To be or to act. What did the Pharisee choose, and what would we choose?
This parable confronts us with a human and divine judgment. The Pharisee enters the temple and stands before God. He is sure that he has the right to this: after all, his behavior to the smallest detail corresponds to the law that God Himself gave to His people - not to mention the countless rules that the elders of the people and the Pharisees developed on the basis of this law, turning them into a test stone of piety. The domain of God is his own; he belongs to her, he stands for God - God will stand for him. The Kingdom of God is the domain of the law, and one who obeys the law, who stands behind it, is certainly righteous. The Pharisee is completely at the mercy of a formal Old Testament vision of things; in terms of this covenant, the fulfillment of the law can make a person righteous. But the law could not be alone: he could not give eternal life, because eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ sent by Him (see John 17, 3), to know His knowledge is not external, what was the knowledge of Pharisee, as if the all-legislative legislator, but with knowledge on the basis of close personal relations, common life ("you are in Me, and I am in you." John 14, 20).The Pharisee knows everything about how to act, but he knows nothing about how to be.Throughout his whole righteous life, he never once encountered one thing; he never understood that there could be a relationship of mutual love between God and him. He never searched for her, never once met God Isaiah, who is so holy that before Him all our righteousness is like soiled clothes ... He is sure that there are fixed, once and for all established relations between the Creator and His creation. He did not see in the Holy Scriptures the story of God's love for the world, which God created and so loved, that he gave His only begotten Son for his salvation. He lives within the framework of the Covenant, which he understood as a deal, outside of any personal relationship whatsoever. He sees the law in God, not the Person. He sees no reason to condemn himself; he is righteous, cold, dead.
Do we not recognize in this image ourselves, and not only ourselves, but entire groups of people? This is perfectly stated in the following lines:
Only we are the elect of the Lord,
The rest is cursed for ages.
They have enough space in the underworld,
Why do we have their crowd in paradise?
The tax collector knows that he is unrighteous; God's Law and human judgment testify to this.He violates God's law and uses it to his advantage.By deception or arrogance, depending on the circumstances, he violates human laws and turns them to his advantage, and therefore he is hated and despised by other people. And now, having come to the temple, he does not dare to cross his threshold, because the temple is the place of the Presence, and he has no right to enter into the Presence of God, he is afraid of this meeting. He stops and sees before him a sacred space, as if emphasizing the immeasurable majesty of God and the infinite distance between him and holiness, God. The temple is great, like the Presence Itself, it throws in awe, it is full of tragedy and condemnation, which brings with it the confrontation between sin and holiness. And then, on the basis of the merciless, cruel experience of human life, an immeasurably deep and sincere prayer breaks out from him: "God, mercy be to me a sinner." What does he know about life? He knows that the law, applied in full force, brings suffering; that with unlimited rule of law there is no place for mercy, he uses this law and abuses it in order to catch debtors in order to corner his victim; he knows how to contrive and stay right before this lawsending imprisoned debtors to prison; he can always count on the protection of this law, despite the fact that he himself mercilessly, mercilessly profits and accumulates unrighteous wealth.
At the same time, his life experience taught him something else that defies logic and goes against his own ideas. He remembers that in his own life and in life like his, heartless and cruel, there were moments when he, having on his side all the force of the law, faced grief and horror, which he brought upon the unhappy family, with the torment of his mother, with tears of a child; and at that very moment, when everything seemed to be in his power, he, stunning his companions, despite their ruthless logic, contrary to the law, contrary to common sense and his usual behavior, suddenly stopped and, looking with a sad or even soft smile, : “Okay, leave them.”
He probably himself was repeatedly saved from ruin and death, prison and dishonor due to the absurd, unaccountable impulse of friendship, generosity or pity, and these actions put the limit to the terrible law of the jungle of his world. Something in it overgrown the boundaries of harsh inflexibility; in the world of evil, the only thing you can hope for is similar outbursts of compassion or solidarity.And here he stands at the threshold of the temple, into which he cannot enter, because there the law reigns and justice reigns, because every stone cries out about his condemnation here; he stands at the door and asks for mercy. He does not ask for justice - it would be a trample of justice. The great ascetic of the seventh century, Saint Isaac of Sirin, wrote: “Never call God just. If He were fair, you would have been in hell long ago. Rely only on His injustice, in which - mercy, love and forgiveness. "
This is the position of the tax collector and this is what he learned about life. We can learn a lot from him. Why shouldn't we, humbly and patiently, in a vague or clear consciousness of our sinfulness, stand, like him, on the threshold?
Can we claim the right to meet God face to face?Can we, such as we are, count on a place in His Kingdom? If he decides to appear to us, as He appeared in the Incarnation, in the days of His carnal life and throughout human history, as our Savior and Redeemer, we will fall down at His feet in amazement and gratitude! In the meantime, we will stand at the door and cry: “If you, Lord, will notice iniquity, who will stand? Lord, take me to your area, to the area of mercy, and not to the area of truth and retribution! ”
But we do not give mercy, we turn to the law and become Pharisees- not by imitating their harsh, costly dedication to the law, but by sharing their way of thinking, from which hope and love are taken away. The Pharisee, at least, was righteous in terms of the law; we cannot even boast of this, and yet, however, we imagine that we deserve to appear before God. If only we stopped at the lintel and with humility, knocked timidly, waiting for an invitation to enter in response, we would be amazed and delighted to hear that someone on the other side also knocked: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," says the Lord (Rev. 3:20). Perhaps we would see that the door was not locked from His side; it is locked on our side, our hearts are sealed; our heart is narrow, we are so afraid to risk, drop the law and enter the field of love, where everything is as fragile and invincible as love itself is life. God does not cease to knock with hope, persistently and patiently; He knocks through people, through circumstances, through the quiet, weak voice of our conscience, as a beggar knocks at the gates of a rich man, because, having chosen poverty, He expects our love and mercy to reveal the depths of the human heart to Him.In order for Him to come and sup with us, we need to reject our stone hearts and replace them with flesh hearts (see Eez. 11, 19); in return, He offers forgiveness and freedom.
He himself seeks to meet with us. In the experience of Christianity, this theme of the meeting is central; it lies at the basis of the whole history of salvation, of all human history. She is at the heart of New Testament evangelism. In the Old Testament, seeing God meant dying; in the New Testament, meeting with God means life. The modern Christian world is becoming increasingly aware that the whole Gospel can be perceived through thought, experience, and life as a continually renewing meeting in which salvation is contained. Long before the events of the New Testament, God's first act of creation is already the meeting with which God desired and brought to reality; the whole created world rises from non-existence and with a feeling of primeval amazement reveals the Creator, the Living God, the Giver of life, and every other His creation, the work of His hands. What a marvel! What a miracle! What a joy! .. So begins the process of becoming, which will once lead us to such an oversupply of life, which the apostle Paul describes, saying: God will be all in all, when a person becomes, as the apostle Peter says, a partaker of God's nature, Divine nature.
This first meeting, the first step on the path that will lead to the final meeting, is not just a face-to-face meeting, but an attachment, a community of life - to a perfect and wonderful union, which will be our fulness. And when a person turned away from his Creator, when he was lonely and sirim in the world, who himself betrayed, betraying God and refusing his vocation, this mysterious meeting continued, but in a different way. God sent His prophets, saints, messengers and judges to remind us of the path that will lead us back to Him and to ourselves. And when everything was prepared, there was a main meeting, a meeting par excellence (the main meeting, a meeting in the full sense of the word -fr.), the greatest Meeting in the Incarnation, when the Son of God became the Son of Man, the Word became flesh, the fullness of the Divine revealed through matter itself. A comprehensive, space meeting in which both human history and the entire cosmos potentially found their fulfillment. God became man, He dwelt among us; He could be seen, perceived by feelings, one could touch Him. He performed healings.The words that we now read and repeat were uttered by Him and gave life to people - a new life, eternal life. And around Him people — men, women, children — met each other, and it was such a meeting that they had never experienced before and which they had not even dreamed of. They had seen each other before, but in the presence of the living God they saw in each other what they had not seen before. And this meeting, which is both salvation and judgment, continues from century to century. As at the beginning of all, we are in the presence of our God. As in the time of Christ, we stand face to face with God, who wished to become man; As before, day after day, people who recognized the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth, and who saw the Father through Him, meet each other in a completely new way. This meeting takes place all the time, but our consciousness is so clouded that we pass by its value, its immense possibilities, past what it requires of us.
This meeting, in the full sense of the word, is extremely rare.Human paths intersect, people collide with each other - how many people pass by us in a single day,completely ignoring us? And at how many we look with a gaze, without honoring them with a look, a word, or a smile? At the same time, each of these people is a Presence, an image of the Living God; and, perhaps, God sent them to us with some kind of message or, on the contrary, through us they should have received news from God - a word, a gesture, a look, full of recognition or sympathy and understanding. Face a man on the street or in life at the behest of the crowd or the case - this is not yet a meeting. We must learn to look and see - look carefully, thoughtfully, peering into the facial features, its expression, the content of this expression, the content of the eyes. Each of us must learn to see the other deeply, patiently and not sparing time to peer in order to understand who is in front of us; this also applies to entire human groups — social, political, racial, and national.
We all belong to human societies that have lived in divisions or enmities for centuries. For hundreds of years, sometimes we turned away, did not want to look into each other’s eyes, and went further and further. Then we stopped and looked around to finally look at the one who was our brother, and became a stranger, even an enemy.But we were still too far away and could not see his face, let alone the image of God in him. So looked at the tax collector Pharisee; that is how nations, classes, churches, and individuals look at each other. We must embark on a real pilgrimage, a long journey.
We are already close enough to look each other in the eyes and thereby penetrate deep into the living heart., understand the soul, evaluate actions to make from this newly acquired vision thoughtful and balanced conclusions about the thoughts, intentions and aspirations of another person who, no less than we, wanted to understand and fulfill God's will. All this requires a lot of goodwill. To see in a friend what repels us, what makes him a stranger, is easy - as easy as seeing only the attractive features in those who share our beliefs.
But it is very difficult to be fair. We are accustomed to thinking of justice in terms of reward or recompense to each according to merit; but justice goes further and requires much more from us. It begins at that moment when I see a distinction between myself and my neighbor (individual or team), sometimes insurmountable, and I recognize his full right to be such, accepting as a fact that he does not have to be a simple reflection of me.He is also created by a god like me; it is not created in my image, but in the image of God. He is called to be a likeness of God, not me; and if he seems to me too unlike God, alien to Him, if he seems to be a disgusting cartoon rather than the image of God, does he have sufficient reason to see me as such? We are all rather disgusting, but very pitiful, and we should look at each other with great compassion.
But the statement of this fundamental act of justice is connected with risk and danger. First, the physical danger: it is difficult enough to accept those who love us with possessive love, and not to be internally broken, not to blame them for it; butto accept an enemy who denies us and rejects, who would be glad to erase us from the face of the earth - this is already a very expensive act of justice. However, it must be perfect, and this can only be done in love and mercy (let me remind you that the word “mercy” is akin to the expression “from a good heart” and has nothing to do with reluctant charity) in the Garden of Gethsemane and in the Cross of Christ.
To recognize the right of another person to be himself, and not my reflection, is a fundamental act of justice; only this will allow us to look at a person, not trying to see and recognize ourselves in him, but recognizing him, moreover, rather, in his depths, recognize the image of God. But it is more risky than we imagine: such recognition may endanger our existence or wholeness. I will give an example. During the Russian revolution, a young woman went to prison. Stretched days alone and night interrogations. On one of these nights, she felt that her strength was running out, that readinessbravelyshe began to leave her, and suddenly she felt that hatred and anger were rising in her heart. She wanted to look into the eyes of the investigator, to challenge him with all the hatred she was capable of in order to somehow end this nightmare of endless nightly torment, even if she had to pay for it with her life. She really looked, but did not say anything, because on the other side of the table she saw a deathly pale, exhausted man, as exhausted as herself, with the same expression of despair and suffering on her face.And suddenly she realized that, strictly speaking, they are not enemies. Yes, they were sitting on opposite sides of the table, there was an irreconcilable opposition between them, but at the same time they were victims of one historical tragedy; the maelstrom of history sucked them up and threw one in one direction, the other in another; both were not free, both were victims. And at that moment, because she saw in another person the same sacrifice as herself, she realized that this was also a person, and not just an official. He was not an enemy, he was just as unhappy, an inseparable prisoner of tragedy. And she smiled at him. It was an act of recognition, an act of supreme justice.
But it is not enough just to look in order to see, one must learn to listen also in order to hear. How often in a conversation, when opinions diverge or collide, while the interlocutor tries to convey his views to us and opens his heart, admitting us to the hiding places, often the sacred hiding places of his soul, instead of hearing him, we choose the appropriate material from his words so that as soon as he becomes silent (if we have enough patience to wait for this moment), object to him.We mistakenly call this dialogue: one speaks and the other does not listen. Then the interlocutors change roles, so that by the end, everyone spoke out, but no one listened to the other.
Listening is an art to learn. We should not hear the words and judge them, or even the expressions — we ourselves use them. We must listen with such in-depth attention, so that behind words, often imperfect, to catch a fleeting glimpse of truth, a thought that seeks to express itself, albeit vaguely and approximately; the truth of the heart, which is trying to bring to our consciousness its treasures and its agony. But alas! As a rule, we are content with words and give an answer to them. If we ventured to do a little more and listen, for example, to the intonation of voice, we would find that the simplest words are full of anxiety; and then we would have to respond to this anxiety with compassion, love, and participation. But this is very dangerous! And we prefer to listen to the words and not respond to the rest, we remain deaf to their spirit, although the letter kills, and the spirit gives life.
What to do if we want to learn to see and hear? The first condition has already been stated above:we must recognize and accept the otherness of others; he is different from me and has that right, but I have no right to resent it or expect him to become what I am. But in order to see him as he is, I must come close enough to discern everything that needs to be seen, but not so close that I cannot see the forests behind the trees. An example will help us to clarify this: when we want to see a sculpture, a statue, we move some distance away. The distance is not the same for everyone, it depends on who sees how - we are short-sighted or far-sighted; everyone needs to find that point in space - some kind of average between remoteness and proximity, - which will allow him (perhaps only to him alone) to see the whole, and every significant detail. If the distance is too great, we will see not a sculpture, but a boulder, more and more shapeless as we move away from it. And on the contrary, if we get too close, the details will start to acquire excessive value, and if we come close, then they will disappear, and we will see only the texture of the stone. But in this and in the other case nothing will remain of the impression that the sculpture was supposed to make on us.
In a similar way, we must learn to see each other.: move away, be at such a distance that allows us to free ourselves from absurd egocentric reactions, prejudices and all sorts of erroneous judgments, originating from emotional entanglement; but also in such proximity, in which personal relationships, responsibility, and involvement are palpable. It requires effort of will and true self-denial. It is not difficult to establish a harmonious relationship with the statue. It is much more difficult to move a certain distance away from the one we love, or to get closer to the one who is unpleasant to us. To do this, in order to conquer both fear and greed, we must free ourselves from our self, stop seeing everything as if we are the center of the universe. We must learn to see everything objectively, as facts that we can accept and study without first asking what effect this person or this event can have on me personally, on my well-being, on my safety, on my very existence. You have to be impassive enough to be able to look into the depth through the outer layers and despite the obviousness, as Christ could do this - remember the vocation of Matthew, the despicable tax collector.How far this approach of Christ is from our terrible gift to notice through the clear or translucent layers of light is the duality of the twilight of human imperfection or the darkness of the still unenlightened but so rich in possibilities inner chaos. Instead of believing everything, hoping everything, we are not only judging by our actions, rejecting the notion of “presumption of innocence”; we question the motives of people, question their very intentions.
We have to ruthlessly fight our habit of judging everything with our tiny bell tower“Reject yourself” - this is how Christ determined the first step on the path to the Kingdom. You can express it even more harshly: when we notice that instead of seeing and hearing someone, we are consumed with ourselves, we should turn to this “me” that hinders our way, and exclaim with anger: “Get away from me, Satan (in Hebrew, "Satan" means "rival", "enemy"), you do not think about that of God! Come out of my way, you tired of me! ”The publican knew that he was bad in the eyes of God and in the court of men, he instinctively learned to turn away from himself, because there was little joy in contemplating his outrage.Therefore, the Pharisee could smugly look at himself, that, at least in his eyes, his personality fully corresponded to the pattern of righteousness, he considered his life a perfect reflection of the Law of God. And therefore he quite sincerely admired this vision, the contemplation of the perfect realization of Divine wisdom, which he considered himself.
Pious reader, do not rush to laugh at him or righteously indignant! Ask yourself, you, a good Christian, a law-abiding citizen, an executive member of our full-fledged society, have you left him? .. To see yourself, your “I” as an “enemy and adversary”, as the only thing that stands on God on the way, it takes not just a moment to think - a similar understanding is achieved by courageous and intense struggle. “Spill the blood and receive the Spirit,” says one of the devotees of the desert. That is what God did for us. He led us to being with his will. He created us in all radiant innocence and purity, and when we betrayed both Him and the whole created world, when we changed our calling, turned away from Him and treacherously betrayed the creation to the power of the prince of this world, He accepted the new situation, accepted us such what we have become, and accepted the world in its distorted state.He became a man, became a crucified Christ, was rejected by people because he stood for God, and endured the God’s leaving of the Cross, because he stood for a man. So God answered the challenge of man; He accepted us in an act of justice that is infinitely far from our notions of retribution.He asserts our right to be ourselves, but, knowing how crazy we chose death instead of life, Satan instead of Him, our God, He decided to become a man among people so that we could adoreto instill in us a living vine, a living olive (see Rom., ch. 11).
In addition, He knew how to listen. In the Gospels, we see how Christ is listening, how He sees, how he notices and singles out in the crowd a person who needs Him, is needed or who is ready to answer His call. See how fully He surrenders and plunges into the horror of the Crucifixion, the horror of our death. And at the same time, He is free, self-reliant, always remains Himself, despite the storms, the trials, the danger, the risk and their price, and fearlessly makes God's absolute demand: we must live and enter eternal life.
So let's not ignore the fact: Christ knows each of us, accepts us as we are, and pays for our deeds in order to open the gates of eternal life.At the Last Supper, He told His disciples: "I have given you an example, so that you also do what I have done to you" (John 13, 15). Should we start with this? Does not the apostle call us: "Receive one another, just as Christ received you"? ..
By looking at the tax collector in the presence of God and seeing his own conviction, the Pharisee could reveal his brother in a man so despised by him. But he passed by meeting God; and how could he stand in awe, how could he see another, recognize in him his neighbor, see the image of God in him, when he did not see his Type — God Himself? ..
Sometimes, in moments of revelation, in grief or in joy, we see and recognize each other; but we, as a Pharisee, cross the threshold, and our ability to see clearly deep into our lives fades away, and when we meet a brother or sister whom we have recently learned, we again see a stranger and extinguish all their hope. How different are the words of the Apostle Paul: "Great for me is sorrow and unceasing torment to my heart: I would like to be excommunicated from Christ for my brothers, who are my dear to me according to the flesh, that is, the Israelites."