Sunday, January 29, 2012
Finding Humility After You Have Degraded Yourself
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
In the Greek Rites, today is the first of the Pre-Lenten Sundays. In the Latin Rite, Septuagesima isn't until next Sunday. The Season of Septuagesima is observed in the Eastern Rites, but the Latin name obviously isn't used. Simply called "Pre-Lent", it lasts four Sundays (as opposed to the Roman three), with Great Lent beginning the day after the fourth Sunday (Clean Monday). For those who are wondering, Eastern Catholics typically use the Gregorian calendar, so the Greek liturgical calendar is super-imposed on the same civil calendar we use, thus Pascha is on the same date as us. Whereas Orthodox Christians typically use the Julian calendar, so for them the Sunday of the Publican & the Pharisee isn't for another two weeks.
Today we have the juxtaposition of the self-righteous pharisee concerned with external appearances and not internal sanctity with the corrupt publican, considered more vile than an adulterous whore, who humbled himself by admitting that God is all-holy while he is wicked and doesn't deserve anything because of his sinfulness. This shows us that those who make excuses for sins, claiming that they aren't that bad or that God understands, are repeating the arrogance of the pharisee, who felt it was acceptable to do as he pleased as long as he went to temple and observed what the law commanded. Whereas those who regret their sins, admitting that they degraded themselves by running off into sin, are repeating the humility of the publican, who desired that union with God replace his sinfulness while admitting that he does not deserve union with God because he ran away from God into sin. This reality about sin is something to think about and constantly keep in mind during the 40 days of the Great Fast.