“It is good for Man to fast and to pray, but this…
A homily of His Beatitude John the Xth,
held in the Mariamite Cathedral- Damascus
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Today, my beloved, is the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee. It is the Sunday through which we start the period that is called the Triodion. It is the period that precedes the Great Lent which prepares us to the Sunday of Easter.
The holy Fathers organized a fast before Easter, and another period to prepare us to begin fasting. This period begins with the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, then the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Meat-Fare Sunday and the Cheese-Fare Sunday which is the Sunday of Forgiving. The Monday that follows the Cheese-Fare Sunday immediately is the first day of the Great Lent.
The Great Lent lasts 40 days, having 5 Sundays followed with the Palm Sunday that precedes Lazarus Saturday, and finally comes the Holy Week.
This period of the year, that lasts about 50 days, is extremely important in the ecclesiastical life. Through it we prepare ourselves till we reach Easter chanting: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life”.
All these were put, so that we don’t participate in the redemptive event only formally or externally, but we become a part of this event, and worthy to say: Christ is risen.
That is why, starting of today, the Church bears in our minds the need to think and to achieve many things, while we walk with the Lord in His passion, looking forward to the Easter Sunday.
On the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, the Church and the holy Fathers put in front of us the example of the Pharisee who lifted up his eyes to the heaven and said: I thank you God. I pray and fast. But above all I thank you that I am not like the other sinners, such as this Publican.
This was the Pharisee’s sin. He sinned because he became proud of himself and underestimated the rest of people saying: I thank you God, because I am a good man. I pray and fast, doing all my duties, and I thank you that I am unlike the rest of the sinners. On the other hand, the Publican, who did not dare to lift up his eyes to the sky, bowed his head looking down and saying: “God… Be merciful to me a sinner!”
This is a lesson for us before getting into the Great Lent in order to have a good and a real journey. That is why the Church reminds us today that one of the main aspects of a real fast is humility.
It is good for a man to fast and to pray and to do all his duties in the house and everywhere, and it is good to do everything with the fear of God. But this should not make him proud, so he underestimates the others. But rather he should cry inside him: Oh Lord, Have mercy on me the sinner!”
This is the way how we begin this period of the year, which is called Triodion, following the book that we use at this period, which holds the same name “Triodion”.
This word has a Greek origin, and it means the three praises. And it refers to the three praises that we chant in the Matins over the 50 fasting days.
Lately, we made an irinic visit to the Church of Russia, following to the invitation of His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow. And with the mercy of God, it was a good visit.
The mutual relationship between us, on the ecclesiastical and the popular level at this period, is for the good of our Church and our country. That is why we, hereby, address His Holiness with all respect and appreciation, He who came to our Patriarchate two years ago, stayed with Patriarch Ignatius, and prayed in the Mariamite Church despite the crises that has begun in Syria, and at a time in which two many had left the country.
His Holiness visited the Patriarchate in Damascus, He visited Lebanon, doing this irinic visit at a very difficult period.
We thank God for all His gifts, and pray always for the Virgin Mary and for all Saints asking for their prayers.
May God protect you all. May God protect all of our children and each who is in trouble and illness. May God protect all who are abducted, the afflicted, who are in pain and the wounded. We ask Him to give us strength covering us with His mercy at this time of fast in order to remember that our Lord Jesus, through passion and death on the Cross, He trampled down the death. So, through Jesus Christ we trample this death, and become the children of resurrection and victory, not the children of death.