February 22, 2015

The Meaning of Forgiveness Vespers

By Fr. A.H.

With Forgiveness Vespers, which is celebrated on Cheesefare Sunday evening, Great Lent begins. This solemn period of repentance is offered to us as a way of life. A way of life that brings forgiveness from God, as well as from our brethren.

It is very characteristic what is written: "Forgive (συγχωρῶ) means to 'move forward' (χωρῶ) with God and with others." With forgiveness we do not only receive a simple absolution, which implies a legalistic concept of salvation. Rather, forgiveness with God is an ocean of divine goodness that erases human sins. And so in its full reality, forgiveness becomes communion with Christ and His Kingdom.

During the course of our journey, let us mutually support one another in our weaknesses, let us mutually forgive one another by forgetting our differences, let us mutually protect one another to reach our destination. Essentially we should live to what God calls us, as a unique unity with the forgiveness that we offer to others. This is because Christians are not part of a caste system, but we are dough.

Let us now kneel, therefore, before the icon of Christ and the Panagia, our Bishop and our Fathers, as well as our brethren, and let us ask for their forgiveness, since they have much to forgive us for. And let us forgive one another. Forgiveness does not begin when peace, calmness and joy begin to reign; forgiveness begins the moment we take on each others shoulders the "burdens of one another", and the first and heaviest load is the personhood of another, what that person is, and not what that person does or does not do. If necessary let us carry one another as Christ carried His Cross, as a type of torment, pain and death, but let us not allow someone behind under any circumstance without our forgiveness.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.