride’s delusion, and so with the Publican, obtain God’s mercy.”

“As the Publican, let us offer the Creator prayers for mercy. Let us avoid the ungrateful prayers of the Pharisee and the boasting words with which he judged his neighbour, that we may gain God’s mercy and enlightenment.”

“Let us eagerly follow the ways of Jesus the Saviour, and His humility, in our desire to attain the eternal dwelling of joy, and to find rest in the land of the living.”

“You have shown Your disciples, Master, the humility that raises men on high: girding Your loins with a towel, You washed their feet, preparing them to follow Your example.”

Conclusion – self examination

“Weighed down by the great number of my sins, I have surpassed the Publican in an excess of evil, I have also made the boasting delusion of the Pharisee my own: I utterly lack all good things: O Lord, spare me!”

“Let us fall before God in prayer with fervent tears of repentance, emulating the Publican in the humility which raised him on high,”

“Let us all emulate the groaning of the Publican, and cry out to God with fervent tears: We have sinned, Lover of mankind. In Your compassion, be merciful to us and save us!”

“Bestow Your blessedness on those who are poor in spirit for Your sake!
We offer You a contrite spirit in obedience to Your command:
Accept our sacrifice, O Saviour, and save those who worship You.”

Let us, the faithful, flee the boastfulness of the pharisee;
Let us repeat in reverence the publican’s prayer:
May our thoughts not be poisoned by pride, O Lord;
Grant us the grace to cry aloud from the depths of our hearts: //
God, be merciful to us sinners!

I know the value of tears, Almighty Lord:
They delivered Hezekiah from the gates of death,
And rescued the harlot from repeated sins.
Tears justified the publican instead of the pharisee: //
I pray you, Lord: number me with the former, and have mercy on me!