Gregory_PalamasOn Luke 18:9-14 (the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee).

The Publican, as a publican, dwells in the depths of sin.

All he has in common with those who live virtuously is one short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up and rises above every evil.

He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself.

If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself somebody, although he is not really righteous, and utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.

Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin?

Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help.

Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand, and relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help and grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. 3:34 LXX).

The Lord demonstrates this in a parable, saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican” (Luke 18:10).

Wanting to set clearly before us the gain that comes from humility and the loss from pride, he divided into two groups all who went to the Temple, or, rather, those who went up into the Temple, who are the ones who go there to pray.

This is the nature of prayer, it brings a man up from the earth into heaven and, rising above every heavenly name, height and honor, sets him before the God Who is over all (cf. Rom. 9:5).

The ancient Temple was set in a high place, on a hill above the city. Once when a deadly epidemic was destroying Jerusalem, David saw the Angel of Death on this hill, stretching out his sword against the city.

He went up there and built an altar to the Lord, on which he offered a sacrifice to God, and the destruction ceased (2 Sam. 24:15-25).

All these things are an image of the saving ascent of the spirit during holy prayer and of the forgiveness it brings – for these things all foreshadowed our salvation.

They can also be an image of this holy church of ours, which is indeed set in a high place, in another angelic country above the world, where the great, bloodless sacrifice, acceptable to God, is offered for the forgiveness of the whole world, the destruction of death and abundance of eternal life.

Gregory Palamas (1296-1359): Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee, 2-4, from Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies (Mount Thabor Publishing, 2009); full text @ Discerning Thoughts.

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