22 February 2009

Forgiveness Sunday

The first time I set foot in an Orthodox church was on Cheesefare Sunday. I was overwhelmed by the incense, icons, chanting, and vestments. The standing up and sitting down, and the occasional foreign tongue was challenging to follow. The priest mentioned something about Lent starting and invited everyone to come to Forgiveness Vespers that evening.

Evening came and I decided to go. Vespers was interesting, but then came the Rite of Forgiveness. One by one people came forward, made a bow and said "forgive me" to which the other person replied "God forgives". I thought to myself, "If only more churches did this. Maybe there would be fewer factions and splits."

Of course, going through a forgiveness ritual and actually living a forgiveness lifestyle are two different things. Year after year our parish celebrated the Rite of Forgiveness. Year after year the community was plagued with factions, politics, and blatant un-forgiveness. Lips that once kissed each cheek in forgiveness, soon turned to gossip.

Tonight the Byzantine Catholic mission I attend is having Forgiveness Vespers. And we will have the Rite of Forgiveness. If you don't have the blessing of attending the service, at least start out the Lenten season by asking those around you for forgiveness--start with your family, then work your way out from there.

Kontakion for Cheesefare, Tone 6

The complete Forgiveness Vespers service book from the Metropolitan Cantor's Institute is available HERE

No comments: