Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

Introduction

The Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee is the first Sunday of a three-week period prior to the commencement of Great Lent. It marks the beginning of a time of preparation for the spiritual journey of Lent, a time for Orthodox Christians to draw closer to God through worship, prayer, fasting, and acts of charity. It is also on this day that the Triodion is introduced, a liturgical book that contains the services from this Sunday, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), to Great and Holy Saturday.

The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple

Today the Church commemorates an important event in the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 2:22-40).

Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation’s religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs

The Synaxis of the Three Holy Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom: During the eleventh century, disputes raged in Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some preferred St Basil (January 1), others honored St Gregory the Theologian (January 25), while a third group exalted St John Chrysostom (January 27 and November 13).

Dissension among Christians increased. Some called themselves Basilians, others referred to themselves as Gregorians, and others as Johnites.

Some argued for Saint Basil above the other two because he was able, as none other, to explain the mysteries of the Faith, and rose to angelic rank by his virtues. The partisans of Saint Chrysostom retorted that the illustrious Archbishop of Constantinople had been no less zealous than Saint Basil in combating vices, in bringing sinners to repentance and in raising up the whole people to the perfection of the Gospel. According to a third group, Saint Gregory the Theologian was to be preferred to the others by reason of the majesty, purity and profundity of his language. Possessing a sovereign mastery of all the wisdom and eloquence of ancient Greece, he had attained, they said to such a pitch in the contemplation of God that no one had been able to express the dogma of the Holy Trinity as perfectly as he.

St. Theodosius the Great

He was the founder of cenobitic monasticism, and the cave he settled into for over thirty years was, according to tradition, the place where the three Magi spent the night on their way back from the Nativity of the Lord.

Synaxis of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

In the Orthodox Church it is customary, on the day following the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God, to remember those saints who participated directly in the sacred event. So, on the day following the Theophany of the Lord, the Church honors the one who participated directly in the Baptism of Christ, placing his own hand upon the head of the Savior.

Saint John, the holy Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, whom the Lord called the greatest of the prophets, concludes the history of the Old Testament and opens the era of the New Testament. The holy Prophet John bore witness to the Only-Begotten Son of God, incarnate in the flesh. Saint John was accounted worthy to baptize Him in the waters of the Jordan, and he was a witness of the Theophany of the Most Holy Trinity on the day of the Savior’s Baptism.