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Homily on the Publican and the Pharisee – Father Gavril Galev


Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9 – 14)

Through the example of the publican (tax collector) and the Pharisee, we see two models of spiritual life.

One, the Pharisee, who is pious, fulfils the law and is righteous, and the other – the publican, who is a sinner, breaks the law and is not a regular in the church.

One of them (the Pharisee) enters and prays in a manner of bragging: I am like this, I am like that, I fast this much, I give that much, I am not a sinner like the others – being obsessed with his vanity and self-importance, he does not even notice that he judges, despises, humiliates and finally condemns a specific person “And I’m not like this tax collector here.”

And the other one (Tax collector) enters the temple and, considering himself unworthy, stands afar off in the temple and does not even raise his head to heaven, but beats his breast and says: “Forgive me oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Enlightened as a result of his humility, he realizes that only God is the sole good and merciful One, and we sinners should become lowly and ask for mercy from Him.

Which one of the two comes out of the temple more justified? The answer is the second one.

The second one has justified himself because he became fully aware of his transgression, he came to church to confess, he repented and changed his life, laying a sound foundation for penitence. The tax collector did not think highly of himself, although he may have been healthy, upright, handsome, rich, smart …, he thought that his deeds were defiled before God.

The first one, on the other hand, was truly pious. His mistake is that he assigns all the virtues he has done to himself, not to God, Who said that without Him we can do nothing and more so, that every perfect gift comes from the Father in heaven.

We have nothing of our own on earth. Everything that is ours belongs to God, and God wants to give it to us. If we do not have God’s help and blessing, we cannot do anything. That is why we should give thanks to God and we should not boast of our deeds.


It is inherent in man to do good, just as it is inherent in a dog to guard the house, just as it is inherent in a cat to hunt for pests. The problem is if they do not guard/hunt. Therefore we cannot boast about our good (deeds), because it is normal for us to do good (deeds). The problem is if we do not do good (deeds). If we do not do good, then we are not human in the true sense of our God’s given purpose (formation).

The devil does not rest. He tries in every way to attack and deceive people into making mistakes (to transgress). The devilish deception of those who obey the law (of God) and are pious (church goers) are the so-called “temptations from the right side”. The devil creates a big picture for themselves, he makes them full of themselves and the criterion for everything, he darkens their mind, hardens their heart and makes them fierce in heart, so that everyone who is not like them and does not think like them, they despise, judge and condemn. Thus their fasting, prayer and going to church are in vain.

Such a people place themselves at the centre of their lives, and not Christ. Our life is Christ-centred and Cross-centred. Christ is the absolute Truth and the criterion for everything and He is the centre of our life, not us nor man. Unconsciously they worship themselves and lift themselves to the rank of deity, idol, and thus, such a person becomes his own idol and removes God from the throne. Self-infatuation is such a great sin.

The lesson to learn is that we should not judge by outward appearance, how someone looks and how they live. Every sin comes from the devil, from the enemy. Therefore, we, as loving beings, should not rejoice and judge those who sin, we should not attack them, put them down, hurt them… If we do so, then we show in reality that we have nothing to do with Christ. We should always have love.

We do not know what happens in the life (heart) of the other, only that person and God know. We need to show love, we should love them, no matter who he or she is, what one looks like and how one lives.


The Pharisee’s greatest sin is that he condemned a particular man. He judged and condemned. And the most horrifying thing is that, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers, he blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, because the man that he was condemning, at that moment, was inspired by the Holy Spirit and repented to (for the sake of) God. He had the Holy Spirit in him and the Pharisee unconsciously became a blasphemer of the Holy Spirit.

This has happened because the basis of the spiritual life of the Pharisee was not repentance and a humble mind before God, but pride and vanity, self-praise, self-importance, and self-promotion.

If we do not (have repentance) continuously repent, all that we do is delusion. If the prayer is not in the spirit of repentance, it is a delusional prayer. We say many prayers, the mind flies (disperses), it is filled with vanity, and the demon obtains strength.

The demon is a great boaster and observer. When he sees an inflated and empty mind, he will fill it with even more thoughts and he will disperse (lead) and deceive it. He who is proud and irrational will not examine his thoughts, he will believe them and he will be trapped. Only a humble mind has the enlightenment and the right judgment to see and recognize the snares of satan. The fear of God protects us from all evil.


Also, zeal without repentance is not of God. The devil himself gives zeal to the self-infatuated people in fulfilling the rule of the church, but take away their pride and stubbornness and then you will see which point they are at.


This is improper churching.


That is why the first and foremost sermon of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of St. John the Forerunner and of the Apostles and of all others, is on the repentance.


Without repentance and humility, there is no salvation.


Everyone who humbles himself will be exalted, everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and therefore God will allow temptations (tribulations) to the one who is proud in order to break their pride, to lower themselves, and to humble themselves, and thus save their souls.

There is no place for the proud in the kingdom of God


Father Gavril Galev

Abbot of the monastery “St. Clement of Ohrid”,

Kinglake, Melbourne, Australia


Photo by: Fr. Gavril Calev

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