Our journey to Easter - where the faithful will celebrate the joy of the risen Lord, begins with three significant preparatory weeks before Great Lent - Triodion. The Triodion book is also implemented into the liturgical services, containing special hymns to assist in our spiritual journey of prayer, fasting and acts of charity to connect with God.
The first Sunday in this 3 week preparation period is the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.
The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." - Lk. 18:10-14
Of the two men, one was a Pharisee, parading as externally decent, filled with sanctity and righteousness and the other, a publican was cheating the people through sinful acts. The outward appearance of each man disguised their inner heart. Ultimately, the Pharisee was condemned in God’s eyes due to his boastfulness and judgement and the publican, begging God for mercy, would be justified on the purity of his repentance.
To this end, in the words of St Gregory Palamas:
“Faith 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).
Kontakion (Tone 4)
Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee!
And learn humility from the Publican's tears!
Let us cry to our Savior,
Have mercy on us,
Only merciful One!