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Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican & Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Repentance: Returning from Exile

Holy Scripture

Luke 18:10-14; Luke 15:11-32

Commentary from the Fathers

“He who seeks forgiveness of his sins loves humility, but if he condemns another he seals his own wickedness. Just as water and fire cannot be combined, so self-justification and humility exclude one another.” —St. Mark the Ascetic (Philokalia)

“The culture in which we live constantly instills in us the sense of pride, of self-glorification, and of self- righteousness. It is built on the assumption that man can achieve anything by himself and it even pictures God as the One who all the time “gives credit for man’s achievements and good deeds...” —Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent

“Open to me the gates of repentance, O Giver of Life, for my spirit rises early to pray towards Thy holy temple, coming in the temple of my body wholly polluted; but because Thou art compassionate, purify me by the compassion of Thy tender mercies.” —from the Lenten Troparia

“It is quite easy indeed to confess that I have not fasted on prescribed days, or missed my prayers, or become angry. It is quite a different thing, however, to realize suddenly that I have defiled and lost my spiritual beauty, that I am far away from my real home, my real life, and that something precious and pure and beautiful has been hopelessly broken in the very texture of my existence. Yet this, and only this, is repentance, and therefore it is also a deep desire to return, to go back, to recover that lost home.” —Father Alexander Schmemann


  1. How does our culture often view humility?
  2. What is true humility? How is it essential for repentance (metanoia)?
  3. What are the lessons of the Prodigal Son that come to mind? How does he exhibit humility?
  4. How is humility cultivated in our lives?
  5. How are we to understand Fr. Schmemann’s comments re. Sunday of the Prodigal Son?

Teaching and Application

  • If we are to truly enter into Lent, we must strive to humble ourselves through kenosis (self-emptying), leaving our pridefulness, self-reliance and self-focus aside.
  • We can only do this with the same desire for ‘return from spiritual exile’ exhibited by the Prodigal Son.
  • Humility leads to repentance, which above all is a genuine desire to return to the genuine order of things as God intends them to be, as He created them to be.
  • Returning to God, seeking first His kingdom over the ‘far kingdom of this world,’ demands through kenosis a renewed effort to submit to the will and way of God—the way of LIFE; we must prefer freedom from the world to enslavement to the ‘things’ we want of the world.
  • Lent aids us in our returning through the lessons taught by the Church through its divine services, through our fasting and increased repentance of heart and openness toward God’s life (metanoia).
  • With increased attentiveness we participate in the services of the Church and her prayers so that we may glean from them means of our continued healing from our sin-sickness. Coupled with fasting and a humble heart, we become open to the cleansing that God would give us.
  • So that we may not be tempted into the sins of the Pharisee there is no fasting this week that no one may boast. Instead, each Christian is meant to be guided by his own conscience with regard to not only his eating (shunning gluttony), but especially his behavior toward his fellow man.