Tag Archives: Publican and the Pharisee

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (II)

Icon Publican and the Pharisee 5Here is what the Pharisee says: “God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” He is not, in fact, thanking God for this, acknowledging that it is God’s doing that he is not as other men. No; the words: “God, I thank Thee … ” are nothing more than an exclamation, a flattering approach to God so that God will listen to his boast. For, from all that he says, he is not thanking God for anything; on the contrary, he is blaspheming against God by blaspheming against the rest of God’s creation. He is thanking God for nothing; everything that he says about himself is expressed as his own doing, achieved without God’s help. He will not say that he is not an extortioner, an unjust man, an adulterer or a tax-collector because God has preserved him from this by His power and His mercy. In no way; but only because he is what he is in his own assessment: a man of such exceptional type and worth that he has no peer in the whole world.Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer,” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

Publican and Pharisee Zoom Pharisee“God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” A sinful man
dares to say this, in church, to God’s face! What is the Church, if not a place where the sick meet their physician? Those sick from sin come  to confess their sickness to God the Physician, and to find medicine and healing from Him who is the true Healer from all human suffering and weakness, and the Giver of all good things. Do the healthy go to hospital, to boast of their health to the doctor?

But this Pharisee did not come to the Temple with a whole and healthy soul, to boast of his health, but as a man seriously ill with unrighteousness who, in the delirium of his sickness, no longer knows he is ill. Once, when I was visiting a mental hospital, the doctor took me in front of a wire screen across the cell of the most seriously ill of his patients. “How do you feel?”, I asked him. He immediately replied: “How do you think I feel, among all these madmen?”Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (II)

Icon Publican and the Pharisee 5He would not lift up so much as his eyes towards heaven. Why not? The eyes are the mirror of the soul. The soul’s sins can be read in the eyes. Do you not see every day that, when a man sins, his eyes are lowered before men. How can the eyes of a sinner not be lowered before God the all-Seeing. Lo, every sin committed before men is committed before God, and there is no sin on earth that does not affect God. A true man of prayer is aware of this and is filled, along with humility, with shame before God. This is why it says: he would not lift up so much as his eyes towards heaven.Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

Icon Publican and the Pharisee 3Why does it say: he prayed with himself? Why not aloud? Because God listens more carefully to what his heart says than his lips. What a man thinks and feels as he prays to God is more important to God than the words his tongue forms. The tongue is capable of delusion, but the heart does not delude: it shows a man as he is – black or white.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: “The Gospel on True and False Prayer,” Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume I

St. Gregory of Palamas: On the Prayer of the Pharisee

Icon Publican and the Pharisee 5Faith and contrition make prayer and supplication for the remission of sins effective, once evil deeds have been renounced, but despair and hardness of heart make it ineffectual. Thanksgiving for the benefits received from God is made acceptable by humility and not looking down on those who lack them. it is rendered unacceptable, however, by being conceited, as if those benefits resulted from our own efforts and knowledge, and by condemning those who have not received them. the Pharisee’s behaviour and words prove he was afflicted with both these diseases.  He went up to the Temple to give thanks, not to make supplication and, like a wretched fool, mingled conceit and condemnation of others with his thanksgiving. For he stood and prayed thus with himself: “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11).

+ St. Gregory Palamas, The Parables of Jesus, Sermons by St. Gregory Palamas

St. Nikolai: A man went into the forest to choose a tree . . .

Two TreesA man went into the forest to choose a tree from which to make roof-beams. And he saw two trees, one beside the other. One was smooth and tall, but had rotted away inside, and the other was rough on the outside and ugly, but its core was healthy. The man sighed, and said to himself: “What use is this tree to me if it is rotten inside and useless for beams? The other it is rough and ugly, is at least healthy on the inside and so, if I put a bit more effort into it, I can use it for roof-beams for my house.” And, without thinking any more about it, he chose that tree.

So will God choose between two men for His house, and will choose not the one who appears outwardly righteous, but the one whose heart is filled with God’s healthy righteousness.Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

St. John Damascene: These eight passions should be destroyed as follows . . .

Icon of St. John of Damascus“These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men. When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.”

+ St. John Damascene, “On the Virtues and the Vices” from The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)