The Triodion and the Sunday of the Publican & the Pharisee

Today, by the Grace of God, we begin to use in the liturgical services of the Church the Triodion, which many of our Holy & God-bearing Fathers, who were skilled in writing music, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit set to excellent & appropriate melodies. First of all to devise the 3 odes [a canon is a poetic composition based on a series of biblical odes, scriptural passages which are patterned after the psalms. The majority of these odes are taken from the Old Testament. A full canon consists of 9 (actually 8) odes based on 7 Old Testamental odes & 1 (the last) from the New Testament], patterned after the Holy & Life-Creating Trinity, was the great poet St. Cosmas, for the Great & Holy Week of the Passion of our Lord & God & Savior Jesus Christ, composing his Troparia with acrostics based on the name of each day. On this basis, the other Fathers — & more than anyone else, Sts. Theodore & Joseph the Studites -— in imitation of St. Cosmas wrote 3-ode Canons for the remaining weeks of the Holy & Great Lent, which they handed down to their own Monastery of the Studion; they arranged & metered the Odes to a greater degree, collecting & assembling the rest of the book from whatever patristic sources were available. Since the 1st day of the week is Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, & since it is both the 1st & the 8th day & the last day, they very wisely appointed the 1st Ode to be read on Monday, the 2nd day, the 2nd Ode on Tuesday, the 3rd day, the 3rd Ode on Wednesday, the 4th day, the 4th Ode on Thursday, the 5th day, the 5th Ode on Friday, the 6th day, the 6th & 7th Odes on Saturday, the 7th day, as well as the 2 others, the 8th & the 9th, which all of the days have in common as being the most important, just as the divine Cosmas did in the case of Great Saturday, for which he composed a four ode Canon; it was later made into a complete Canon by Bishop Mark of Hydrous, at the orders of Emperor Leo the Wise. It is not entirely accurate to call the book the Triodion; for it does not have three ode Canons throughout, & indeed it contains complete Canons as well; but I suppose that it received its name either from the fact that it has more three ode Canons than complete Canons, or because the Canons of Great Week were written first, as we have said.

Now, for our Holy Fathers, the purpose of the entire Triodion was to remind us in brief of God’s benefaction to us from the beginning & to instill in the memory of how we were fashioned by Him, & how we violated the commandment which He gave us for the sake of our nakedness; how we were banished from the delight of Paradise & expelled through the envy of our enemy the serpent, the Author of evil, who was brought down on account of his pride, & how we remained outcasts from the good things of Paradise & were led around by the Devil; how the Son & Word of God, moved by compassion, bowed the Heavens & came down, dwelt in the Virgin & became man for our sake, & through His own way of life showed us how to ascend back to Heaven, through humility, fasting & refraining from evil deeds, & through His other actions; how He suffered, arose & ascended to the Heavens & sent forth the Holy Spirit upon His holy disciples & apostles; & how He was proclaimed Son of God & perfect God by them throughout the world; what the divine Apostles accomplished through the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit; & that they gathered together all the Saints from the ends of the earth through their preaching, replenishing the world above, which was the goal of the Creator from the very beginning. This, then, is the purpose of the Triodion.

The present 3 Feasts: of the Publican & the Pharisee, the Prodigal Son & the Second Coming, were devised by the Holy Fathers as a preliminary exercise & an incentive to prepare us & make us ready for the spiritual arena of the Fast, by leaving behind our customary & loathsome habits. First of all they set forth for us the Parable of the Publican & the Pharisee, & they call this week the Proclamation. For, just as those who are about to depart for physical combats learn in advance from their generals the time of battle, in order that they may clean & polish their swords & make all the other due preparations, &, removing all impediments, may eagerly strip down for the contests & procure what is necessary; &, just as, prior to encountering the foe, their leaders cite accounts, stories & examples for them, stimulating their souls to zeal & warding off hesitation, cowardice, laziness & whatever else is hazardous; so also, the divine Fathers signal beforehand the forthcoming battle, through fasting, against the demons, in order that they may cleanse us of any passions that are lodged in our souls & of any poison that has been at work in us for a long time; &, furthermore, in order that we may hasten to acquire whatever good things we do not have &, properly armed, may thus advance in readiness for the contests of the Fast. Since the first weapon that we need in order to acquire virtue is repentance & humility, & since the greatest obstacle to its acquisition is boasting & pride, the Fathers set forth the present trustworthy parable from the Holy Gospel first of all. By means of the Pharisee, they urge us to lay aside the passion of boasting & self-conceit, & by means of the Publican, on the other hand, to seek after humility & repentance, the opposite of this passion. For, since boasting & self-conceit are the 1st 7 worst of the passions, because thereby the Devil fell from Heaven — he who was formerly called the Morning Star & who, through his pride, became darkness & was called by that name — & since Adam, the father of our race, was driven from the Paradise of delight on account of pride, the Holy Fathers exhort us, through these examples, in no way to boast of our own accomplishments or set ourselves up against our neighbor, but always to be humble; for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” It is better to return, having sinned, than to be puffed up after achieving something.

For “I tell you,” says the Lord, “the Publican went down to his house justified rather than the Pharisee.” The parable, therefore, makes it clear that we should in no way be puffed up, even if we do good things, but should always humble ourselves & pray to God from the heart, even if we have fallen into the worst of evils, for we are not far from salvation.

The Publican was one who collected taxes from the rulers & purchased the farming of taxes in an utterly unjust way, & profited thereby. A Pharisee was one who supposedly set himself apart & surpassed everyone else in knowledge. A Sadducee was a descendant of Sadok, the high priest who assisted David against Absalom. Sedek meant righteousness. There were 3 sects among the Hebrews at the time of our Lord: the Es-senes, the Pharisees & the Sadduccees, who did not accept the resurrection of the dead, Angels or spirit.

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