SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND THE PHARISEE — Tone 1. Afterfeast of the Meeting. Repose of St. Theodosius of Chernígov (1696). Beginning of the Lenten Triodion.
Tone 1 Troparion (Resurrection)
When the stone had been sealed by the Jews, while the soldiers were guarding Your most pure body, You rose on the third day, O Savior, granting life to the world. The powers of heaven therefore cried to You, O Giver of Life: “Glory to Your Resurrection, O Christ! Glory to Your Kingdom!// Glory to Your dispensation, O Lover of mankind!”
Tone 1 (Feast)
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Full of Grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those who sat in darkness. Rejoice and be glad, O righteous Elder, you accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls,// Who grants us the Resurrection!
Tone 4 Kontakion (from the Lenten Triodion)
Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee! Let us learn humility from the Publican’s tears! Let us cry to our Savior: “Have mercy on us,// O only merciful One!”
Tone 1 Kontakion (Feast)
By Your Nativity You sanctified the Virgin’s womb and blessed Simeon’s hands, O Christ God. Now You have come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians,// O only Lover of Man!
Tone 1 Prokeimenon (Resurrection)
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us /as we have set our hope on You! (Ps. 32:22)
V. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the just! (Ps. 32:1)
Tone 3 Prokeimenon (Song of the Theotokos)
My soul magnifies the Lord, / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Lk. 1:46-47)
2 Timothy 3:10-15 (Epistle)
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra – what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
V. God gives vengeance unto me, and subdues people under me. (Ps. 17:48)
V. He magnifies the salvation of the King and deals mercifully with David, His anointed, and his seed forever. (Ps. 17:51)
V. Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation! (Luke 2:29)
Luke 18:10-14 (Gospel)
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Genuine Power and Truth of Humility
Excerpted from the book At The Doors of Holy Lent by Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou
On the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, which marks the beginning of the Triodion, the Lord sets out by His word a pattern of salvation for us. He reveals the mindset the faithful must have in order to enter the arena without ‘tempting the Lord’ so that all their striving throughout Great Lent may not be in vain. In this blessed period, the Book of the Triodion is the best guide for all those who take their work of repentance seriously. Within the five verses of today’s Gospel reading, the Lord presents the paths men take before Him, but also makes Himself known as the God ‘Who shows mercy on us and saves us’, as the ‘Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort’,1 or as He Who ‘came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief ’,2 as the great Apostle Paul says, and along with him all who repent. Man’s entire life, from the moment he sees the light of day until he finally closes his eyes, is one continual presentation before God. For this reason, it becomes urgent for us to seek a pure voice in our prayer and entreaty, so that our presentation may be found well-pleasing before Him. The words of the Gospel express the compassion of God Who desires to show His creature, in every way, how to return to the ‘fatherland for which he longs’3 and from whence he was exiled. Through the transgression of the commandment, man was cast out of Paradise and since then he wanders ‘in darkness and the shadow of death’,4 famished and weak, far from the ‘house of his Father’. Life in the Church is this struggle to return, which was given to us as a possibility through the Lord’s coming in the flesh. He shows us the way, which is none other than the path of humility and descent. In his hatred against God and man, the enemy and author of every evil invented pride and foolishness, despair and unbelief, sloth and despondency. Nevertheless, virtue proves to be stronger than all the devices of the enemy, as it is sustained by gifts from on high and the invincible alliance of the Almighty Lord, Who hastens to strengthen those who labour to keep His commandments. Virtue does not only oppose evil, but it also amends and justifies through repentance and humility those who have fallen, as is shown in today’s Gospel. Through the figures of the publican and the Pharisee, in the Gospel of the first Sunday of the Triodion, we see the implementation of the word of the Lord: ‘By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’ The publican had a past heavy with sin. Yet through the prayer, ‘God be merciful unto me a sinner,’ he was included in the choir of the just. Whereas the Pharisee, who supposedly worked righteousness, was condemned by his self-conceit, his contemptuous and arrogant speech.
In these two characters, the parable depicts two categories of people and two paths. One is the path of reason and human righteousness, which the Pharisee displays before God, but which is an abomination in His sight, as is all that is held in high esteem by this world that ‘lieth in wickedness’. The second path, as manifested in the attitude of the publican, is the path of the Lord Himself. He first humbled Himself ‘unto death, even the death of the Cross’, ‘He descended into the lower parts of the earth,’ but then ascended ‘on high’ where ‘He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men’.8 All those who follow Him, in awe at the mystery, curse their own righteousness, blaming themselves for all things and giving glory to God. The way in which the publican and the Pharisee converse with God indicates that there are two kinds of prayer, supplication and thanksgiving, which are acceptable or useless, depending on the manner in which they are offered. Supplication brings fruit when it is offered with faith and surrendering to God, with contrition and pain of heart, and, of course, when it is accompanied by the loathing of evil works. It is rendered useless, however, when it is offered perfunctorily, with indifference and a hardened heart, or when it is polluted by demonic despair and self-pity.
Thanksgiving is a kind of prayer particularly pleasing to God and it is very powerful when it is filled with humility and mighty gratitude, when it is accompanied by compassion and entreaty for those who did not receive the same good portion. If such is the case, as our Holy Fathers teach us, thanksgiving intercedes before God for our weaknesses and makes up for all our shortcomings. Yet its power is annihilated when man ascribes the gifts he has received from above to himself. Thanksgiving provokes divine anger when it proceeds from conceit and hidden pride. It proves to be destructive when it is accompanied by judging and humiliating others. Before the narration of the parable begins, the Evangelist explains the motivation which urged the Lord to express these words: ‘And He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.’ The delusion of those who were justifying themselves with confidence in their external acts and despising their fellows was the cause for the Lord to speak this parable. ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.’
Geographically, the Temple of Solomon was built at a certain height, but in a broader sense, the temple of God is always to be found on a spiritual height. It is the place, where ‘terrible things are accomplished’. We read in Holy Scripture that when Israel was afflicted by a terrible pestilence, the King and Prophet David saw an angel of the Lord in Zion holding a great sword. At the site of his vision, he built an altar, where he offered sacrifice to God, and the deadly plague that oppressed the sons of Israel ceased. To make an analogy, the same occurs with all Christians who ascend to the spiritual and supra-cosmic height of the Church of God, where the bloodless sacrifice is offered for the propitiation of the whole world, eternal death is crushed and the grace of unfading life is attained. In general, the nature of prayer is such that it lifts man up and presents him to God.
Two men went up to the temple, each one from a different background and with a different demeanor. One was a Pharisee, that is, a perfect observer of the law and teacher of Israel. Of course, it is well known that the strictness of the Pharisees reached such an extreme that it ended up becoming hypocrisy, and often led to spiritual dryness and hardness of heart. ‘The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself.’ Every word of Holy Scripture is loaded with meaning. The Evangelist uses the Greek word ‘σταθείς’ for the Pharisee to say that he stood for a short while, in haste, with audacity and boldness. Furthermore, he turned towards himself instead of God, and began to utter ‘words of madness’, as Saint Andrew of Crete describes his prayer.
‘Standing afar off ’, we see the second figure of the parable, a publican, a man considered base, impious, a traitor of his own people, a collaborator with the Romans. The publican stood far away and remained in prolonged prayer before the Lord with patience and perseverance, continually ‘smiting his breast’ in his anguish to enter his heart, the place where man meets God. He considered himself unworthy of the temple, and even more so of Heaven, and so adopted the stance not only of a slave, but also of a convict. His presentation was not daring, which shows that his soul was already free to run and find the Lord. Bowing down his head and humbling his mind even lower, he added the pain of his heart to his self-accusation. Yet, he believed in Him Who said: ‘Turn ye to me, and ye shall be saved,’ and he followed the prophetic word: ‘I said, I will confess mine iniquity to the Lord against myself; and thou forgavest the ungodliness of my heart.’ This cry from a contrite deep heart reaches the ears of the Lord Sabbaoth and draws the attention of all Heaven.