Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

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Troparion of the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee Tone 8
The doors of repentance do Thou open to me, O Giver of life,
for my spirit waketh at dawn toward Thy holy temple,
bearing a temple of the body all defiled.
But in Thy compassion, cleanse it by the loving-kindness of Thy mercy.

Theotokion Tone 8
Guide me in the paths of salvation, O Theotokos,
for I have defiled my soul with shameful sins,
and have wasted all my life in slothfulness,
but by thine intercessions deliever me from all uncleanness.

Troparion Tone 6
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
And according to the multitude of Thy compassions, blot out my transgressions.
Both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
When I think of the multitude of evil things I have done, I, a wretched one,
I tremble at the fearful day of judgment;
but trusting in the mercy of Thy loving-kindness, like David do I cry unto Thee:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.

Kontakion of the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee Tone 4
Let us flee the bragging of the Phraisee,
and learn the humility of the Publican,
while crying out unto the Savior with groanings:
Be gracious unto us, O Thou Who alone dost already forgive.

Luke 18:9-14:

And He spoke this parable also to some who had trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and made of no account the rest: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, having assumed a stance, was praying these things to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men–rapacious, unjust, adulterers, or even as this one, the tax collector. I fast twice a week; I tithe all things, as much as I acquire.’ And the tax collector, having stood afar off, was not willing even to life up his eyes to the heaven but kept beating upon his breast, saying, ‘God, be gracious to me the sinner.’ I say to you this one went down to his house having been justified rather than that one; for everyone who exalteth himself shall be humbed, and the one who humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Orthodox New Testament, � 2004 Holy Apostles Convent)

And so begins the preparation for the Lenten season. As Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann puts it:

[Great Lent] is indeed a school of repentance to which every Christian must go every year in order to deepen his faith, to re-evaluate, and, if possible, to change his life. It is a wonderful pilgrimage to the very sources of Orthodox faith–a rediscovery of the Orthodox way of life. (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, p. 9)

Already, last week, the Sunday of Zachaeus, we have been pointed toward Great Lent, with Zachaeus’ desire for Christ and repentance. Today’s Gospel highlights the humility necessary for repentance. As Fr Schmemann writes:

The lenten season begins then by a quest, a prayer for humility which is the beginning of true repentance. For repentance, above everything else, is a return to the genuine order of things, the restoration of the right vision. (Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, p. 20)

It is not by coincidence that the Orthodox do not fast the week following the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Pharisee prided himself on his twice-weekly fasting. To guard against the danger of comparing ourselves to others (and favorably) the Church says “Don’t fast.” Instead on Wednesday and Friday recall this Gospel text and remember the humility of the Son of God who became man that we might become god.

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