This Sunday is called the Sunday of Forgiveness, in which we remember Adam and Eve being cast out of the Paradise of Eden. Though they initially wore no clothing, they were robed in garments of light and beauty. When cast out of Eden, they were clothed in skins of flesh, which signifies what is now our mortal, corruptible bodies.
Through transgressing the commandment of God by eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve broke the divinely appointed fast. Now we, having inherited corrupted human nature and contributing our own sins to it, are called to keep a new divinely appointed fast: that of Great Lent.
As explained in the inspired writings from the Triodion below, fasting is a spiritual tool that we utilize to purify our bodies and souls. Without fasting, true repentance and purification are nearly impossible. During Great Lent, we come together in oneness as the Body of Christ to fast, repent, and reflect upon our present condition.
This is a time of repentance and healing. That being the case, the fathers of the Church have deemed it proper that we also ask forgiveness from one another. Therefore, these Sunday services are followed by Forgiveness Vespers, in which we repent to one another.
As our Lord and the fathers have taught us, it is not fitting to make an offering to God (our current offering being this upcoming Fast) if we harbor any sort of ill feelings in our heart toward one another. Our fasting will be rejected as hypocritical if we hold to any sort of malice. Fortunately, we are given the opportunity for repentance to both God and one another. In doing so, we receive the spiritual and emotional healing that is necessary for humility, peace of heart and mind, strength in fasting, and our salvation.
May the Lord guide us and guard us in this blessed season of Great Lent.
VARIOUS READINGS FROM THE TRIODION FOR THIS SUNDAY
O ranks of angels, O beauty of Paradise and all the glory of the garden: weep for me, for in my misery I was led astray and rebelled against God.
O blessed meadow, trees and flowers planted by God, O sweetness of Paradise: let your leaves, like eyes, shed tears on my behalf, for I am naked and a stranger to God’s glory.
O Savior, in Thy compassion Thou hast clothed me in Eden with a divinely woven garment; but, persuaded by the devil, I neglected Thy commandment and was stripped naked in my wretchedness.
Then the Savior said, “I desire not the loss of the creature which I fashioned, but that he should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth; and when he comes to me I will not cast him out.”
Therefore, let us love abstinence, that we may not weep as [Adam] did outside Paradise, but may enter through the gate…Let us keep the Fast, offering tears, contrition, and alms-giving.
Adam was driven out of Paradise, because in disobedience he had eaten food; but Moses was granted the vision of God, because he had cleansed the eyes of his soul by fasting. If then we long to dwell in Paradise, let us abstain from all needless food; and if we desire to see God, let us like Moses fast for forty days.
With sincerity let us persevere in prayer and intercession; let us still the passions of our soul; let us subdue the rebellious instincts of the flesh. With light step let us set out upon the path to heaven, where the choirs of angels with never-silent voice sing the praises of the undivided Trinity.
The time is now at hand for us to start upon the spiritual contest and to gain the victory over the demonic powers. Let us put on the armor of abstinence and clothe ourselves in the glory of the angels. With boldness Moses spoke to the Creator, and he heard the voice of the invisible God. In Thy love for man, O Lord, grant us with the same boldness to venerate Thy Passion and Thy Holy Resurrection.
Let us all make haste to humble the flesh by abstinence, as we set out upon the God-given course of the holy Fast; and with prayers and tears let us seek our Lord and Savior. Laying aside all memories of evil, let us cry aloud: We have sinned against Thee, Christ our King, save us as the men of Nineveh in the days of old, and in Thy compassion make us sharers in Thy heavenly Kingdom.
Cleanse me in the waters of repentance, and through prayer and fasting make me shine with light, for Thou alone art merciful; abhor me not, O Benefactor of all, supreme in love.
Let us set out with joy upon the season of the Fast, and prepare ourselves for spiritual combat. Let us purify our soul and cleanse our flesh; and as we fast from food, let us abstain also from every passion. Rejoicing in the virtues of the Spirit may we persevere with love and so be counted worthy to see the solemn Passion of Christ our God, and with great spiritual gladness to behold His holy Passover.
Administration MVPC Bethlehem