The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ (Luke 18:11–12, NRSV)
Whoever offers to God sacrifices of praise, the rational fruits of the lips that confess his name, should be very alert for the ambushes of the evil one. Satan lies in ambush ready to catch you by surprise at the very time of thanksgiving. He will get up and accuse you before God, just as he did with your fellow Pharisee in the temple. This time, he will not be puffing you up with pride over good works, as he did with the Pharisee, but he will be making you drunk with a different kind of pride. He makes you drunk on pride in the lovely and sweet sound of your own voice, the beauty of your chants that are sweeter than honey and the honey-comb. The result is that you do not realize that these belong to God, and not to yourself.
Martyrius, Book of Perfection 78.
It says that the tax collector “stood afar off,” not even venturing to raise up his eyes. You see him abstaining from all boldness of speech. He seems devoid of the right to speak and beaten down by the scorn of conscience. He was afraid that God would see him, since he had been careless in keeping his laws and had led an unchaste and uncontrolled life. You also see that he accuses his own depravity by his external manner. The foolish Pharisee stood there bold and broad, lifting up his eyes without a qualm, bearing witness of himself and boastful. The other feels shame for his conduct. He is afraid of his judge. He beats his breast. He confesses his offenses. He shows his illness as to the Physician, and he prays that he will have mercy. What is the result? Let us hear what the judge says. He says, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other.”
Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 120.
The stern Pharisee, who in his overweening pride not only boasted of himself but also discredited the tax collector in the presence of God, made his justice void by being guilty of pride. Instead of the Pharisee, the tax collector went down justified, because he had given glory to God, the holy One. He did not dare lift his eyes but sought only to plead for mercy. He accused himself by his posture, by striking his breast, and by entertaining no other motive except propitiation. Be on your guard, therefore, and bear in mind this example of severe loss sustained through arrogance. The one guilty of insolent behavior suffered the loss of his justice and forfeited his reward by his bold self-reliance. He was judged inferior to a humble man and a sinner because in his self-exaltation he did not await the judgment of God but pronounced it himself. Never place yourself above anyone, not even great sinners. Humility often saves a sinner who has committed many terrible transgressions.
Basil the Great, On Humility.