In preparation for Great Lent, we Orthodox are asked to consider the virtue of humility and the value of repentance for finding one’s way to God. So today’s Gospel, Luke 18:10-14, gives us the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee.
St John Cassian offers us a description of how we can tell if the sin of pride is at work in us. We can see in his description many words which describe what today we might call a narcissist, a shallow loud mouth, the stubborn uncooperative person, the bully, the incorrigible. St. John says:
By the following indications, then, that carnal pride of which we have spoken is made manifest.
First of all, a person’s talking will be loud and his silence bitter;
his joy will be marked by noisy and excessive laughter,
his seriousness by irrational sadness,
his replies by rancor,
his speech by glibness,
and his words will burst out helter-skelter for a heed-less heart.
He will be devoid of patience,
quick to inflict abuse,
slow to accept it,
reluctant to obey except when his desire and will anticipate the matter,
implacable in receiving exhortations,
weak in restraining his own will,
very unyielding when submitting to others,
constantly fighting on behalf of his own opinions but never acquiescing or giving in to those of others.
And so, having become unreceptive to salutary advice, he relies on his own judgement in every respect rather than on that of the elders.” (The Institutes, pp. 271-272)
While we might imagine this is a description of many in positions of power, Cassian is talking about each of us. In Lent, it is time to look at my self and my own faults, for the only person I can change is me. Recognizing faults in others is most helpful when it teaches us about our self.