“Publican” is an old-fashioned word for a tax collector. Since the Publicans in Palestine at the time of Our Lord were collecting taxes for the Roman Empire, and, at times, took an exorbitant commission for themselves, most people held them in low esteem. The Pharisees took great pride in observing every detail of the Mosaic Law to the letter, and looked down on other people who were not so punctilious about it.

In his sermon at the Papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in 1995, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said that along with repentance we need “humility, the queen of Christian virtues.” At the beginning of the Triodion, the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee reminds us of the crucial importance of humility. We could be tempted to think that by fasting, prayer, divine services and alms giving we shall become “better” than other people, we could be tempted to look down on other people. When God gives us a greater abundance of grace, He expects us to grow in humility. We have no call to boast of our achievements, and still less do we have any right to judge other people; God will judge us all.

Humility, however, is a very powerful virtue. If we want to accomplish great things, we should aspire to humility. To be humble does not mean to think myself worthless, or to think that I am of less value than is truly the case. Both of these are temptations, not virtues. No human being is worthless; we have been redeemed by the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We have each a unique vocation from God. Trying to be “humble” by pretending to think myself of lesser value than I really consider myself to be, is nothing more than pride.

Genuine humility is freedom from illusion. The devil seeks to delude us, to deceive us. Jesus Christ seeks to bring us the Truth, to lead us into the Truth. For that, we must reject illusion, we must be humble. If we were to take pride in our Lenten observances, we would waste our time. Repentance involves liberating us from the devil’s illusions and enabling us to see reality.

For this, we ask God’s mercy. Our Ukrainian tradition in particular uses the Prayer of the Publican: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” quite often. We do not take pride in our virtues; the credit belongs to God. We do not seek to excuse our faults; we ask God to forgive us and show mercy to us.

On this Sunday, one of the most important liturgical features of the Triodion appears. At Matins the priest reads one of the Resurrection Gospels, as he does every Sunday. But today, after the lesson, while the Gospel Book lies in the nave awaiting our veneration, we sing the verse, “Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life; my spirit seeks Your Holy Temple early in the morning, bearing the temp le of my body all defiled. In Your compassion cleanse me by Your loving kindness and your mercy… Guide me in the paths of salvation O Theotokos!”

This plea, asking God to open the way to repentance, will not go unanswered. God opens the way. We must walk that way and go through that gate, through Christ’s Resurrection.

During the week between the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee and the. Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the tradition of our Church is to have no fasting. This also may teach us humility; by not fasting during this week we should learn that fasting in itself is not meritorious. Fasting is only a part of Lent; prayer, almsgiving, and, above all, humble repentance are all far more important than fasting.

Excerpt from Our Paschal Pilgrimage. A Guide for the Great Fast for Ukrainian Catholics by Bishop Basil Losten

 


GREAT VESPERS

Kathisma Reading
“Blessed is the man…” is sung.

At Psalm 140

In Tone 5

  1. Lead my soul forth from prison* that I may give thanks to Your name.

With Your precious Cross, O Christ,
You have put the Devil to shame.
With Your Resurrection You have deadened the sting of Death.
We, therefore, glorify You, O only-begotten Son of God.

  1. The just shall gather around me* when You have been good to me.

O Christ, Who granted resurrection to mankind,
You were led like a lamb to the slaughter.
Then the princes of Hades were struck with terror
as they saw the gates of their tearful domain being lifted up;
for Christ, the King of Glory, entered therein
and exclaimed to those in chains: Go forth from here!
And to those in darkness: Go forth into the light!

  1. Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;* O Lord, hear my voice!

What a great wonder!
The Creator of invisible beings suffered in the flesh for mankind,
and rose from the dead as immortal.
Come, therefore, all you nations and adore Him;
for through His compassion we have been freed from the snares of the Devil,
and we have learned to praise the one God in three Persons.

  1. Let Yours ears be attentive* to the voice of my prayer.

We offer to You our evening worship,
O Light Whom the darkness of night can never extinguish.
For in these latter days Your radiance has appeared to the world,
shining in Your flesh as light reflected in a mirror.
Your brilliance has descended even to the depths of Hades and dissolved its gloom.
O Lord, Giver of Light, glory to You;
for You have shown the radiance of Your Resurrection to all the nations.

  1. If You mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?* But with You forgiveness is that You may be revered.

Let us glorify Christ, the Author of our Salvation;
for by His Resurrection from the dead,
the world has been delivered from the deception of Satan.
The choirs of angels rejoice as the treachery of evil spirits vanishes.
Fallen Adam arises, and the Devil is vanquished.

  1. I have waited for You as You have commanded; my soul patiently relies on Your promise,* for it has trusted in the Lord.

Those who guarded the tomb of Christ
were told by the evil men who hired them:
Take this silver and keep silent.
Tell no one of the Resurrection of Christ;
rather tell everyone that while you were sleeping His body was stolen.
But who has ever heard of a body being stolen,
a body which had already been anointed?
Why would anyone take a body from the grave naked,
and leave the burial shroud in the tomb?
Do not deceive yourselves, O people of Judea.
Study the teachings of the Prophets,
and you will come to understand that Jesus Christ is Almighty God,
and truly the Saviour of the world.

  1. From the morning watch until night* let Israel trust in the Lord.

O Lord our Saviour,
Who subjected hell and conquered Death,
and enlightened the world through Your precious Cross,
have mercy on us.

In Tone 1

  1. For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him there is plentiful redemption;* and He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Brethren, let us not pray as the Pharisee:
for he who exalts himself shall be humbled.
Let us humble ourselves before God,
and with fasting cry aloud as the Publican:
God be merciful to us sinners.

  1. Praise the Lord, all the nations;* proclaim His glory, all you people.

Brethren, let us not pray as the Pharisee:
for he who exalts himself shall be humbled.
Let us humble ourselves before God,
and with fasting cry aloud as the Publican:
God be merciful to us sinners.

  1. Strong is the love of the Lord for us;* eternally will His truth endure.

A Pharisee, overcome with vainglory, and a Publican, bowed down in repentance,
came to You the only Master.
The one boasted and was deprived of blessings,
while the other kept silent and was counted worthy of gifts.
Confirm me, O Christ our God,
in these his cries of sorrow,
for You love mankind.

In Tone 8, Glory…

Almighty Lord, I know how great is the power of tears.
For they led up Hezekiah from the gates of death;
they delivered the sinful woman from the transgressions of many years;
they justified the Publican above the Pharisee.
And with them I also pray:
Have mercy upon me.

In Tone 5, Now…

A symbol of the undefiled Virgin and bride
was revealed in the Red Sea.
There, Moses divided the waters;
here, Gabriel is the messenger of the miracle.
There, the Israelites crossed the deep and their feet were not even wet;
here, the Virgin gives birth to Christ without human seed.
There, the sea remained uncrossed after the passing of Israel;
here, the immaculate remained incorrupt after giving birth to Emmanuel.
Therefore, O immortal God, who appeared in the flesh as true Man,
have mercy on us!

Aposticha

In Tone 5

O Christ our Saviour,
we lift up our voices to glorify You.
For, in Your love for mankind,
You became incarnate without leaving heaven;
You accepted the Cross and death;
You cast down the gates of Hades;
and on the third day You arose from the dead
for the salvation of our souls.

The Lord reigns, He is clothed in majesty. Robed is the Lord, and girt about with strength.

O Giver of Life,
streams of forgiveness, life, and salvation
poured forth from Your pierced side upon us all.
By accepting physical death, You granted us immortality;
by lying in the tomb, You freed us from Hades,
and as God, by rising from the dead,
You raised us with Yourself in glory.
Therefore, we cry out to You:
O Lover of mankind, glory to You!

For He has made the world firm, which shall not be moved.

O Lover of mankind,
Your crucifixion and descent into Hades are most wondrous.
For, as God, You thereby conquered the power of Hades,
and raised up in glory, with Yourself, those who were long imprisoned there.
You reopened Paradise and enabled them to enter.
Grant forgiveness of sins to us
who glorify Your Resurrection on the third day,
for You alone are all-merciful.

Holiness befits Your house, O Lord, for length of days.

O Lover of mankind,
You accepted suffering in the flesh
and rose from the dead on the third day.
Therefore, heal the passions of our flesh,
raise us from our dreadful iniquities, and save us.

In Tone 5, Glory…

My eyes are weighed down by my transgressions,
and I cannot lift them up and see the height of heaven.
But receive me, Saviour, in repentance as the Publican
and have mercy on me.

Now…

O most pure Virgin,
you are the temple, the gate, the palace, and the throne of the King.
Christ, our Redeemer and Lord,
appeared through you to those who slumbered in darkness.
For He, as the Sun of Righteousness,
wishes to enlighten those whom He created with His own hands
according to His own image.
Therefore, O Lady, whom we always praise in song,
we beseech you to intercede with Christ for the salvation of our souls;
for, as His Mother, you can approach Him with the greatest confidence.

Troparia

In Tone 5
Let us, the faithful, acclaim and worship the Word* co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit,* and born of the Virgin for our salvation.* For He willed to be lifted up on the cross in the flesh,* to suffer death and to raise the dead,* by His glorious Resurrection.

Glory… Now…
Rejoice, O Virgin, impassable gateway of the Lord! * Rejoice, protective wall of those who take refuge in you! * Rejoice, peaceful haven untroubled by storms! * Rejoice, Virgin who has not known wedlock * and yet has given birth in the flesh to your Creator and God! * O Mother of God, never cease to intercede * for those who praise and worship your Son.

 


DIVINE LITURGY

Troparia and Kontakia
Troparion, Tone 5: Let us the faithful acclaim and worship the Word,* co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit,* and born of the Virgin for our salvation.* For He willed to be lifted up on the cross in the flesh, to suffer death* and to raise the dead by His glorious resurrection.

Troparion, Tone 1: Rejoice, full of grace, Virgin Mother of God!* From you there dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God,* who enlightens those who dwell in darkness.* And you, O righteous Elder, be glad!* You received in your embrace* the Liberator of our souls,* who grants us resurrection.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Kontakion, Tone 3: Let us bring sighs of sorrow to the Lord as did the Publican* and approach the Master as sinners,* for He desires salvation for everyone.* He grants forgiveness to all who repent.* For as God, the One-who-is, co-eternal with the Father, He became flesh for us.

Now and for ever and ever. Amen.

Kontakion, Tone 1: By Your birth, You sanctified a virgin womb* and fittingly blessed the hands of Simeon.* You have come also now and saved us, O Christ our God;* give peace to Your community in time of war,* and strengthen its rulers, whom You love,* for You alone,* are the Lover of mankind.

Prokeimenon, Tone 5
You, O Lord, will guard us and will keep us* from this generation and for ever.
verse: Save me, O Lord, for there is no longer left a just man. (Psalm 11:8,2)

Epistle
2 Timothy 3:10-15

Alleluia, Tone 5
verse: Your mercies, O Lord, I will sing for ever; from generation to generation I will announce Your truth with my mouth.
verse: For You have said: Mercy shall be built up for ever; in the heavens Your truth shall be prepared. (Psalm 88:2,3)

Gospel
Luke 18:10-14

Hymn to the Mother of God
O God-bearing Virgin, hope of Christians, protect and guard and save all those who put their trust in you.
and the Irmos, Tone 3: In the law, the shadow, and the scriptures, we the faithful see a figure: every male child that opens the womb shall be sanctified to God. Therefore do we magnify the first-born Word and Son of the Father who is without beginning, the first-born Child of a Mother who had not known man.

Communion Hymn
Praise the Lord from the heavens;* praise Him in the highest.* Alleluia, alleluia,* alleluia. (Psalm 148:1)