On the Cheesefare Sunday the Church commemorates the exile of Adam from paradise. This day is also known as the Forgiveness Sunday because Orthodox Christians ask mutual forgiveness before they begin the spiritual journey of the Great Lent. On this day, on March 6, St. George parish had services in our temple. Our Rector, Archpriest Igor Tarasov celebrated the Divine Liturgy. After the Gospel lesson he preached the following homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! We reached today’s day, the Sunday of Cheesefare, a day right before we begin the Great Lent. This day is also known as Sunday of Forgiveness. The Gospel reading today is teaching about forgiveness. The Lord says, “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” (Mt. 6, 14-15). Thus before we start the spiritual journey of Lent, we need to forgive others their faults against us”.
“Dear brothers and sisters! Those words of Christ were said right after He taught His Disciples and other people listening to Him how to pray. He taught them the most important prayer known as the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father”. And we know that every time we pronounce that prayer, we say, “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. Therefore, the Lord interpreted those words by saying that if we do not forgive men, God will not forgive us. This is why in our Orthodox tradition we ask today each other for forgiveness. We do it as a ritual and many of us attend special service, today’s Vespers that ends with the Rite of Forgiveness”.
“Of course, it is easy to perform that ritual of mutual forgiveness today and tonight, but it is very difficult to really forgive. These days, when many people are shocked and frustrated by the war on the lands of historical Rus’, it is almost impossible to preach forgiveness. Some people are blinded by error, some are outraged by the events taking place. Some are furious that lots of people perish in that conflict, that the civil objects are attacked and even some churches are damaged. There are two sides of the conflict, and both may belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. How to forgive? But we should”.
“Any war conflict is evil. And evil originated from the fall of mankind. On this day the Church commemorates Adam’s expulsion from Paradise. Adam and Eve committed the first and original sin. Therefore, the Lord expelled them from Paradise. From that moment of the fall and from that time of the expulsion mankind began to live committing evil things – murder, larceny, fraud, adultery – you name it. Humans began to start wars, to hurt and to oppress each other. The first murderer was the son of Adam, Cain who killed his own brother Abel. Human kind became plunged in evil deeds. Only our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ could save us from that sinful condition, from that terrible spiritual disease. He did, but we still engage in hostility, murder and all other sins”.
“How to forgive our debtors, those who really trespass against us? How to forgive if your loved one is killed? Using our human mind and our human forces it is really impossible. But it is possible with divine grace, with the help from God. When Adam and Eve trespassed against God, when they broke the only God’s commandment in Paradise – God was ready to forgive them. The Holy Fathers say that God was waiting for their repentance. However, they did not repent. Instead, if you read the Bible, the Old Testament, you recall that Adam accused Eve that she gave him the forbidden fruit to eat. And he also blamed God saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3, 12). So God is to blame! And Eve said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Gen. 3, 13). So, both of them blamed somebody else instead of saying, “Forgive me!””
“God still offers us a possibility to ask for forgiveness. We have the Holy Mystery of Penance, of confession. If we fall into sin, we can come and confess. God is always waiting for our repentance, He is ready to forgive. It is us who need to ask. Unfortunately, lots of people in the world do not wish to respond to God’s offer of forgiveness. They continue to do evil, to turn away from God and His love, from His mercy and compassion. Just like Adam of old they blame others and thus they are being expelled from blessedness – here and maybe in eternity”.
“Another thing is that it is us who need to forgive others. Now, as we said, that is much more difficult. But let us ask ourselves: if God Himself who is infinitely higher than us, who is totally without sin or blame – if He is ready to offer us His forgiveness – why we, who are sinful and corrupt, who are infinitely lower than Him – why we do not try to forgive? If it is hard, let ask for His help. That is why, dear brothers and sisters, today when we ask for forgiveness, others respond, “God will forgive!” then only they add, “And I do forgive”. Our forgiveness, even it seems to be impossible or unreachable, is based on God’s forgiveness. Only with Him we are able to reach that blessed virtue of compassion and capability to forgive”.
“Even if we are outraged by evil in the world, by the offenses or trespasses committed against us or against other people whom we love, let us recall Jesus. Our Lord gives us His great and brightly shining example: when He Himself was put to death, unjustly condemned and brutally killed – He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23, 34)”.
“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, let us worthily prepare for Lent by asking God to forgive us and by attempting, at least trying, to forgive others – of course, with God’s help. Let us ask Him to comfort us in our desire to be forgiving and to begin Lent with His benevolent blessing!”
During the Litany of Fervent Supplication the Rector had a petition for the suffering country of Ukraine and its people. He also added a commemoration of the “suffering Ukrainian country” at the Great Entrance.
During preparation for Holy Communion the choir prayerfully performed the hymns of repentance.
Following the Divine Liturgy the Rector performed Vespers with the Rite of Forgiveness. After the singing of the Great Prokimenon he changed his priestly vestments to the Lenten color of black.
After the dismissal of Vespers Fr. Igor preached a sermon in Russian about the importance of forgiveness at the beginning of Lenten journey towards Holy Pascha.
Following the services of this special day Rector and parishioners joined at the Blini Luncheon. All of them enjoyed delicious meals, especially the Russian blini prepared by Olga Roussanow and the Georgian khachapuri prepared by Liana Sukhishvili.