Saturday, March 12, 2016

Forgiveness is Central

Tomorrow is Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church. It is the last day before the Great Fast, a period of intense prayer and fasting in preparation for the Passion of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. On Forgiveness Sunday, the Church commemorates the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve. You may wonder why the Church focuses our attention on Adam and Eve when the Gospel lesson for the day teaches about prayer and fasting.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 6:14-21 - The Lord said, "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
For us to properly understand the importance of forgiveness in our Great Lenten journey, consider what actually took place when Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise.
Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" -- therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3.22-23)
If only Adam and Eve had asked God for forgiveness, things may have ended up differently. Being expelled from Paradise allowed Adam and Eve to be saved by God. If they had remained in the Garden in their fallen state, and then had eaten from the Tree of Life, they (WE) would have been eternally condemned. So God SAVED us from ourselves when He expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. Without forgiveness we remain outside the Gates of Paradise as Adam and Eve.

One basic core of Forgiveness Sunday is to ask forgiveness from everyone as you prepare to begin Great Lent. In many Churches, a special Forgiveness Vespers is celebrated giving ever member of the Community the opportunity to ask others for forgiveness, all to remind us of the alternative which is expulsion from Paradise. Something to consider as we prepare for our Great Lenten journey. 

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