Resolve with our Friends and Families
The Great Lent is liturgically announced and inaugurated at the Vespers of Forgiveness. 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…” (St. Mark 6:14-15). At the end of the service, we ask forgiveness from each other, we perform the rite of forgiveness and reconciliation – we approach each other with words of reconciliation. You know that some of us hold grudges against our parents, brothers, sisters, colleagues, and friends for years and years – yet to talk to them!
I was truly blessed to begin this Great Lent on last Sunday with the Vespers of Forgiveness at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church of Bensalem, Pennsylvania. It is awesome service! When I knelt down asking my friends for forgiveness, it brought me into tears of joy and reconciliation! Forgiveness is emphasized in the Gospel reading for this Sunday (St. Matthew 6:14-21) and in the special ceremony of mutual forgiveness at the end of the Vespers on Sunday evening. We are reminded, during this service, that there can be no true fast, no genuine repentance, no reconciliation with God, unless we are at the same time reconciled with one another.
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.
It also directs us to see that Great Lent is a journey of liberation from our enslavement to sin. The Gospel lesson reminds us to refuse to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of the flesh and matter over the spirit. To be effective, however, our fast must not be hypocritical, a “showing off.” We must “appear not unto men to fast but to our Father who is in secret”. Other condition is “If you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you”.
The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, and hatred. Therefore, the first break through the fortress of division, opposition, separation, and hatred is forgiveness—the return to unity, solidarity, and love (αγνή αγάπη). During this Great Lenten season, May God help us resolve with our friends and families. Wishing you an awesome memorable Great Lent!