Sunday of the Forgiveness (Cheesefare Sunday)


Forgiveness Sunday is the last day before we begin our journey through Great and Holy Lent, on our way to Pascha, the Feast of Feasts. With the Holy Feast of Pascha, we celebrate the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate the victory over death, as neither death nor the power of the grave could hold our Saviorprisoner. However, this victory came through the Cross, for it was on the Cross that Christ frees us from our bondage to sin. Now, through faith in Him, we are restored, we are transformed, and we are once again capable of eternal life. Therefore, our Lenten journey is a way for us to be united to Him in both His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

The Lenten journey is also an opportunity for renewal and reorientation towards God as we strengthen our commitment to Him. It is an opportunity to intensify our ascetic struggle (άσκησις in Greek) to actualize our potential to become saints. By nurturing the transformative and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. During Great Lent, we fast to open the door to a deeper spiritual dimension. We also intensify our prayer life to strengthen our bond with God. And we engage in works of charity to learn to love others more fully. The Gospel reading for Forgiveness Sunday prepares us for the beginning of our Lenten journey by setting out the Lord’s basic teachings on fasting, praying, and giving.

There is a fundamental connection between forgiveness and prayer. Our Lord taught us to pray in simplicity and truth. He gave us the Lord’s Prayer, where we call on God to “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Christ then tells us, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We might fall or miss the mark at many points throughout our lives, and it is only through the love and mercy of God that we can be reconciled to Him. We do not approach forgiveness as a contractual undertaking. We forgive because we trust and give ourselves over completely to God’s infinite love and compassion.

This reconciliation with God requires that we take on His qualities of love and mercy towards humankind. We learn in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) that it is insincere to seek the mercy and forgiveness of God when we are not willing to be merciful to others. As Saint Chrysostom says, “Nothing makes us so like God, as being ready to forgive the wicked and wrongdoers; even as indeed He had taught before, when He spoke of His making the sun to shine on the evil and on the good.” Forgiveness may sometimes be a process that takes time. What is most important is our willingness to participate in the process. Aware of our own sinfulness, we know how much we ourselves need forgiveness.

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Source: Greek Orthodox Department of Religious Education