Forgiveness Sunday

Traditionalism is inherent in all spheres of human life. It exists in politics, history, culture, etc. The Church of Christ is no exception. Here, traditionalism is present in almost everything, in the vestments of the clergy, in theology, in hymns, and in the very organization of the Church.

The tradition of the "Forgiven Sunday" has its roots in history, when at the dawn of Christianity in Egyptian and then Palestinian monasticism, a pious tradition was born in imitation of the forty-day fast of our Lord Jesus Christ, spent by Him in the desert in absolute solitude.

On the very eve of Great Lent, on Sunday, the monastics asked each other for forgiveness, so that they could then retire alone with a small supply of food and water for forty days into the wilderness for penitential prayer. This was fraught with difficulties and dangers.

Namely, there in the desert, there could be an encounter with wild predatory animals or a disease could occur, as a result of which a person could die, exhausted and feeble. It is no coincidence that the 5th week of Great Lent is dedicated to St Mary of Egypt, whose meeting with the monk Zosima took place precisely during the days of Great Lent, when Zosima, according to custom, withdrew from the monastery for prayerful and penitential solitude.

A lot of time has passed since then, so much has changed in the world around us, but the custom of asking forgiveness from each other on the very eve of Great Lent has survived to this day, so much so that the very name "Forgiveness Sunday" has entered the church calendar and the consciousness of believers.

It is a day when we can say words of repentance, ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended, willingly or involuntarily, by word or deed, and sometimes only by thought. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, which is read on Forgiveness Sunday, the theme of forgiveness and fasting is touched upon: "For if you forgive their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses" (verses 14–15).

In fact, these two verses from the Gospel of Matthew repeat the idea expressed by Jesus Christ in the Lord's Prayer, "Our Father." The Lord forgives us our transgressions as much as we forgive those who have offended us. The very word "repentance" has several meanings that complement each other and transform the mind and heart of a repentant person.

In Greek, it sounds like metanoia "μετ?νοια", meaning regret for what has been done, a change of mind, rethinking. In the language of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is "teshuvah," literally meaning "return to God," that is, by this a person shows that he does not want to perform such actions again, and if the situation were to repeat itself, he would act differently, in accordance with the Commandments of God.

For repentance, first of all, it is necessary to realize that a sin has been committed and to distance oneself from it in one's mind and heart, asking the Lord for forgiveness for what has been committed, and then it is imperative to bring repentance and confession of sin in church before the Gospel and the Cross, telling everything as if in spirit to the Lord and the priest. It is very important to make a commitment when you find yourself in the same situation in the future not to commit a similar sin again.

In Matthew's chapter 6, verse 16, Christ instructs us on how to fast: "And when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may appear to those who are fasting, not before men, but before your Father, who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly."

The grace-filled time of fasting is necessary for the human soul to purify itself through repentance, abstinence, and intense prayer. And the Lord, according to His word, shows mercy to the soul of the penitent, filling it with quiet grace, which every sincere penitent feels in his heart. So, we fast on three levels: bodily (body), heart (feelings), and mental (mind).

The exclusion of one of the levels of abstinence makes fasting flawed and not as beneficial. The Holy Fathers said that the Lord forgives the one who forgives his neighbor, and the day of the Forgiven Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for every believer to change the content of his heart, saying to his neighbor: "Forgive me, I also forgive you," for this is what our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to do.

Priest Valery Mikheev,



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