At Vespers final Saturday night, the Orthodox Church started the use of the Lenten Triodion–a service guide that gives the texts for the Divine Services for the pre-Lenten weeks of preparation, for Great Lent and for Holy Week.
Last Sunday was that of the Publican and the Pharisee, fairly acquainted to all of us. It is a narrative that’s solely present in Luke’s Gospel and is commonly framed inside the context of the advantage of humility. The Pharisee brags about the good he has performed and the Publican (tax-collector) is bowed and bent and cries out, “O God be merciful to me a sinner.”
St. Peter of Damascus, in writing of this Lucan parable, says, “In the end, the righteous will be recognized only by their humility and their considering themselves worthless, and not by good deeds, even if they have done them. This is the true attitude.”
Humility is one lesson from that Gospel passage. I counsel one other. It is the story of religiosity versus religion. The Pharisee had adopted all of the exterior guidelines of uprightness in line with the Law. He fasted twice per week, he gave tithes of what he possessed, and actually saved all the guidelines. And this was true; he actually did preserve all the guidelines: he did all the things accurately on the outdoors.
The Publican, on the different hand, had damaged all the guidelines. He didn’t preserve the legal guidelines, he didn’t quick twice per week, he didn’t give tithes. On the opposite. He stole cash from his fellow Jews. Nevertheless, when he got here into the temple, he didn’t dare arise in entrance, like the Pharisee did; he didn’t dare thank God that he was not like different individuals, he didn’t get in God’s face and say “Look at me!”
At that second the Publican knew who he was and what he was as a result of he had had an actual inside expertise of God and in that encounter with God, he knew the darkish aspect of his particular person and he stated, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The late theologian, Fr. Thomas Hopko reminded us: “Maybe the Publican kept on sinning; how do we know? But in any case, at that moment before God, bowing down to the earth in the back of the building, his prayer was heard because his prayer was true. But the Pharisee’s prayer was not even a prayer; it was just a rehearsal of his own righteousness before his own mind.”
Why was the Publican’s prayer “true”? It was genuine as a result of it arose out of an consciousness of an admittedly fragile relationship with God, an trustworthy struggling, an open encounter with the One who would present mercy. His cry for mercy grew out of compunction. The Pharisee, on the different hand, was involved with all the externals, with fulfilling the Mosaic prescriptions of the regulation, with boasting fairly than compunction, with faith fairly than religion. He approached God as if God have been a score-keeper. It is the identical for us.
If we have now an ongoing, intimate relationship with God, that’s, religion, we may have a real consciousness of our want. If we’re glad with merely doing the exterior actions and actions of faith, we shall be out of contact with the actual well being of our soul and simply estranged from the One who’s “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” (Psalm 103:eight; 145:eight)
Last Sunday’s Gospel known as us to recollect three issues: that there’s a distinction between religion and faith, that distinction can solely be identified by means of real self-awareness, and self-awareness is linked inextricably to silence and prayer.
Faith and Religion
The esteemed Greek Orthodox theologian, Christos Yannaras, wrote: “The greatest problem of Western Christianity—and of the Orthodox also—is that they have ‘religionized’ Christianity and have turned the Church into a religion.”
He means the externals of faith (guidelines, practices, actions, establishments, tithing, and ethnic id) have taken priority over the inner expertise of religion and koinonia–a relationship, intimacy, and encounter with God in the human coronary heart. In doing this, we mistake the exterior issues for real inside spirituality. That was the error of the Pharisee. He mistook constancy to exterior actions for an precise, residing relationship with God in his coronary heart.
We are sometimes responsible of the identical mistake, figuring that in maintaining the externals we live the Orthodox religion. Without an ongoing, private relationship with God/Christ, with no each day intimacy, all exterior manifestations are empty and of little which means. In the phrases of St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, “If a person puts all their righteousness in external actions—like it seems that the Pharisee did—and thinks that they’re really living the spiritual life, well, they are just in the hands of devil.”
Discovering Faith by means of Self-Awareness
Nurturing this sort of inner religion calls us to develop religious self-awareness, or self-knowledge. Self-awareness is about understanding our personal wants, wishes, failings, habits, passions, and all the things else that makes us who we’re and creates the seedbed for a relationship with God. Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana writes, “To know God is to know ourselves, and to know ourselves is to know the One who woos us into a relationship with Himself.”
This was one in all the foundational ideas of the Desert Fathers. For the Publican, the motive why he begged God for mercy, was as a result of he knew himself deep inside, his strengths (I’m positive he had some!) and his sins and failings. Each of us wants to try this type of introspection not with the sole objective of seeing how BAD we’re, however of realizing how a lot we’re cherished by Him who stated, “Behold, I have loved you with an everlasting love and with lovingkindness, I have drawn you unto myself.” (Jeremiah 31:three)
We’re pushed at the moment to maintain conscious of our bodily well being and monitor our wellbeing. We must develop the identical consciousness and each day care for our souls, the place the stakes are a lot larger.
Self-Awareness is Linked to Silence and Prayer
To pay attention to our religious selves, to get to know our coronary heart and have a tendency our soul higher, silence and prayer are wanted. We spend a lot of our day working from or purposely avoiding silence. It makes us uneasy or we’re afraid of what we’ll uncover in ourselves when all the distracting noise dies down. We develop into forgetful of Socrates’ adage, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
But as Father John Breck, an American Orthodox theologian, expresses it, “Silence fosters stillness; it is indispensable for stillness. Inner stillness, however, goes beyond silence insofar as its aim is to purify the heart and bring us to knowledge of ourselves and of God.”
This is a problem for Orthodox Christians residing in the “chaos of noise” that we name society. Every day, every of us has to seek out our private kellia (cell)—that quiet area and time, aside from others, the place we are able to permit stillness to calm us, to relaxation our our bodies, and to focus our inside consideration and prayer on what St. Paul calls “our life hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians three:three)
In the finish, God will pierce by means of the cacophony of the noise outdoors us and inside us to say, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
The parable of the Publican and Pharisee isn’t solely about humility, it’s about real religion, self-awareness, and the energy of silence and prayer. I pray that every of chances are you’ll come to know your self as cherished and chosen by God. Please pray for me.
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