SERMON ON THE SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND THE PHARISEE, 2017
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Pride versus humility. That’s the theme of today’s parable. C.S. Lewis, in his book “Mere Christianity” wrote:
“According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind…
… it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”
A wonderful quote from a wonderful writer. Today the Triodion begins. And from today the holy Church begins our lessons in preparation for the Great Fast. One of the teachers and spiritual physicians who will be instructing us along the way, is St John Climacus, otherwise known as St. John of the Ladder. For my sermon this morning, I’m going to use his words, his wisdom gained by experience, and his light gained by living in the Light. These words are taken from his amazing book “The Ladder.” May God use them and bring healing, wisdom, and illumination to our souls as well.
"Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. It is the mother of condemnation, the offspring of praise, a sign of (spiritual) barrenness. It is a flight from God's help, the precursor of madness, the cause of downfall. It is the cause of satanic possession, the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy. It is the fortress of demons, the guardian of sins, the source of hardheartedness. It is the denial of compassion, a bitter Pharisee, a cruel judge. It is the foe of God. It is the root of blasphemy.
Pride begins where vainglory leaves off. Its midpoint comes with the humiliation of our neighbor, the shameless parading of our achievements, complacency, and unwillingness to be “found out.” It ends with the spurning of God's help, the exalting of one's own efforts and a devilish disposition.
Listen, therefore, all who wish to avoid this pit. This passion often draws strength initially from the giving of thanks, and at first it does not shamelessly urge us to renounce God. I have seen people who speak aloud their thanks to God but who in their hearts are glorifying themselves, something demonstrated by that Pharisee with his "O God, I thank You" (Luke 18:11).
Pride takes up residence wherever we have slipped, for a slip is, in fact, an indication of pride. An admirable man said once to me, "Think of a dozen shameful passions. You only need to love one of them, pride, and it will fulfill all the other eleven."
A proud Christian argues bitterly with others. The humble Christian is loath to contradict. The cypress tree does not bend to the ground to walk, nor does the haughty Christian bend down in order to gain obedience.
The proud man wants to be in charge of things. He would feel lost otherwise.
"God resists the proud" (James 4:6). Who then could have mercy on them? Before God every proud man is unclean. Who then could purify such a person?
To reject criticism is to show pride, while to accept it is to show oneself free of this fetter.
Pride and nothing else caused an angel to fall from heaven. And so one may reasonably ask whether one might reach heaven by humility alone, without the help of any other virtue.
Pride loses the profits of all hard work and sweat (of spiritual effort.) They cried out, but there was none to save them, because they cried out with pride. They cried out to God, but He paid no heed since they were not really trying to root out the faults against which they were praying.
An elder, very experienced in these matters, once spiritually admonished a proud brother who said in his blindness, "Forgive me, father, but I am not proud." "My son," said the wise old man, "what better proof of your pride could you have given than to claim that you were not proud?"
When the demon of pride gets a foothold for himself among his own servants, he appears to them, in sleep or awake, and he looks like a holy angel or martyr and he hints at mysteries to be revealed or spiritual gifts to be granted, that the wretches may be deceived and driven utterly out of their minds.
A real Christian is one whose soul's eye is not haughty and whose bodily senses are unmoved.
A Christian is one who fights his (spiritual) enemies, like the wild beasts that they are, and harries them as he makes his escape from them.
A Christian is shaped by virtues in the way that others are shaped by pleasures.
A Christian has an unfailing light in the eye of the heart.
A Christian is an abyss of humility in which every evil spirit has been submerged and drowned.
Pride causes us to forget our sins, for the remembrance of them leads to humility.
Pride is utter poverty of soul disguised as riches, imaginary light where in fact there is darkness. This abominable vice not only stops our progress but even tosses us down from the heights we have reached.
A proud Christian needs no demon. He has turned into one, an enemy to himself." Amen.