Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheesefare)
From the book “Great Lent” by Fr. Alexander Schmemann:
Finally comes the last day, usually called “Forgiveness Sunday”, but whose other liturgical name must also be remembered: the “Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss”. This name summarizes indeed the entire preparation for Lent. By now we know thatman was created for paradise, for knowledge of God and communion with Him. Man’s sinhas deprived him of that blessed life and his existence on earth is exile. Christ, the Savior of the world, opens the door of paradise to everyone who follows Him, and the Church, by revealing to us the beauty of the Kingdom, makes our life a pilgrimage toward our heavenly fatherland. Thus, at the beginning of Lent, we are like Adam:
Adam was expelled from paradise through food; Sitting, therefore, in front of it he cried: “Woe to me …..One commandment of God have I transgressed,
depriving myself of all that is good; Paradise Holy! Planted for me,
And now because of Eve closed to me; Pray to thy Creator and mine
that I may be filled again with thy blossom. Then answered the Savior to him:
I wish not my creation to perish;
I desire it to be saved and to know the Truth;
For I will not turn away from him who comes to Me ….
Lent is the liberation of our enslavement to sin, from the prison of “this world”. And theGospel lesson of this last Sunday (Matt. 6: 14-21) sets the conditions for that liberation. The first one is fasting – the refusal to accept the desires and urges of our fallen nature as normal, the effort to free ourselves from the dictatorship of 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”. The second condition isforgiveness – “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, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: thereturn to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” theradiant forgiveness of God Himself. To forgive is to reject the hopeless “dead-ends” of human relations and to refer them to Christ. Forgiveness is truly a “breakthrough” of theKingdom into this sinful and fallen world.