A homily given on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
- by Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Egorievsk
Two men each brought their own righteousness to
God’s temple and presented them to God—the
publican and the Pharisee.
The Pharisee presented his righteousness: he strictly
fulfilled everything prescribed in the law of
Moses—not just fulfilled, but fulfilled it devoutly,
to the last detail. And in this he sees the meaning of his
life. He studies the law. He disdains everything that is
not in accordance with this law. And this is truly his own
suffered and soul-saving—or so he
thinks—righteousness. But in the Church we call this
righteousness the righteousness of the
Pharisee—prideful, and false. It is a mortally
dangerous righteousness. It seeks and very successfully
finds strength in self-aggrandizement, and the continual
humiliation of others. And this strength really is quite
remarkable. But the God of Truth and Love loathingly
rejected this deceitful and cruel spirit: Ye serpents,
ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation
(Mt. 23:33). There are no more wrathful
words in the Gospel uttered by the Creator to His
creation. Only the “righteous” Pharisees
The publican also brought his own righteousness to God.
This righteousness consisted in words that, like those of
the Pharisee’s, expressed the spirit and state of
the man’s soul. But these words became the deepest
and most beloved prayer of all disciples of the Lord Jesus
Christ. We repeat them every day: “God, be merciful
to me, a sinner!” This sincere and bitter, wise and
saving truth about himself became the publican’s
sacred offering to God.
What righteousness do we bear in our own souls? What
righteousness do we not in words but in realty offer from
our hearts to God, Who knows the most hidden things about
us? The Holy Church from year to year calls us to learn
from the publican’s example.
Today we have also run across two kinds of righteousness
that people bring to church with respect to one and the
same recent matter. Ten days ago an event occurred that
has stunned and troubled millions of people: His Holiness
Patriarch Kirill met with the Pope of Rome. However, this
event also caused a large number of Orthodox people
serious confusion—let’s call a spade a spade.
We priests know this from confessions and questions that
have been asked us at meetings and in letters to the
. What is there to do?
This is nothing other than a test—a test of the
sobriety of our faith, our faith in the Church, holy
Orthodoxy, and the Gospels of Christ. Today, brothers and
sisters, we have to talk about this.
We are not going to talk about what Catholicism
is—that is a scholastic subject. Each of us can take
a look at the catechesis, study the many writings,
including patristic writings, that talk about the
deviations and heresies present in the Catholic faith.
The holy fathers definitely consider Catholicism erroneous
and heretical. “Papism is what the heresy that has
possessed the West is called, and from it as branches from
a tree have come the various Protestant teachings,”
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov) points out. “The Pope
changed many dogmas, corrupted all the sacraments,
weakened the rules of ecclesiastical leadership and
correction of morals, and everything from there went not
according to God’s intention—worse and
worse…” writes St. Theophan the Recluse.
Other holy fathers are in agreement with them.
The vast Christian catechism of the Orthodox Catholic
Eastern Church determines the meaning of heresy:
“Heresy is when people mix opinion into the
teachings of the faith that are against Divine
But at this we must also recognize as essentially
important for all our patristic tradition: The falling
away of the Western Church in 1054 was one of the most
terrible tragedies in the history of Christianity. This is
our catastrophe and woe. And therefore the desire for
unity, the prayer for it (That they all may be
[Jn. 17:21]), commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ
Himself, is perfectly natural for Orthodox Christians.
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