Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee

Christian life is a life where the Eucharist is at its centre. Listening to Metropolitan Kallistos speak on a number of occasions, he constantly emphasises the fact that we are Eucharistic beings (Anthropos Eucharistiakon) in contrast to what others have claimed in the past (Aristotle for example pointed out that the perfect citizen is he who is a polikon on – a political person, i.e. he who is involved in the community). Therefore, the Eucharist is in the epicentre of our existence. This is evident also within the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. Christos Yannaras explains:

‘The Pharisee is the model of a religious person who seeks salvation from himself in reliance on his own merits, his own moral achievements and his faithfulness to the Law. He fasts twice a week; he gives away a tenth of all he gains; he is not like other men – he justifies himself as a moral individual but nevertheless remains mortal, excluded from the life of loving self-renunciation and communion. By contrast the Publican is the model of an ecclesial person. He acknowledges his moral failings. His only hope is to surrender himself worthy of salvation or possess anything meritorious for his redemption. If he has any hope of salvation it will only be because God loves him without limit and so he abandons himself to God’s loving goodness. The Publican leads us to the eucharisitc Kingdom. Similar parables are found throughout the Gospels. The thief, the prostitute, the prodigal – these markedly non-religious types, presented as guides to the realization of true life insofar as they embody repentance, a radical change of heart, an understanding of life as relational and of death as individual self-sufficiency’[1]

[1] Yannaras, Christos, Orthodoxy and the West, (Brookline, Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2006), p. 32.

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