Rite of Forgiveness

…One may ask, however: Why should I perform this rite (rite of Forgiveness) when I have no “enemies”? Why should I ask forgiveness from people who have done nothing to me, and whom I hardly know? To ask these questions, is to misunderstand the Orthodox teaching concerning forgiveness. It is true, that open enmity, personal hatred, real animosity may be absent from our life, though if we experience them, it may be easier for us to repent, for these feelings openly contradict Divine commandments. But, the Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them — in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being “polite” and “friendly” we fulfill God’s commandments. The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual “recognition” which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.

On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood. As l advance towards the other, as the other comes to me – we begin to realize that it is Christ Who brings us together by His love for both of us.

And because we make this discovery – and because this discovery is that of the Kingdom of God itself: the Kingdom of Peace and Love, of reconciliation with God and, in Him, with all that exists – we hear the hymns of that Feast, which once a year, “opens to us the doors of Paradise.” We know why we shall fast and pray, what we shall seek during the long Lenten pilgrimage. Forgiveness Sunday: the day on which we acquire the power to make our fasting – true fasting; our effort – true effort; our reconciliation with God – true reconciliation.                 – Archpriest Alexander Schmemann –

“The essence of sin consists not in the infringement of ethical standards but in a falling away from the eternal Divine life for which man was created and to which, by his very nature, he is called.  …Every sin, manifest or secret, committed by each one of us affects the rest of the universe.”                         – St. Sophrony of Essex –

Harshness & Condemnation

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives.

All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other…

Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace.

Keep silent, refrain from judgment. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult, and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.                   

– St. Seraphim of Sarov –

The Doors of Repentance

The doors of repentance are opening, Great Lent is beginning. Every year Great Lent is repeated, and each time it brings us great benefit if we spend it as we should. It is a preparation for the life to come and, more immediately, a preparation for the Bright Resurrection.

Just as a stairway is built into a tall building in order to enable one, by climbing the steps, to easily reach the top, so too, the various days in the year serve as steps for our spiritual ascent.

This is especially true of the days of Great Lent and Holy Pascha.              

 – St. John of San Francisco –

Forgive Men Their Trespasses

The words of today’s Gospel also resound: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive everyone everything, and you will be forgiven. Forgive, and you will be saved, and you will inherit paradise.

Following immediately after these words of the Lord about forgiveness are these other words: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged (Mk. 7:1).

In these words the Lord shows a very short and most sure path to salvation, which opens to us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord shows us that virtue, without which all our ascetic labors and efforts in life in general, and during the Great fast in particular, will be in vain. Furthermore this is the only path—the path of love for people, beginning with non-judgment.             – Archimandrite John Krestiankin –

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:

Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

      — Beginning of Psalm 102 (Sung as 1st antiphon at Divine Liturgy) —

A Spiritual Psalter

Like the apple of Thine eye preserve me, O Lord God; defend me and beneath Thy wings shelter me from temptations.  Be the guardian of the eye, that it might not look about in the manner of a thief; be the guardian of the ear, that it might not perceive falsehood.  Be the guardian of the lips, that slander, judgement, criticism and idle words might not come forth from them.  Be the guardian of the heart, that it might not be inclined to evil and might not work iniquity.

Grant us, O Lord, knowledge, both of what we should do and of how to set about it.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may be sweeter to Thee than fragrances and perfumes.

Grant us, O our Lord, that we may love Thee and hate the world.

Grant us, O Lord, to acquire Only Thee rather than all transient possessions.

Grant us, O our Lord, to bring Thee three choice gifts.

Grant us, O our Lord, to burn three aromatic censers before Thee.

Grant us, O our Lord, to light for Thee three brightly burning lamps: the spirit, the soul and the body, these three gifts for the One Trinity.

Let us dedicate the spirit to the Father, the soul to the Son and the body to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit which will raise it again from dust.  O Father, consecrate our spirit to Thyself! O Son, consecrate our soul to thyself! O Holy Spirit, consecrate to Thyself our body which is afflicted by sores.

Grant us, O our Lord, to rejoice in Thee, and mayest Thou rejoice in us in the last day. To Thee is praise, from the spirit, soul and body. And unto us be Thy mercies.         

— St. Ephraim the Syrian (A Spiritual Psalter, #5)

Psalms of Praise

When we are weighed down by deep despondency, we should for a while sing psalms out loud, raising our voice with joyful expectation until the thick mist is dissolved by the warmth of song.

      — St. Diadochos of Photiki (Philokalia, Vol. I p. 278) —

Image result for orthodox standing in churchWith fear and reverence you should stand in church, for our Christ is invisibly present  with the holy angels.

      — Elder Ephraim (Counsels p. 410)