Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Confiteor and the Humility of the Publican

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa....

Our brethren in the Byzantine Rite this past Sunday celebrated the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. The Gospel is taken from St. Luke:
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon 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 every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
In the Western Orthodox Mass every Sunday during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the priest (and later the servers) inclines profoundly and prays:
I confess to God Almighty, to Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, to blessed Michael the Archangel, to blessed John (the) Baptist, to the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, to all the Saints, and to thee, brethren, that I have sinned exceedingly, in thought, word, and deed: (He strikes his breast three times while saying:) by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault. Wherefore I beg Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, blessed Michael the Archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, all the Saints and thee, brethren, to pray for me to the Lord our God.
How fascinating that this week's Byzantine Gospel pericope is most poignantly, most literally expressed by this Western devotion.

P.S.: Yes, I got up awfully early...a sign of advancing age. :)

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