Source: Basilica News Agency
February 21, 2016
“Humble prayer is the foundation of true spiritual love”, the Patriarch of Romania said February 21, 2016, in his sermon delivered for the faithful present in the patriarchal cathedral.
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
On this Sunday beginning the Triodion period, the Church appoints to be read the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee:
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)
The primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church spoke of the Triodion period, saying that “it is a time of preparation for Holy Pascha” and that these weeks “are steps of inner spiritual ascent in order to meet the Crucified and Risen Christ and feel in our souls the light and joy of the resurrection of Christ.”
While speaking of the first three weeks of this preparatory period, His Beatitude explained that “on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee we are shown the importance and utility of humble prayer, on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son we are shown the importance of sincere repentance, and on the third Sunday, of the Dread Judgement, we are shown the importance of generous mercy, of the deeds of merciful love towards those in need.”
The Church urges us to cultivate good deeds and humility
Speaking of the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, the Patriarch of Romania underlined that “this Sunday shows us how great is the power of humility,” because “the humbleness of the sinful tax collector was appreciated more than the proud prayer of the virtuous Pharisee who did good deeds, but had no humility.”
“This tax collector who had no virtues, the Gospel reads, was better off when he left the temple than the Pharisee who was proud. Although first the Gospel gives the impression that God prefers a humble sinner to the proud righteous, yet the Church urges us to cultivate at the same time good deeds and deep humility. This urge is clearly expressed in the Matins service of the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, which reads: ‘Let us hasten to follow the Pharisee in his virtues and to emulate the Publican in his humbleness. Let us hate what is wrong in each of them: foolish pride and the defilement of transgressions.’ Thus, the Church tells us to do good deeds like the Pharisee, but without the pride of the Pharisee, and to be humble like the tax collector, but not to do the deeds of the tax collector who was greedy for money, oppressed his fellow beings, and imposed taxes greater than those established by the law. This Gospel text urges us to do good deeds, but with humility, and always to pray with much humility,” His Beatitude said.
The Gospel shows us how great is the importance of humble prayer
His Beatitude explained why we must pray with humility and showed that “when a man is in a state of humility he is full of the humble and merciful love of God.”
“This is why his prayer [of the humble man] is received, because if he denies himself, his selfishness, he makes room for love for his fellow beings and, especially, for the grace and merciful love of God to illuminate his soul and renew his life, to exalt his senses and thoughts. This is why God shows us that His love is humble and merciful in Jesus Christ and that the humble and merciful are loved by God because they resemble God. This episode of the prayer of the Publican and of the Pharisee shows us that a man sinful but humble can be an instructor for us,” the Patriarch explained.
Humble prayer is the foundation of true spiritual love
“The humble man prays for his own sins as well as for the sins of others, and the more humble a man is, the greater his prayer for other people is,” the primate underlined.
“Today’s Gospel shows us that if we pray to the Good and Most Holy God with a humble soul, then our soul will be filled with the holiness and kindness of God. In conclusion, it is necessary to remember that humble prayer is the foundation of true spiritual love. Nobody can truly love his fellow man if his love is selfish and proud, disdainful and judging others, because true love is merciful, according to Saint Paul the Apostle who says that pure love is benevolent, and does not envy or boast,” the patriarch said.