Last weekend in Eastern Churches all over the world we asked for forgiveness and offered forgiveness to each other as we entered the fullness of the Lenten or Great Fast. Many of us thought it would be helpful to share with everyone how we begin this most holy of seasons. Here is a note I posted on the CA Eastern Christian forum.
In the East, Lent is called “The Great Fast”. This year the preparation began at Sundown, February 11 with what is called Meatfaire. We ate meat until Sundown on that day. At Sundown we either stopped or, as in my pitiful case, eliminated it on Mon, Wed, and Friday. On February 18 we had Cheesefaire which marked the actual beginning of the Great Fast. At Sundown we eliminated all dairy products and held a Vesper service called “Forgiveness Sunday”. For those who follow the disciplines year around or at least observe them minimally this is a very moving experience. It moves one along the path of holiness.
I ask for your forgiveness for anything I have done this past year that has caused unnecessary hurt or confusion. I offer you forgiveness for any offenses you have done me as you ask for it. May the Lord have mercy upon us all.
Here’s an explanation of “Forgiveness Vespers”:
We have now come to the culmination of the preparation period for Great lent. While this Forgiveness Sunday marks the conclusion of one period of our liturgical life, it also begins what promises to be a fruitful spiritual journey if we give the idea of forgiveness the serious attention it deserves. This weekend stresses two themes in our liturgical hymnody. The first theme is that of the “Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss”. Quite obviously, one could dedicate whole treatises to this topic as many of the Holy Fathers have already done. The second theme is that of forgiveness. We see this most abundantly in the Rite of Forgiveness that takes place at the end of Forgiveness Vespers. In this humbling endeavor, we are called to come face to face with each of our brethren and ask them to forgive us for the offenses that we may have caused. In turn, our neighbor is to ask forgiveness of us for whatever he has done wrongly unto us. It is this magnificent theme of forgiveness that will be the focus of this brief article.