Tag Archives: forgiveness

Anything less is a bondage.

Fr. Stephen asks rhetorically, “Can You Forgive Someone Else’s Enemies?” with a look at the words and actions of Jesus in the Gospels, and reflecting on the story of The Brothers Karamazov. He writes:

Forgiving is “loosing.” Refusing to forgive is “binding.” The imagery of loosing and binding helps move the imagination away from a legal construction. When we sin, or even when we are involved in sin, we become bound. There is a binding that occurs because we ourselves were the cause of the sin. There is a binding that occurs because we ourselves were the victim of a sin. Thchrist forgiving resurrection 2ere is a binding that occurs because we simply witness the sin. There is even a form of binding that occurs to the whole of humanity because of the diminishment of even one of its members. If everyone were somehow only responsible for their own actions the world would be quite different. As it is, the action of one involves the binding of all. Adam’s sin has left us bound ever since. We are not being held legally responsible for Adam’s action. We are existentially and ontologically bound by Adam’s sin.

These truths are hard to grasp, even for the intellect, and Fr. Stephen helps me quite a bit at that level. But to live in the reality of our freedom, to acquire and absorb and give this kind of liberating love — it’s something impossible, were it not for the fact and the power of the Resurrection. Lent is a good time to pray about this, yes?

I’m looking forward to seeing all of my children at once this weekend, and the thought of them and their tender, breakable and forgiving hearts gives me great comfort; they are a testimony to the kindness of God. And His kindness certainly pertains to the article I was referencing, the whole of which you can read here.

Getting at the heart of our humanity.

This Sunday is Forgiveness Sunday, the last day before Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. During Lent we pray more, give alms, forgive everyone, and generally try to focus on spiritual things and prepare our hearts to receive the grace of the Resurrection of Christ. And of course we fast. We remember the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. This connection is explained well in many articles, one of which I read this week on the blog On Behalf of All. Here are a few excerpts:

….
Adam was meant to abstain; he was meant to fast. He was meant to say “no” to his own desires, so the he could say “yes” to God. We don’t fast in order to “merit” anything from the Lord, but rather to become like God, imitating Christ in his 40-day struggle in the wilderness. And when Christ was tempted by Satan (as all those who are engaged in Christian fasting will experience), his reliance upon both prayer and the promises of God were enough to sustain him.
….
When the apostle tells the Galatians, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Gal. 5:16-17), he shows us yet again that we are “at war” with our own flesh or desires; the “lust of the flesh.” In order to be spiritually renewed as a Christian (and into a true human being, as Christ), one must strive to place the importance of that which is eternal over the temporal desires and passions that tempt us (and which Satan and his minions use to tempt us).

The purpose of fasting is not dieting or carnal in nature, but rather gets to the heart of what it means to be truly human. Our relationship with the Father was distorted in the Garden, and only through true spiritual renewal—such as can be experienced through the ascetic discipline of fasting, coupled with both prayer and almsgiving—can one “grow” to become greater than one’s flesh.

Read the whole article here.

East and West will celebrate Easter on the same date this year, so I know many of you will be beginning your labors just a couple of days later than I, on Ash Wednesday. I pray the Lord will strengthen us all and bring us with joy to Pascha!

Forgiveness Sunday – Schmemann


Forgiveness Sunday

Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

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.