Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It Always Starts With Desire - Holy Apostle Zacchaeus

Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, whose feastday is April 20th in the Life of the Church, is the same "short" man who desired to see Christ on the road through Jericho, thus climbing a sycamore tree.  After the Ascension of the Lord, St. Zacchaeus accompanied St. Peter on his travels. Tradition says he became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he died in peace.

Icon by the hand of Nicholas Papas
Image Source

The Gospel according to St. Luke (19:1-10) describing Zacchaeus' encounter with Christ is proclaimed on the Sunday before the TRIODION begins, and reads as follows:

"Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.  Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.  And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, 'Zaccheaus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.' So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.  But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, 'He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.'

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; abd uf I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.'  And Jesus said to him, 'Today, salvation has come to this house, becaose he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.'"

In Fr. Alexander Schmemann's Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, he describes the importance of the initial step in our Lenten journey - that of, "desire for God and His righteousness, for the true life."  Fr. Alexander writes: "Zacchaeus desired the 'right thing;' he wanted to see and approach Christ.  He [Zacchaeus] is the first symbol of repentance, for repentance begins at the rediscovery of the deep nature of all desire:  the desire for God and His righteousness, for the true life.  Zaccheaus is 'short' -petty, sinful, and limited- yet his desire overcomes all this.  It 'forces' Christ's attention; it brings Christ to his home.  [Like Zacchaeus] if we desire deeply enough, strongly enough, Christ will respond."

During my Lenten journey, I make it a point to read this book.  It gives me a greater appreciation for the "wisdom of the Church."  My father used to joke that he couldn't understand why the same Gospel lessons were repeated every year on the same Sunday - stating that there is so much knowledge to be gained throughout the Bible, so why limit and repeat (thinking repetition as a negative thing) the same Gospel lessons.  However, when you learn the ultimate teaching behind each Gospel lesson chosen, you start to see how it fits into the greater "puzzle," especially during Great Lent.  I pray our desire, emulates that of Zacchaeus, during this Holy Week to see our Risen Lord as we celebrate Pascha!

O Holy Father Zacchaeus, pray unto God for us!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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