This past Sunday in the Orthodox Church we celebrated the first of the 3 Sundays leading us up to the beginning of Great Lent. This period is known as the Triodion and has a very specific set of readings and hymnography that goes along with it. It is a time of preparation that is meant to help us think about repentance and change, to get ready for the hard work of Lent.
This first Sunday of the Triodion is dedicated to the parable of The Publican and the Pharisee found in Luke 18:10-14.
“Two men went up to 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 as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise 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, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Each year when we reach this particular Sunday we know we are almost to Great Lent once again. We prepare our hearts and minds for what that involves. Listen to the words of the hymns we sang on Saturday night in preparation for Sunday services…
Brothers, let us not pray like the Pharisee!
He who exalts himself will be humbled.
Let us prepare to abase ourselves by fasting;
let us cry aloud with the voice of the Publican:
“O God, forgive us sinners!”
The Pharisee went up to the temple with a proud and empty heart;
the Publican bowed himself in repentance.
They both stood before Thee, O Master:
the one, through boasting, lost his reward,
but the other, with tears and sighs, won Thy blessing:
Strengthen me, O Christ our God, as I weep in Thy presence,
since Thou art the Lover of man!
I know the value of tears, O almighty Lord:
they delivered Hezekiah from the gates of death,
and rescued the harlot from repeated sins.
Tears justified the Publican instead of the Pharisee.
I pray Thee, O Lord:
“Number me with the former and have mercy on me!”
And lastly we sing…
Let us flee from the pride of the Pharisee!
Let us learn humility from the Publican’s tears!
Let us cry to our Savior:
“Have mercy on us,
O only merciful One!”
During this week we are also given a “fast-free” week to remind us to humble ourselves and not worry about the letter of the law like the pharisee did.
May we find the humility of the Publican in our own hearts that we may more easily kindle joy with lightness and love!
Don’t forget to check out my giveaway in celebration of one year of this blog! A lovely Kindler of Joy package to be given away on Friday, February 22nd.