If we read the parable of the Publican and Pharisee merely as a morality tale about being humble rather than prideful, we miss how it is placed in the larger narrative of the Scripture and all the revelation of God.
As co-heirs with Christ, today we are offered in His holy temple along with Him. Today we share in His place as the first-born, both receiving and distributing the inheritance of God to all our siblings. And today we do so as a royal priesthood, both priests and kings, bringing God’s presence even to the nations.
When you see people claiming that dogma is non-negotiable but morality can be revised, you can remind them that the original dogma was about morality and also about idolatry. And since those two things are always linked in Scripture, you can also use your discernment to figure out what they’re worshiping instead of the one true God.
This world has many dimensions that we do not see. And they would be frightening if the Lord opened our eyes fully to their reality.
We are fragmented. We are compartmentalized. If we will seek to reintegrate our lives by prayer being in everything and by everything being in prayer, then I believe that we will find new joy, a new song, new vitality in each of our lives and in our common life both as a parish and as the whole Orthodox Church.
Imagine God jumped onto the world stage in an obvious manner. By what measure would we know beyond a doubt that that is God? How do we know that most people wouldn’t think we were being visited by an alien from another world? What about a mass hallucination? What about a massive government conspiracy? How would we know what God would look like such that we could be sure it was really Him? That presupposes some prior knowledge of what to look for when God shows up. If God showed up, would we even know or believe it was really Him?
It is shown in many places in the Old Testament that to be in the presence of God in an unworthy manner is to risk destruction and death. And so being “visited” by God is not something you actually wanted. Being visited by God was dangerous.
Is it any wonder that, since the shaping of the world into order from formlessness and void in Genesis was begun with a light shining in the darkness, that the coming of Christ into this broken world of chaos and horror would also be begun with a star shining in the darkness?