THE TAX-COLLECTOR AND THE PHARISEE.
The virtues build a new person radiating love to the world.”
(Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi) of Aleppo who consecrated our temple.)
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
SUNDAY 5th FEBRUARY. Afterfeast of the Meeting. Martyr Agatha of Palermo (Sicily 251). St. Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov (1696).
“Understand the words of Holy Scripture by putting them into practice, and do not fill yourself with conceit by elaborating on theoretical ideas.” (St. Mark the Ascetic.)
“If you believe what you like in the Gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
THE MEETING OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE.
On 2nd February is celebrated the bringing of the baby Jesus into the Temple by the Mother of God and St. Joseph, to present Him to the Lord, as was required by the law after forty days. This is still done by Orthodox parents who bring their children to church after forty days to be presented to the Lord . They were met by Simeon who devoutly waited for the coming of the Messiah. Moved by the Holy Spirit Simeon took the Child in his arms and exclaimed the Nunc Dimittis (the first words of the prayer in Latin): “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace..........” This beautiful prayer is still sung every day at evening prayers in the Orthodox Church. Simeon saw in this baby the One who had been foretold who was to be “the light of the Gentiles” and “the Glory of Israel". Anna, a devout widow of great age, also spoke of this Child to all who were around. We may not be devout, we may not have the gift of prophecy, we may not wait for God coming into our lives, we may be poor Christians but if we try to be Christian and attend Church we, however poorly or blurred, have a vision. Do we see in our brothers and sisters the divine image? Do we see that spark of the Divine in every human soul? Let us look beyond the outward appearances and see the nut inside the shell and not just the shell, the nut is nutritious but the shell is inedible! When you are censed in church let us all remember that this is honouring the spark of the Divine in us and not just a blind ritual.
“This is the natural state of a human being: to have joy inside, the grace of God, holiness, to have communion with God and, in a way, sinlessness. Not that man is sinless, but he feels grace creating this state of sinlessness because there is no grace in any sin, indeed grace is beyond sin. But often God does not give us His grace because you are not balanced due to the passions. And He is waiting to find you in a balanced state, that you can be entrusted with His grace. If, while you are working on your passions, you want grace too and He gives it to you, let’s say, there is a danger that you will fall into schizophrenia.
Thus, from one point of view, it is in our interest that God does not give us His grace as long as we are living on the earth, but rather when it comes time for us to die. In this way, we are not in danger of becoming haughty and suffering upheavals and thus irretrievably lose the grace of God.”
(From “Timeless Truths". From the teachings of Fr. Symeon Kragiopoulos for 5th February.)
TODAY'S GOSPEL READING: Luke 18:9-14. “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised other’s. “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 – extortionate, 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 the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Let us not forget that the two men in todays reading both went to the Temple to pray. They were both coming to God's house to offer prayer, both making a conscious effort to come closer to God. The difference is that one, the Pharisee, thanks God, that he is not like all the sinners he sees around himself. On the other hand we have the tax collector who stood away from a prominent position and asked God to have mercy on him, seeing himself as a great sinner. Christ speaks to us and tells us that the sinful tax collector went home justified rather than the Pharisee.
Do we not see this in the Church today, people who are so proud that they have made the effort to come to church, and feel so good in their self delusional righteousness that they are blinded by self. We also see people who force themselves to come to church, often in difficult circumstances and ask forgiveness of God for their poor efforts. Some people have a short and pleasant journey to come to God's house while others travel many miles often in difficult circumstances. Others for one reason or another cannot even make the effort to come but try and approach God in prayer and await a priest to bring the Holy Gifts. Let us not judge either one of these people lest we become like the Pharisee or beat our breasts in false humility before God, thinking that we are like the tax collector. God sees all and it is what is in us that, for good or ill, is exposed before Him and not what people see or what we would want them to see!
Please continue to pray for Nicholas and all those in need of our prayers.
Please pray for the sick and those in need:
Magdalena; Mother Esodia; Doris; Mary, Maria; Emma; Megan; Olga; James; Jessie; Nick, Maddy and family; Catrina and Michael; Baby Luca; Cornelia; Theo Valentino, Fr Gregory and Helen; George; Ondar; Christine, Christos and family; also Archbishops Paul and John and all held in captivity.
and for the departed whose memory occurs this month:
Mihajo Milinkovic (2nd); Anjrej ((12th); Nedilco Milic (24th);
Name days this month:
Nicholas Ward (St Nicholas - 14th)
Cornelia, Theo Valentino, Maria and Nicholas as well as the continued recovery of Luca and Catrina.