By Archimandrite Porphyrios,
Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Beroea
In many cases the Holy Gospel presents almost theatrical representations. It calls them parables.
They are not for play theater, with physical images and fake, but for us to choose roles and through them to gain, if we are able, sweet Paradise.
So now that the Triodion has begun, the curtain has opened, and the roles are before us again these first two Sundays, that is, the manner by which we will live our lives.
One sought justification, acceptance, recognition, while the other was off in the corner and sought mercy.
Of course usually we see it otherwise and we interpret it as a way of prayer.
Perhaps however it is worth seeing somewhat like this, as loneliness, as frustration, as need for recognition and acceptance?
Usually we, the "good Christians", condemn the Pharisee, and the various images of painters show him pot-bellied, with a long belt, as macho, a dude, who stands before God with cockiness. And we condemn him.
So we condemn the Pharisee of the Gospel reading. This is because we are confident that "we" are NOT the Pharisee.
Thus we take the role of the Publican, who with sorrow in his heart eventually wins the mercy of God. We even say that Christ Himself displays him as saved.
Therefore we are not Pharisees. We are not Pharisees? Let us get back to this later.
Now let us come to the present Sunday. Today the sketch has more roles, it is more dramatic, with an ancient concept, the scene is a work of a plenitude of years, and the props change with many images.
We have whatever you want: pigs, husks, prostitutes, prostitution, calves, slaves, an older brother, a father.
And it all unfolds in many places, especially in a home, the house of the father, that is, inside and outside of the holy Church. Eventually we will find that nulla salus extra eglesia (there is no salvation outside the Church).
Think which role you will play? Who is the role most suited for you?
Were you never an older brother for your younger brother, that is, did you never confront him before your mother or father, because you believed they loved him more than you and they do him all the favors?
Were you never a prodigal son, who wanted a big hug from your father, but your father did not open to you his arms, because as we have learned as men, we do not behave emotionally, caressing each other, and we do not kiss boys to make them "tough men"?
And yet, as boys, many times we wanted our father to hug us, yes our father, to lean for one minute on his shoulder and feel that he loves us.
Are we the father? If, God forbid, that our son strayed, what would we do? I hear similar cases over and over again. I have even heard parents curse the hour they gave birth to such a monster, and they cannot stand him to such an extent that they beg for God to take him away.
Let us say a few words about the pharisee in all of us. Do you remember the time you were talking with someone and you insisted you were right and they were wrong? And you became like a rooster with a red comb when it was recounted to your friends. Is this not pharisaic?
Do you remember you were talking about charity with your friends, and you talked about how you gave a little money to a certain woman to help her, although you have a nest egg set aside in two or three accounts. Is this not pharisaic?
"God and I have everything worked out. When I am able I sit before the icons and tell Him everything. Not like Miss so and so, the poor lady, I feel sorry for her. She always talks about God having mercy on her and she sighs. She's a good person, but enough with her humility. Doesn't she have any pride?" Is this not pharisaic?
We can go on and on, but the time is passing.
We do not give solutions. The solution is the Holy Gospel. The salvific words of Christ. We constantly stir things up and do not leave the word of God in silence, we do not rest.
Most of all we fear the insidious mold, in which we usually rest and justify ourselves.
The stage of the Holy Gospel continuously gives us the opportunity to choose a role.
And even now with Great Lent the roster is before us. There we are in the Great Canon. Otherwise there is no other reason to read the roles of the Old Testament.
In Greek the word actor consists of two words, ηθο-ποιοί, which means "one who creates morals". Let us be such. Meaning? We need something that is usually forgotten. We need self-awareness. And deep humility.
Let us look into the mirror, but may the mirror not be made of glass, which shows an idol, but let it be true.
And the most true mirror for self-knowledge is our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be glory forever. Amen.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.