Archdiocese News - The Pharisee and Publican [English/Arabic]


Next Sunday is called "Sunday of Pharisee and Publican” is the first Sunday of the preparatory period which consists of four individual Sundays before the start of Great Lent. Gospel’s reading from Luke 18:10-14 is an example by Jesus reflecting human spiritual situation when standing in front of God. The parable is about two men went up into the temple to pray are portrayed by Jesus in His parable represent different people — the first was Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 
The Pharisees were one of the major Jewish religious groups that were known for keeping a literal adherence to the letter of Moses’ Law. The Lord rebuked them repeatedly in many occasions as they were concerned about the external religious practices rather than internal development; when he likened them to whitened graves. Externally bright whiteness but internally rotten essence full of corruption. The Tax Collector was a Jew working for the Romans; Jews hated the Publicans because they represent the sovereignty of Rome, in often times they overcharged when assessing taxes to put the surplus in their pockets. Therefore, they were considered as traitors and sinners.
These two opposing characters went up to the temple to pray. The publican went down and returned to his home justified, while the Pharisee who holds the Law was convicted by his own actions.
The quality of each prayer revealed of the essence of each one. The Pharisee “as the Gospel says” he started his prayers with thanks giving, his prayer was longer. Prayer is a conversation with God; but apparently the Pharisee was praying within himself, and not with God. He was praising and extolling himself and not God in whose presence he stands. His thanks giving were based on his own worship, his actions within the Law. This religious pride associated with fasting, almsgiving and prayers without paying attention to the inner values and substance led him to fall into the sin of “judging others”. He said: "I thank you because I'm not like other people who are immoral and unjust sinners; and not like this publican." The Pharisee was fasting, praying and tithing and all These are required and necessary by law as faith without works is but dead, but the Pharisee did not know that God searches also “the hearts and the ‎intentions”.
The publican stood away and “would not even lift up his eyes to Heaven”. This is the modest stance of the humble prayer.
We read in the Sunday service "If you resemble the Pharisee, run far away from the Temple; for inside is CHRIST before whom only the humble are acceptable”. The publican stood from afar, he felt he was not worthy to stand in this holy place and not eligible to speak with God. He knocks on his breast as a sign of repentance and remorse. His prayer was concise a single one sentence: ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Short prayer but coming from a broken and humble heart. We read in Sunday prayer "O believers let us pray in the Holy Temple the publican tone saying; “O God forgive us sinners as thou did to Publican who received forgiveness and life and to avoid the deadly Pharisee’s magnification."
“Let us not pray, brethren, Pharisee-like; for he who exalted himself shall be abased. Wherefore, let us humble ourselves before God, crying by means of fasting, with the voice of the publican, saying: God forgive us sinners”. (Readings from Vespers).

This parable given by Jesus and the Holy Church has chosen it at the beginning of preparation for the Great lent to get into the field of fasting and praying equipped with repentance, humility and a meek heart. Likewise, today teaches us the value of humility when we practice virtues. Humility is the guardian of the divine virtues and the ladder leading to paradise. Let us all humble ourselves, brethren; groaning and lamenting, let us beat out conscience, that at the eternal judgment we may be numbered with the faithful and the righteous, receiving forgiveness. Let us pray to see the true peace of the Age to Come, where there is no more pain, no sorrow, no groaning from the depths, in the wondrous Eden fashioned by Christ, for He is God coeternal with the Father.                                                        

Metropolitan Basilios (Kodseie).

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