Orthodox Daily Devotional January 28 – February 4
2 Timothy 3: 10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Having exhorted Timothy with the example of his own steadfastness), Paul now issues a reminder of the depth of Timothy’s training, which combined both oral and written instruction. A part of this tradition is Scripture. Paul, of course, speaks of the OT, since the NT did not yet exist.
Sunday of the Publican (start of the Triodion period before Lent)… Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.
St John Chrysostom on Sunday’s Publican and Pharisee Reading.
This parable represents to us two chariots on the race course, each with two charioteers in it. In one of the chariots it places righteousness with pride, in the other sin and humility. You see the chariot of sin outstrip that of righteousness, not by its own strength but by the excellence of humility combined with it, but the other is defeated not by righteousness, but by the weight and swelling of pride. For as humility by its own elasticity rises above the weight of pride, and leaping up reaches to God, so pride by its great weight easily depresses righteousness. Although therefore thou art earnest and constant in well doing, yet thinkest thou mayest boast thyself, thou art altogether devoid of the fruits of prayer. But thou that bearest a thousand loads of guilt on thy conscience, and only thinkest this thing of thyself that thou art the lowest of all men, shalt gain much confidence before God. And He then goes on to assign the reason of His sentence. For every one who exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (in Ps. 142). The word humility has various meanings. There is the humility of virtue, as, A humble and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Ps. 51:17.) There is also a humility arising from sorrows, as, He has humbled my life upon the earth. (Ps. 142:3.) There is a humility derived from sin, and the pride and insatiability of riches. For can any thing be more low and debased than those who grovel in riches and power, and count them great things?
From Alexander Schmemann…
The next Sunday [after Zaccheus Sunday] is called the “Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee.” On the eve of this day, on Saturday at Vespers, the liturgical book of the Lenten season– the Triodion— makes its first appearance and texts from it are added to the usual hymns and prayers of the weekly resurrection service. The develop the next major aspect of repentance: humility.
The Gospel lesson (Lk. 18:10-4) pictures a man who is always pleased with himself and who thinks that he complies with all the requirements of religion. He is self-assured and proud of himself. In reality, however, he has falsified the meaning of religion. He has reduced it to external observations and he measures his piety by the amount of money he contributes to the temple. As for the Publican, he humbles himself and his humility justifies him before God. If there is a moral quality almost completely disregarded and even denied today, it is indeed humility. The culture in which we live constantly instills in us the sense of pride, of self-glorification, and of self-righteousness. It is built on the assumption that man can achieve anything by himself and it even pictures God as the one who all the time “gives credit” for man’s achievements and good deeds. Humility– be it individual or corporate, ethnic or national– is viewed as a sign of weakness, as something unbecoming a real man. Even our churches– are they not imbued with that same spirit as the Pharisee? Do we not want our every contribution, every “good deed,” all that we do “for the Church” to be acknowledged, praised, publicized?
From St Nikolai’s Prologue
But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first (Matthew 19: 30, Luke 13: 30). How all-wise is He Who spoke these words! He did not say that all the first will be last and all the last will be first, but many. There is not one error in the Gospel, and nowhere in the Gospel is there any exaggeration. Why did the Lord put a limit and not say “all” but rather “many?” Experience teaches us that some of those who were first in honor on earth remained first in honor with God. There have been emperors who pleased God on their thrones, and there have been men without authority who angered God throughout their life. There have been wealthy men who were saved by their charity and faith, and there have been indigent ones who received condemnation because of their evil and unbelief. There have been learned men who kept the faith and did good deeds, and there have been unlearned men who rejected both faith and good deeds. So there were some who were first here on earth and remained first in heaven, and also there were some who were last here and remained last after death also. But alas, many who were first here became last there. And oh, the joy, oh, the justice of God— how many who were last here have become first there! The Lord neither emphasized nor praised one class or one occupation over all others, but He recruited and even today He recruits an army of light from all classes, occupations and professions. For Him the criteria for man is neither a crown nor a beggar’s pouch, but rather faith— faith and good deeds.
Peace of soul is precious for every man. For those who have attained peace of soul, the body can be in constant motion— in work or in pain— but their souls, affixed to God, always remain in unwavering peace. St. Seraphim of Sarov teaches: “It is necessary by all means to preserve peace of soul and not be disturbed by the insults of others. That is why it is necessary, at all costs, to restrain oneself from anger, and through vigilance over oneself to preserve the mind and heart from indecent movements. To preserve peace of soul, it is also necessary to avoid judging others. By not judging and by silence, peace of soul is preserved. When a man is in such a state of mind, he receives divine revelations. In order for a man to be preserved from judging others, he must be vigilant over himself, he must not receive ungodly thoughts from anyone, and he should be dead toward everything worldly. We must tirelessly guard the heart from indecent thoughts and influences. With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life (Proverbs 4: 23). From constant vigilance over the heart, purity is born, in which the Lord is seen, in accordance with the words of eternal truth: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (Matthew 5: 8).”
The most important thing in a meadow is grass. In a field, it is wheat. In a garden, it is vegetables. No one boasts about the enclosure of the meadow more than they do about the hay in the meadow. Nor does anyone boast more about the shed in the field than they do about the wheat in the field. Nor does anyone boast of the ditches more than they do of the vegetables in the garden. Why do people boast about their countries— the roads, the demarcations and boundaries, and the cities throughout the country? These and everything else have no greater value than the enclosure of the meadow, the shed in the field, or the ditches in the garden, when they are compared to the main crop, that is, to man. Men do not exist for the sake of the country, but the country exists for the sake of men. Christ came to save not countries but men. A country receives its value from good citizens. And of what use is a great country to evil people? They are brambles in a spacious field.
An artist is one who carves and shapes the forms of living creatures from crude and shapeless stone. An artist is one who weaves a multicolored blanket from the wool of sheep. An artist is one who builds a magnificent palace out of earthly bricks. But what artist on earth can be compared to Christ the Artist, Who makes illiterate men into wise ones, fishermen into apostles, cowards into heroes, and the profligate into saints? But all must be given over to the hand of the artist, in order to be fashioned into that which the artist knows and is capable of doing. All things, in truth, must be given over to the hand of the artist. Even men must give themselves over to the hand of Christ, in order for Him to carve, to weave or to build that which only He knows and is capable of. The last nineteen centuries witness to us, that all who did not oppose Him but rather gave themselves over to Christ the Artist, went from being boorish and ignorant to being angel-like children of God.