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March 14, 2021

Sermon for Cheesefare Sunday (Monk Agapios Landos)

 By Monk Agapios Landos of Crete

Behold, my friends, the arena of Holy Lent opens today. Behold, we have arrived at the gate of the fast and are about to engage in the warfare of the spirit. We are now approaching the harbor of salvation and should be glad and rejoice more than when we ate and spent to our heart’s content. Let us cross the threshold of restraint, then, with much rejoicing and jubilation, thanking the Lord that we have escaped the powerful and harsh turbulence of the billows of the spiritual tempest and have reached the safe haven, which is calm and secure, is balmy and tranquil, truly serene and life-saving. We have left behind the pall of disbelief, the wintry blasts of dissipation; we have fled secular turmoil and the great storm of the gale-force winds of excessive consumption of food and drink; we have escaped carnal pleasures and the distractions of worldly cares; we have been freed from the darkness of ignorance and have reached roseate spring, that is the fair weather which profits the soul. Let us welcome this bright and sunny day, then, overjoyed and elated, let us cast off the gloomy works of dark and soul-destroying sin, as Saint Paul urges us to do. These are fornication, impurity, passion, wicked desire and greed, which all constitute idolatry. Anyone, for example, who is avaricious will perish as being unmerciful and uncaring. Let us divest ourselves of the works of darkness and sin as if they were a garment, and let us clothe ourselves in the works of light, sanctity, and purity, which are weapons and armaments of the soul. Let us walk in orderly and virtuous comeliness, because sin is the cause of ugliness and dishonor, whereas virtue is the emissary of honor and loveliness.

Let us not indulge in gluttony, drunkenness and diabolical songs, through which we fall into licentiousness, infamy and the like. Let us rather clothe ourselves in our Lord Jesus Christ, because those who bear Christ have acquired all the virtues, since the appearance of Christ destroys the carnal passions and enables spiritual achievements. And let us not dwell on the advantages of the flesh, lest we fall into desires and pleasures and unbecoming cravings. Let us encourage the flesh towards chastity rather than licentiousness. If any are weak and sickly in the soul or the faith, let us admonish them, for their correction. If any have wronged us, in knowledge or in ignorance, let us forgive them. If we, from our heart, forgive them all their transgressions, our heavenly Father and Lord will also remit all our own debts. We find the forgiveness for our own sins in forgiving others, and the mercy of the Lord is concealed within kindness and sympathy towards others. By the measure by which we measure others, the Lord will measure us. This is what the divinely-inspired Evangelist, Matthew, preaches today, saying: "The Lord said, ‘If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’."

The Lord is always working for our salvation. He doesn’t want the death of sinners, but their return. Every day He urges us to repentance. He has shown us many and varied ways to find salvation easily, without suffering hardships and ascetic struggles. What is difficult about humility? How hard is it to humble the soul, to make the heart contrite, to count yourself as nothing, to achieve meekness, to acquire patience, tolerance and modesty? Can you not avoid judging others, can you not feel as sorry for them as you possibly can and forget the harm they’ve done you? There are many ways and means of salvation open to us, if only we want them. One path and road that leads us straight to certain salvation is the most beneficial of all, involving no effort or exertion. It is that of forgetting, not remembering the harm done to us by others, but of forgiving them whole-heartedly.

Above all of the commandments that our good and forgiving Lord legislated for us and ordered us to observe is this one regarding the forgiveness of others for their trespasses against us, so that we in turn will be forgiven by God for our own innumerable, mortal sins. In many places in Holy Scripture, the Lord’s preference for love and fellow-feeling is apparent. This is why here He imprints this desire in our heart and soul and urges us to forgive our trespassers, not to speak badly about them or curse them. Love is the root and foundation of all good things. Since resentment is the enemy of love and its great opponent, this is why He, Who is tolerant, teaches us forgiveness. And He promises that, in return for us forgiving others, He will forgive our own sins. For there is no transgression He hates so much as inhumanity towards other people, callousness and brutality.

Therefore, as we judge others, so will our Father in heaven judge us. If we forgive our fellow-servants, we will be treated with the same grace by God.

From the Kyriakodromion.