“ But he smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner ”
In this Gospel reading, Christ clarified two contradictions, the Pharisee and the publican. The first appeared to people as a pious man in contrast with the other. He was arrogant, he tried to justify himself by his works, but on the contrary the publican moaned and asked God for forgiveness. Pharisaism is the cancer of worship, a disease that destroys it, but the spirit of the publican is a life giving and a true devotion.
So what is true devotion, and what are righteousness and justification? How do we acquire righteousness and what is her way? It was for a good reason that Christ compared the two men in the temple, because prayers reveal the inside and reflect the hearts of humans. Saint Paul defined the mystery of devotion by the incarnation of Christ, the matrimony between God and man and their unity.
Works remain works when they are offerings, God’s considerations are a mystery, but when we offer our works for the unity with God, they become real virtues. This distinction is vital in front of Holy Lent and the most important spiritual period at the beginning of the Triodion.
Virtues are not our work, but they are the work of the Holy Spirit in us. The spiritual life is not a moral life as the word means, but it is a life in the Spirit that guides us. The spiritual man is the one who submitted his body to his soul, and submitted his soul to the Spirit of the Father. The works of such a man are just. They are the fruit of this spiritual life. Righteousness in such life is the living relation with God and uniting with Him.
Saint Gregory Palamas said: “ Everything that is done through us, without being God’s work in us, is a sin ”. Therefore the way to righteousness is neither worthiness nor achievements nor works… it is the true annihilation of the self and then God will work in us. What defines our righteousness is the magnitude of our relation with our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what we perceived from the proverb of the two thieves on the cross.
Righteousness is holiness and holiness is divinization, and divinization is not morale works, but it is unity with God, Who only unites with the pure hearted.
Therefore, the useful way, as recommended by the book of Spiritual Teachings for justification (Taalim Rouhiya lil Tabrir), is blaming oneself and not justifying it, it is annihilation and not self-conceit. Both the Pharisee and the publican were admirers, the first admired himself but the second admired God’s love and mercy.
Blaming oneself is a “ secret health ” but justifying the self is a “ hidden cancer ”. Blaming oneself is a mystery that happens when we meet Christ with humility. Justifying the self is a cancer that combines us with our ego and separates us from Jesus Christ, Who is our life. Let us stand and pray like the publican did: “God be merciful to me a sinner and forgive me.”
This is the door of repentance, who enters not from this door is a thief and a robber.
This is the door to Heaven.