Archpriest Yaroslav Belikov: Forgiveness Sunday

The Sunday before the beginning of Great Lent is popularly known as Forgiveness Sunday.

Also, this day in the church calendar is called "the commemoration of Adam's expulsion from paradise," or "Cheesefare Week."

Cheesefare Week is the last day of what is known also as “Shrovetide;” On this day we go to Lent, the last day we consume dairy and fish products (we have not eaten meat since last Sunday).

The theme of the church service speaks of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise. The reason for this expulsion, as everyone knows from the Bible, was a violation of the only commandment given by God to man. This commandment, by the way, was abstinence; For a man could eat of any tree but one, and he ought to abstain; therefore, an important element of fasting is abstinence.

But the Holy Scripture also tells us that Adam and Eve, having broken the commandment, did not turn to the Creator with repentance, and, moreover, tried to hide the transgression of the commandment, and when they were convicted, they again did not take advantage of the opportunity to repent: Adam shifted the blame on Eve, then Eve on the tempter. This is the other basic element of fasting – repentance of one's sins.

This day is better known to everyone as "Forgiveness Sunday." At vespers on this day, the rite of forgiveness is performed (in many parish churches, for the sake of convenience for parishioners living far from the church, this Vespers is served in the morning, immediately after the Liturgy, but in many churches it is served in the evening). We often turn to the Lord God with repentance and ask Him for forgiveness.

But we must not forget that God does not give forgiveness unconditionally: the Lord repeatedly teaches that if we do not forgive our loved ones, then He will not forgive us. Thus we pray every day: "And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors," and in the Gospel reading for this day we hear the words of the Savior: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

This is so clear and unambiguous that there is no need to comment.

And here we are faced with a new spiritual struggle: it can be difficult to ask for forgiveness, because we have to admit our mistakes, our wrong actions. However, it is even more difficult to forgive: we bear our grievances, sometimes even justifiably, and it can be more difficult to forgive when the offender asks for forgiveness than to ask for forgiveness ourselves.

And this commandment is both difficult and easy: on the one hand, it is difficult to confess one's sin, but how joyful it is when one asks for forgiveness! And how easy it becomes in the soul when you let go of the resentment, you remove the stone from the heart. Then you will truly reconcile with your loved ones, with the Almighty, and with yourself!

We congratulate everyone on the upcoming Forgiveness Sunday, and wish everyone to spend the days of Great Lent with benefit for the soul, in order to meet the great feast of the Resurrection of Christ with dignity!

Archpriest Yaroslav Belikov,
Rector of the Church of the Joy of All Who Sorrow in Geelong



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