Beloved in Christ, today marks the beginning of that most festive time of preparation for Great Lent. We identify these weeks preceding Great Lent as the Triodion period, named after the service book used in Church.
Today’s Gospel lesson is from the eighteenth chapter of Saint Luke- 18:10-14. As we read the lesson, let us consider ourselves during our confession and ask ourselves honestly, do I pray and confess as the Publican or as the Pharisee?
The Gospel lesson begins thus:
10-14. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus within 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 counted righteous rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Amongst the greatest of sins is pride. The fathers teach us that pride is the father of sin, bearing wicked fruit in abundance. The greatest challenge for man is to root out this vile sin before it corrupts us and leads us to perdition.
In his exposition on the Gospel of Saint Luke, the Righteous Theophylact teaches the following:
The Lord ceaselessly purges the passion of pride in many ways. This passion, more than any other, disturbs our thoughts, and for this reason the Lord always and everywhere teaches on this subject. Here He is purging the worst form of pride. For there are many offshoots of self-love. Presumption, arrogance, and vainglory all stem from this root. But the most destructive of all these kinds of self-love is pride, for pride is contempt of God. When a man ascribes his accomplishments to himself, and not to God, this is nothing less than denial of God and opposition to Him. Therefore, like enemy to enemy, the Lord opposes this passion which is opposed to Him, and through this parable He promises to heal it. He directs this parable towards those who trust in themselves and who do not attribute everything to God, and who, as a result, despise others. He shows that when righteousness—which is marvelous in every other respect and sets a man close to God—takes pride as its companion, it casts that man into the lowest depths and makes demonic what was God-like just a short time before.
We see the prayer of the Pharisee, who studied the Law and was a teacher of the Law. Though he knew the Law and professed to fulfill the obligations of the Law in fasting and so on, he loses the reward because of his vaunting, which is the fruit of his pride. So as to teach us about the spirit of the Law, the Lord states the prayer of the Publican was effectual and acceptable unto the Lord, for he left the temple justified – his sacrifice was acceptable before God – a sacrifice unto God is a broken spirit.
May our Lord accept our evening sacrifice and ever lead us away from pride!