Dear Mother Valentina!
I have received your letter. Thank you all.
Dear Mother Valentina, the closer people are to Got – not in their dreams, but in actual fact – the more humble they become and the more sinful they fill they are, much more sinful than other people. This is how the Holy Fathers felt. There are many examples testifying to this. You will undoubtedly recall them.
The publican also considered himself as a sinful man. Realizing his sinfulness, he did not try to justify himself, but asked the Lord for mercy and forgiveness, and he got both. All people have an unpayable debt to God. No deeds can pay off this debt. The Lord Himself says that even if people fulfill all instructions (that is, all commandments), they should yet think of themselves as unworthy slaves, who must do whatever their lord tells them to do. So, we, breaking the commandments, must have our soul’s inclination similar to that of the publican – not trying to identify our merits but disregarding whatever good deeds we might have accomplished, because irrespective of our good works, we remain unworthy outsiders and slaves. Only God’s mercy grants forgiveness to the repentant believers and incorporates them into the Kingdom of God.
For this reason, the Lord and the Holy Fathers prohibit us from attempts to work up a state of emotional exultation. The work of our soul should completely focus on repentance and all that leads to repentance; and whatever comes from God’s will come to us when the place is clean and when the Lord wills that. If an ascetic’s heart is not grieving over his sinfulness, such an ascetic, no doubt, must have fallen to temptations. Especially those who have chosen a life of prayer should address God with the prayer of the publican and should be spiritually as distressful as the publican was. Otherwise they would be deceived by demons and acquire haughtiness, conceit and enticement. May the Lord save us all from that.
This is an answer to your wish to know what the “publican’s dispensation” means. The Lord told us in the parable about the publican and a Pharisee how we should pray and what our soul’s dispensation should and should not be (the dispensation of the Pharisee). After the Savior’s coming and sufferings the holy fathers, replaced the prayer of the publican by the Jesus Prayer. The meaning is the same.