Saturday, January 27, 2018

Met Georges Khodr: The Grace of Humility

Arabic original here.

The Grace of Humility

Today we begin a liturgical period, the period of the Triodion that leads us to the blessed fast. The Triodion is named after the book that we use during this period-- that is, from this Sunday, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee until Holy Saturday. The word "Triodion" is Greek and means "three odes" and is connected to music and chanting.

Today the Holy Church read to us a passage from the Gospel of Saint Luke about two people who have opposite ways of life. One of them is that Pharisee who belonged to a religious group whose name indicates that they separated themselves from people and their way of life had an influence on people's way of life. They were scholars and interpreters of scripture. They issued rulings by which they narrowed the teachings of scripture and they required people to do things that God did not require. They were orthodox in everything as pertains to belief, since they believed in the resurrection while others did not believe in the resurrection, but their paths were paths of hypocrisy.

In this parable from the Gospel, one of them came to the temple to boast and brag that he was not like that sinful tax-collector, since tax-collectors applied the city's whole tax and imposed in on people who could not afford it. That is, they were precisely thieves.

The Pharisee had the right to say that he was ethically better than the tax-collector, but the Lord denied him the right to be proud of his piety. It is thanks to your Lord and it is a grace that He bestows upon you. You are nothing but a vessel that receives God's generosity.

"I fast twice a week." This was not required, but rather was one of the extra things that the Pharisees enjoined. They fasted twice a week and this does not appear in the Law of Moses. Then, they tithe from all their possessions. That is, they give a tenth of their possessions and this is not demanded in the Law.

The other man stood in the temple and knew that he was nothing. He knew that God alone is able to transform this nothing into being. Therefore he was broken before his Lord and said, "God have mercy on me a sinner." This phrase went forth and became a constant prayer in Eastern monasticism, since we say "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner" and repeat it. Our Church says that this expression of the tax-collector can be used in place of any prayer and any act of worship if one does not have the possibility of praying in church.

Today Christ makes this thieving man who repented to his Lord a model for us. And Christ forgave many sinners.

Man worships God or he worships himself and there is no space for both kinds of worship in a single soul. One who has truly come to know himself knows that he is nothing and that he is a creature of grace. We are the fruit of divine giving and grace passes through us. We have no merit in acquiring it and our very struggle is also a grace of the Lord and we give thanks to Him for it.

Therefore our fathers said that prayer is the mother of virtues. Through the grace of humility we know that we do not deserve anything and that God knows us and brings us into being. If we are broken before Him at all times and do not attribute any merit to ourselves, if we are crushed before Him, He lifts us up to His noble face.

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