Friday, February 13, 2015


Forgiveness Sunday – also known as Cheesefare Sunday, since it is the last day on which we partake of dairy products before Holy Pascha – falls on the eve of the first day of Great Lent. In the day’s reading from the Gospels – Matthew 6:14-21 – we hear Our Lord’s teaching about forgiveness: "If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." We also hear His teaching about fasting: "When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father Who is in the secret place; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly." Like Adam, exiled from Paradise, we lament our sins. Forgiveness and mercy are ours, but if only we fast from those things, those passions that, with Our Lord’s help, we can bring under control, even if we all too often allow them to control us.

 The Lord my Creator took me as dust from the earth and formed me into a living creature breathing into me the breath of life and giving me a soul; He honored me, setting me as a ruler upon the earth over all things visible, and making me a companion of the angels. But Satan the deceiver, using the serpent as his instrument, enticed me by food; he parted me from the glory of God
and gave me over to the earth and to the lowest depths of death. But, Master, in compassion, call me back again.

In my wretchedness I have cast off the robe woven by God, disobeying Your divine command, O Lord, at the counsel of the enemy; and I am clothed now in fig leaves and in garments of skin. I am condemned to eat the bread of toil in the sweat of my brow, and the earth has been cursed so that it bears thorns and thistles for me. But, Lord, who in the last times was made flesh of a Virgin, call me back again and bring me into Paradise.

O precious Paradise, unsurpassed in beauty, tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight, glory of the righteous, joy of the prophets and dwelling of the saints, with the sound of your leaves pray to the Maker of all: may He open to me the gates which I closed by my transgression, and may He count me worthy to partake if the Tree of Life and of the joy that was mine when I dwelt in you before.

Adam was banished from Paradise through disobedience and cast out from delight, beguiled by the words of a woman. Naked he sat outside the garden, lamenting, “Woe is me!” Therefore let us all make haste to accept the season of the Fast and hearken to the teaching of the Gospel, that we may gain Christ’s mercy and receive once more a dwelling-place in Paradise.

Let us begin the time of fasting in light! Preparing ourselves for the spiritual efforts. Let us purify our soul; let us purify our body. As from food, let us abstain from all passion And enjoy the virtues of the spirit, So that perfected in time by love We may all be made worthy to see The Passion of Christ and the Holy Pascha In spiritual joy!

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