Thursday 31 March 2011

Lent Day Twenty

Frederica Mathewes-Green: Asking and giving forgiveness

One evening recently the members of my parish formed a big circle inside the church. The ends of the circle overlapped and my husband, the priest, faced a subdeacon. He bowed to touch the floor, then said, "Please forgive me, my brother, for any way I have sinned against you." Greg responded, "I forgive you," then bowed and asked forgiveness in turn. When my husband gave it, the two embraced, then each moved on to the next person in line.
As the circle advanced, every person had a turn to stand face to face with every other person, asking and giving forgiveness. Joy mingled with tears. A woman I'd quarrelled with opened her arms wide and said with a smile, "C'mere. This is going to take awhile."
We do this every year at the beginning of Lent, just as Orthodox Christians do all over the world. But when I described it to a non-Orthodox friend she wondered how we could give forgiveness without discussion and negotiation. The other person might hurt you again. You might even suspect their repentance is phony.
How can you give forgiveness? By remembering how much God has to forgive you. It's that simple. Forgiveness is never what a person deserves--if we got what we deserved, it wouldn't be forgiveness. When we forgive, we give a costly gift, just as God gives us, and we can't control whether the other person will use that gift well or badly. But we can refuse to go on being chained to their past behavior through bonds of anger and judgment. Anger is an acid that destroys its container. We give forgiveness every year because we need to do that to stay healthy. We ask for forgiveness, because we need that even more.

The Third Week of Lent ~ Thursday

Loving God,
I hear your invitation, "Come back to me"
and I am filled with such a longing to return to you.
Show me the way to return.
Lead me this day in good works I do in your name
and send your Spirit to guide me and strengthen my faith.
I ask only to feel your love in my life today.

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