Forgiveness Sunday (and Monday, and Tuesday…)

Sunday was Forgiveness Vespers. If “Meatfare Sunday” was “get-right-with-God” Sunday, I guess you could say that “Cheesefare Sunday” (this past Sunday) was “get-right-with-your-brothers” Sunday.

Last year, having not been joined to the Church through Chrismation, I did not participate, by my own choosing. It felt too much like “family time” and I was not yet there. But this year, I need, so very badly, that family. Thanks be to God!

This year, with timing being once again everything,Forgiveness Sunday, the beginning of Great Lent, the day we reflect on how our own sins affect those around us and the world-wide community, came sandwiched between the death of an elderly family member and this.

I was unaware of the second item as I participated in the Forgiveness Vespers service. For the non-Orthodox friends of this blog, Forgiveness Vespers involve each member of the church bowing, embracing, and seeking the forgiveness of the others in our church family. We bow, and ask their forgiveness for any way in which we have offended them, regardless of how well we know them. They respond, with an embrace, and “I forgive, and God forgives all.” It is truly a humbling and beautiful time.

Because our building is liturgically challenged, I got kind of wedged between the pew (yes, I know) and the wall. As I tried hard not to knock the icons off the wall behind me, I had little room to bow, and neither did the poor soul approaching me in the line. I ended the evening with a small knot on my head from an elbow. {Mike, I forgive, and God forgives all! :)} As we awkwardly bowed, and furiously hugged each other, I could not help but be strangely convicted of my own sin, with each congregant that passed by me.

Then (the above linked item) this morning, sitting in a courtroom, staring at the back of the head of a man whose “alleged” actions caused great grief to so many people, I struggled to remain in that same spirit of forgiveness, and to control the anger and frustration I have vowed to wrestle with during this Lenten season. Sigh…

So now, sitting in my quiet home, with the Akathist of Thanksgiving on the CD player, I feel vulnerable, sad, and yet, at the same time, comforted by the great forgiveness of God.

From the Akathist…(written by a pastor imprisoned in a Russian gulag):
That which is broken cannot be restored, but You can set aright those whose conscience has become decayed; You restore the soul to its former beauty in those who have lost it beyond all hope. With You there is nothing that cannot be put aright. You are all love. You are the Creator and the Restorer. To You we sing praise: Alleluia!

And from Forgiveness Vespers:
The grace of our Lord has shown forth, the grace which illumines our souls.
This is the acceptable time; the time of repentence is here.
Let us put aside the works of darkness; let us put on the armor of light, that passing through Lent as through a great sea, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls.

Amen.

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Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Writer. SAR K9 handler-in training. All three of those are deeply related.

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