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The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee

February 6, 2012
English: The Pharisee and the Publican (Le pha... 

Yesterday was the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, commemorated in the Eastern Orthodox Churches around the world. It also marked the beginning of the Lenten Triodion and the preparation for the Great Fast which begins in three short weeks.

I like that we have an annual reminder that we are never justified by our works, nor are we entirely condemned for our sins. I have heard it said that no one is condemned for sinning, only for not repenting.

While my sins are a great grief to me, as they were to the Publican, I can always bring to mind the great grace of God in Christ. As one of the prayers of preparation for Communion states, while our sins are an abyss, Christ’s grace and mercy are an exceedingly unfathomable abyss that can swallow those sins up.

One of the great joys that I have found since becoming Orthodox is that of Holy Confession. After examining myself, and or being stung by my conscience aver something I have done, said or thought, it is a relief to be able to come before the icon of Christ, (indeed Christ Himself) with my priest present as witness, and make confession. Once my confession is done and while kneeling under the epitrachelion I hear the words, “Whatever you have said to my humble person, and whatever you have failed to say, whether through ignorance or forgetfulness, whatever it may be, may God forgive you in this world and the next…. Have no further anxiety; go in peace.” Then I feel my priest make the sign of the Cross on my head three times, and rise to kiss the Cross.

It truly feels like the lifting of a burden and I can’t help but smile, even though there are still prayers of repentance to be spoken, after Confession is over, on my own. For me the joy of absolution (after saving penance) is second only to the words spoken at the reception of the Eucharist: “The servant of God, Jeremiah, receives the precious Body and Blood of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, unto the remission of sins and Life Everlasting.”

My hope for myself is that I never find myself in a place of self-satisfaction, in which I would (like the Pharisee) deem myself worthy to partake of Communion and/or not be in need of confession. I would think that the weekly reminder in prayer the “I come to the very doors of the Temple and cease not my wicked thoughts…” would be a sufficient deterrent from that, but alas, my sins know no bounds.

I am sure this must be a temptation for all of us, or else the Church would not have placed this powerful reminder at the pre-lenten season every year. But thankfully I can call upon God’s mercy: “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

May God give each one of us His strength in our weakness, as we prepare for the Lenten Fast.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Randi permalink
    February 6, 2012 10:40 pm

    J,
    Thank God for God. He is the all merciful Lord and Savior. I needed to read your post.
    Your sister in Christ,
    Randi

  2. February 7, 2012 12:45 pm

    Thank you Randi. I’m amazed that God can even use my rambling.

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