Brethren, do not pray as a pharisee, because those who exult themselves will be humbled. Let us humble ourselves before God by fasting and let us cry out together with the publican: O God, cleance us sinners” (stichera from Vespers)
Today’s Sunday is called the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. By this Sunday we start our preparation for the Great Lent.
No pilgrimage should start with our proper preparation. Great Lent is our pilgrimage. The final goal of this pilgrimage is Easter, in other words a meeting with the Risen Christ.
On this and the following three Sundays our Church draws our attention that the time has come, and we should start our pilgrimage soon. The Church gives us guidelines and examples of how we should go through this journey.
Let us try through these weeks to pay attention on how we prepare ourselves, on how to properly start our pilgrimage in order to reach our goal.
Last Sunday we celebrated ‘Zacchaeus Sunday.’ In the Gospel of the Liturgy, the Church placed before us the example of Zacchaeus, a man who was small in stature but who had a great desire to see Jesus. We too by starting our journey should have a great desire to reach our goal, to meet the Risen Christ. We should not be afraid of difficulties that could arise on our way, but we should try reach our goal. Zacchaeus’ strong desire to meet Jesus helped him to overcome his human limitations. That is why in starting our pilgrinage we should take the example and with our whole heart and with our whole soul, and with all of our being, want a meeting with the Risen Christ and we should do everything possible to achieve it. Because Christ is also seeking us and wants to help us achieve salvation.
Today’s Sunday, which starts the Lenten Triodin, in the Gospel and also in the stecheras in Vespers and Matins places our attention on two men. These men in the parable had a similarity: “they went up into the temple to pray”, but they had differences as well: “one went to his home justified while the other did not”. The same thing could happen to us in our pilgrimage – all of us will start our journey, but how it finishes, will depends on the way we choose to travel.
This Sunday the Church offers us the way of humility, as the apostle James said: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jm. 4, 6)
It is difficult to fully understand the meaning of humility and obedience in the modern world, because humility is often interpreted as a sign of weakness. But through humility a man become strong! For seeing own weakness and knowing our own status as a person we can draw our attention to God who raises us and gives us strength. Christ teaches us humility by saying: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls” (Mt. 11, 29).
The Church gives us the example of Publican before our pilgrimage, so we could look into our hearts and then understand who we are, to recognise our strength and weaknesses; so that we can see what we should do to reach the goal of this pilgrimage.
By going to meet the Risen Christ let us look into our hearts and to see our weaknesses, because by humility we can be exalted by the mighty hand of God, because He cares about us (cf. 1 Pet. 5, 6-7).
Fr. Andriy Mykytyuk
Head of Catechetical Commission
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