Forgiveness Sunday

In the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Great Lent – the day on which, at Vespers, Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated – is called Forgiveness Sunday. On the morning of that Sunday, at the Divine Liturgy, we hear the words of Christ:

"If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses..." (Mark 6:14-15)

Then after Vespers – after hearing the announcement of Lent in the Great Prokeimenon: "Turn not away Thy face from Thy child for I am afflicted! Hear me speedily! Draw near unto my soul and deliver it!", after making our entrance into Lenten worship, with its special memories, with the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian, with its prostrations – we ask forgiveness from each other, we perform the rite of forgiveness and reconciliation. And as we approach each other with words of reconciliation, the choir intones the Paschal hymns, filling the church with the anticipation of Paschal joy.

What is the meaning of this rite? Why is it that the Church wants us to begin Lenten season with forgiveness and reconciliation? These questions are in order because for too many people Lent means primarily, and almost exclusively, a change of diet, the compliance with ecclesiastical regulations concerning fasting. They understand fasting as an end in itself, as a "good deed" required by God and carrying in itself its merit and its reward. But, the Church spares no effort in revealing to us that fasting is but a means, one among many, towards a higher goal: the spiritual renewal of man, his return to God, true repentance and, therefore, true reconciliation. The Church spares no effort in warning us against a hypocritical and pharisaic fasting, against the reduction of religion to mere external obligations. As a Lenten hymn says:

In vain do you rejoice in no eating, O soul!

For you abstain from food,

But from passions you are not purified.

If you persevere in sin, you will perform a useless fast.

Now, forgiveness stands at the very center of Christian faith and of Christian life because Christianity itself is, above all, the religion of forgiveness. God forgives us, and His forgiveness is in Christ, His Son, Whom He sends to us, so that by sharing in His humanity we may share in His love and be truly reconciled with God. Indeed, Christianity has no other content but love. And it is primarily the renewal of that love, a return to it, a growth in it, that we seek in Great Lent, in fasting and prayer, in the entire spirit and the entire effort of that season. Thus, truly forgiveness is both the beginning of, and the proper condition for the Lenten season.

One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite when I have no "enemies"? Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions, is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true, that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But, the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them -- in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being "polite" and "friendly" we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual "recognition" which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.

On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As l advance towards the other, as the other comes to me – we begin to realize that it is Christ Who brings us together by His love for both of us.

And because we make this discovery – and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists – we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year, "opens to us the doors of Paradise." We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage. Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting – true fasting; our effort – true effort; our reconciliation with God – true reconciliation.

Schmeman.org

See also
Fasting According to the Scriptures Fasting According to the Scriptures
Vincent Martini
Fasting According to the Scriptures Fasting According to the Scriptures
Vincent Martini
Notice that Christ mentions the discipline of fasting as a foregone conclusion for his followers. We also see that fasting is pointless if it is not done with the right spirit. Those who fast “publicly” and with great “fanfare” have received their reward, and it is both temporal and fleeting. True fasting is a relational and Spiritual discipline that affects one’s whole person and transforms one into the likeness of Christ.
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday Forgiveness Sunday
Archpriest Victor Potapov
Forgiveness Sunday is a day a day of strict self-examination, a day on which we examine the extent our spiritual maturity: are we capable of following after Christ, of obeying all of His directions? Many of us know well from personal experience that it is far easier to forgive than to ask forgiveness of one whom we have somehow offended, for our pride interferes with our admitting guilt. The Church constantly teaches that it is only through repentance, spiritual struggle, and efforts toward great abstinence that what had been lost through sin may be sought, found and restored.
Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday
Igumen Zacchaeus (Wood)
Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday Sermon on Forgiveness Sunday
Igumen Zacchaeus (Wood)
Of course much can be, and indeed has been said about each preparatory Sunday—from the desire of Zacchaeus to the humble prayer of the publican to the repentance of the prodigal son, and finally with the clear teaching of the Lord as to what we need to do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Today's theme, however is more frightening—the expulsion of Adam from Paradise.
Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast Homily on Cheese Fare Sunday. The Condition Prior to Entering the Holy Forty Days Fast
St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Beloved brethren! We have already reached the very gates of the holy fast! They are even now about to open before us! Already, according to the typicon of the Holy Church, we hear the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ read to us today in the Holy Gospels about the correct way to begin the podvig of fasting.
Sermon before the Fast Sermon before the Fast
Holy Monastery of Axion Estin
Sermon before the Fast Sermon before the Fast
The fact is of real value only when it stems from a pure heart; when one is ready to deny wealth, and stand above money; when one is ready to give alms to the poor; when one has love and affection, not only for one's own children, but also for the orphans and the poor. One manifests real fasting when he is ready to deprive himself of food, in order that the hungry and destitute might be fed. One really fasts when he maintains his equilibrium under all stress, never allowing himself to lose his temper and explode like a volcano, destroying everyone around him.
The Fourth Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) The Fourth Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) The Fourth Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday) The Fourth Sunday of the Triodion Period: Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday)
At the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance.
Comments
Sally Iloff3/14/2016 1:44 am
Such wonderful words!
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