St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church
872 N. 29th St. Boise, ID
an American parish of the Russian Orthodox Church

The weekly homilies are now also available on YouTube in video format:  Homilies

3/19 - Voluntary Crucifixion - Fr. Matthew Garrett

On this day, the Precious and Life-giving cross of our Lord is lifted up before us all. The Church in its wisdom encourages us to reflect on where we are headed in this season of repentance – and to glorify the Crucifixion of our Lord and His third-day Resurrection. Indeed, our whole lives should be leading us to a greater appreciation of and participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. From before the creation of the world, God foresaw this moment in which He would give Himself for our salvation and restoration, and we might think of the crucifixion as the inevitable end of the story of creation and the fall of man. But let us stop and remember on this day that falls halfway through our Lenten journey that our Lord’s crucifixion and death was not something that He was forced to undergo.

Our Lord did not have to create man in His own image and likeness. He did not have to endure our many sins, our countless transgressions, our falling and turning away from Him. He did not have to submit to any of the things that we see Him endure in the flesh. He willed to do all these things in His surpassing love for mankind. Even having been rejected by the very people He had come to save, our Lord didn’t have to suffer for us. The Jewish leaders and the Romans conspired to arrest our Lord, to beat Him, to scourge Him, and to nail Him to a cross, but His death was entirely voluntary. If He had wanted to avoid it, He would have. But He didn’t.

Our Lord says that He lays down His life for the sheep, saying: “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” Our Lord was not a victim of the violence of this world, not the murdered leader of a social movement, He made of Himself a willing sacrifice offered up for our sakes. Without His willingness to die, nothing the authorities did could have harmed Him.

In fact, when Saint Peter struck the servant of the High Priest with a sword to prevent them from arresting Jesus, the Lord asked “do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” Our Lord had an army greater than any earthly army at His disposal. Indeed when we look at the history of the Old Testament, the Lord won many seemingly impossible victories for His people. But the victory that our Lord offers was not something earthly. He sought not to defeat Roman or Jewish Authorities, but instead to defeat the devil and his angels and to grant victory over death itself, and in order to do so, He chose to forfeit an earthly battle.

Christ said to Pontius Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” God allowed Himself to be subject to the very authority that He had given to Pontius Pilate. The things that God allows to happen to Himself, as well as the things that He allows to happen to us are all for our salvation. He loves us so much that everything He endured and everything that He gives us to endure in this life are a God’s will for us, that we might be saved.

It is with this context that we should consider the words of our Lord in this morning’s gospel: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We sometimes act as if we are victims of fate, of some indiscriminate force which compels us to act in the ways we do. We go through this life reacting to the things that happen to us. Since Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, we have been subjected to pain and death, toil and sweat, disease and affliction, and since we don’t like these things, we consider them evil and try to avoid them. If we had a choice, if we were all-powerful, we would never subject ourselves to these things. But these are our crosses, and if we don’t choose to pick them up, we will have no part in the cross of our Lord.

Look at the words of the wise thief: “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” It was not just the prayer of the good thief that gained him paradise, but his recognition that our Lord was suffering voluntarily despite that He had not sinned. Seeing this, the thief accepted his own suffering as the just reward for his actions. His prayer was not to escape the cross, but to make it the instrument of his salvation. 

Instead of acting like victims of circumstance, we must take up the difficult and unpleasant things of this life as though we had chosen them for ourselves. They are part of God’s will for us, and we must align our will with God’s will. In addition to the various crosses that are handed to us, we are also asked to spend certain times of the year in increased fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. We must remember in these times to do these things voluntarily. The Church tells us how we ought to do them, but it does not take away our free will. The rules that we are given will not save us, but our choice to suppress our desires and appetites in favor of following after the Lord is the very essence of salvation. Great Lent is either a time of complaining, grumbling, and disappointment; or it is a time of drawing nearer to God through self denial, taking up our crosses, and following Christ. Christ chose the cross out of love for man, we must take up our crosses out of love for God.

So when you fast, don’t just change the ingredients that you use in your recipes. Choose instead to feel hunger and thirst to recognize that these were given you in order for you to hunger and thirst after righteousness, not after food and drink. In those moments of hunger and thirst, instead of reaching immediately for something to satisfy you, ask God to fill the emptiness that you feel with His grace and love, and to be your food and drink. Choose to live on less knowing that we must fast in this life if we are to feast in the Kingdom of Heaven.

When it is time to pray, don’t look at it as an obligation that has to be fulfilled, but as a call -- an opportunity to return to the presence of God and to draw nearer to Him. When you pray, don’t just say the words, but mean them and feel them. Choose to slow yourself down and just be with God, don’t be quick to get on to other things, even if there is much that needs to be done. Choose what is eternal over what is temporal.

When you have the opportunity to give alms, and to show mercy and love toward others, be generous. Our Lord voluntarily gave His life for us, so what do we consider to be “too much?” Our Lord said, “whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” Freely give that you may freely receive.

God does not ask us to do any of these things so that we can be hungry, thirsty, busy, bored, or broke. There are a great many people who experience deprivation, suffering, hunger, thirst, poverty, and disease, and every one of us is subject to death. These things in and of themselves do not bring about our salvation; but God asks us to willingly embrace the difficulties of this life, so that through emptying ourselves as He Himself did, He can fill us with His grace, and with His love, and can grant us His riches in the Kingdom. He wants to give us every good thing, but we have to willingly set aside the things that have hold on us in order to receive what He is offering.

The great mystery of the cross is that our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ made an implement of death into the tree of life. As we sing every Sunday, through the cross is joy come into the world. We only find the salvation and restoration that we so desperately need if we do the same thing that our Lord did and willingly embrace the cross. There is no such thing as a reluctant Christian. We will not be dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom. Neither the Romans nor the Jews could not take away our Lord’s life, He had to lay it down. He laid it down willingly for our sakes, so that when He took it up again He would take up those of us who were dead in our sins, but who now choose to deny ourselves, take up our own crosses and follow Him into His everlasting Kingdom.

3/12 - Personal Relationship with Christ

Mark 2:1-12

In the parable today, we heard how the friends of the paralytic brought him to Christ and finding that the way was blocked they persisted and finally came into the presence of our Lord by tearing a hole in the roof. And with that everything faded - for the presence of the Lord is a great and wondrous place which overshadows everything else.  This awareness of being in the presence of God is what sustained the martyrs through their torments, it is what kept the ascetic fathers going in the difficulty of their ascetic labors, it is what brings healing to our soul and body.  When one is in the presence of Christ, all else fades, nothing else demands our attention.

The friends of the paralytic worked hard and persistently to bring their friend into this place of spiritual sustenance and healing.  They carried him in the hot sun a long way and when they arrived, already hot and tired, the crowd was too great to approach the door, and so they tried the back door, the windows, everything they could think of but with no success.  Then they climbed up onto the roof - taking their paralyzed friend with them and began the hot and dirty work of tearing a hole in the roof, large enough to lower their friend.  But the instant they entered the presence of Christ, all their fatigue, all the discomfort of being hot and dirty, all the work that they had done, all faded into the background; for they had obtained their goal, the goal of being in Christ’s presence.

St Nikolai Velimirovic teaches us, “We must come and stand in the presence of the living Lord.  This is the most important thing on the path of salvation: to come with faith into the Lord’s presence, and to feel this presence.”  This is indeed true.  It is difficult to work out your salvation, and only the awareness of the presence of Jesus Christ as a person is sufficient to keep one going. 

We often become complacent in our Christian lives - we become accustomed to the Church life, the services, the hymns, the prayers and even the sacraments.  We lose sight of these things as part of Christ’s presence and begin to view them as parts of ordinary life in the thing we call “religion”.  Not only do  these things become ordinary, but Jesus Christ also becomes ordinary.  We begin to lose the awareness of Him as a person and He becomes just another historical figure, just another person who lived long ago and far away.  Even worse is when Jesus Christ loses all reality for us and becomes just an idea, just a good philosophy - and then the life in Christ becomes stale and dry and finally dead.  If we lose sight of our Lord Jesus Christ as a person so that He becomes only a ideal, a statue, an image - then Christianity becomes only another philosophy, only another alternative life choice, only a lot of hard and dirty work.

It is vital therefore to continually refresh and renew our personal acquaintance with Christ, to ever awaken our awareness of His real and personal presence.  This “personal relationship” with the Living God is what makes Christianity different from all other world religions, different from all other “philosophies” and “life choices”.  Christianity is first and foremost a relationship with a real and living person - in fact with the real and living God Himself.  And like any relationship, it takes work to maintain it.

There used to be a television commercial for a long distance telephone service where old friends from childhood call one another and though they live thousands of miles apart and though their friendship began years ago, they maintain that closeness, that personal relationship that feeds the friendship because they work at it, they call one another, they talk to one another, they share with one another their joys and sorrows, their difficulties and triumphs.  Any relationship requires constant work and maintenance to keep it alive.  And so it is with our relationship with Christ - it requires us to work at it to keep it alive.  Jesus Christ is here for us, He is always alive and reaching out to us, we are always in His presence.  The difficulty lies when we forget all this, when we allow the awareness of His presence to fade into the sea of worldly cares and of our own inner thoughts and concerns.  We must grasp this sense of His presence in us, this awareness of His life that touches ours and do everything we can to hold onto it and strengthen it.

At times God Himself reminds us of His presence, He comes to us and reveals Himself to us in unmistakable ways - He came to Martha and Mary in Bethany and revealed Himself in the raising of Lazarus; He appeared suddenly and miraculously to the Holy Apostle Paul;  He came to the disciples walking on the surface of the stormy sea and calmed the wind and the waves, He showed himself to his disciples on the road to Emmaus and revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread.  Sometimes Christ comes to us in an inner experience so undeniable that the memory of the moment sustains us for days and months and even years to come; sometimes He comes to us in the working of a miracle and sometimes more quietly in the beauty and grandeur of His creation.  At other times, however, we are brought to Christ by others - as Nathaniel was brought by Philip to “come and see”.  The Apostles were the first to go out and bring others to Christ - first among their friends and relatives and their own people, but later they went out into the whole world bringing Jesus Christ to all people.  And they are not the only ones to do this, throughout the history of the Church believers have reached out to others to bring them into Christ’s presence by living His love, His compassion, His caring and through the life of Christ in themselves have allowed others to touch Christ for themselves and so come also into His presence.  Finally there are those who come into the presence of Christ because they hunger and thirst for Him.  These people may not even know at the beginning of their search Who it is they are pursuing, but they know that there is something or someone that they need to fill the void in their soul.  Like the friends of the paralytic, they travel and search and push and poke and prod and tearing away all barriers suddenly find themselves face to face with the One who fulfills the emptiness of their soul.  All these are means by which we come into the presence of God and experience that personal contact and touch with Him.

But as we mentioned before, this relationship must be maintained and to do so takes effort on our part.  Today in the person of St Gregory Palamas, we are reminded of the most important way by which we not only maintain the relationship but improve our awareness of Christ’s presence.  St Gregory is revered for his life of prayer and taught us that through constant prayer, it is possible for a man to perceive God Himself directly.  The experience of the vision of divine light is, in St Gregory’s teaching, the experience of seeing the energies of God.  There were others who contended with him that this divine light was simply a created thing, but St Gregory persevered, defended and passed on to us the truth that this light, the light of the Transfiguration on Mt Tabor, is uncreated and emanates from God Himself.  In this doctrine, he reminds us that it is possible to perceive God, to see His energies, to touch Him, to experience Him directly, to have a personal relationship with Him.  This is accomplished through prayer, and for St Gregory, especially through the discipline of hesychastic prayer - that is the meditative saying of the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”.  Setting aside, for the present, the specific discipline of hesychastic prayer, let us look simply at the power and nature of prayer.  Prayer is talking to God, prayer is communing with God, prayer is the experience of God’s presence.  None of us know how to pray effectively and so we must be taught.  The Church teaches us to pray through example.  We have many examples of prayer in our services, and if we only had this one resource we would never exhaust this gold mine of prayers.  But that is not all, we also have the written prayers of the saints which are given to us in the psalter, in prayer books, in the writings of the saints.  These are prayers that come out of the experience of those who live constantly in the awareness of God’s presence and so they stand for us as examples of how to pray.  Some of these prayers, as you read them, will touch your heart - and it is these that we should constantly use as our prayer rule.  No matter what the source of your prayer rule - whether it be from a prayer book, the psalter, the services of the Church or the prayers of the saints (or even a combination of them all) - this “primer” of prayer forms the basis for your own life of prayer.  Through these prayers you learn to talk with God - or more deeply you learn to commune with God.  You talk with Him and in so doing the awareness of His presence is strengthened and refreshed in you.  Prayer, however, does not come naturally or even easily.  Because prayer brings us into the presence of God, it is death to the demons and to our fallen nature.  And so they resist our prayer and we must continually force ourselves to the prayers, continually making the effort to pray - not just with our lips or our mind, but with our whole being.  It is this continual, daily, moment by moment effort and practice of prayer that sustains within us the awareness of the presence of God.

In addition we have the prayers and lives of the saints which also help us to experience Christ.  The saints express in their own lives the life of Christ and so when they help us, touch us, strengthen us - it is in fact the touch of Christ in them.  We experience our Lord Jesus Christ through His saints as well.  As we talk and commune with the saints and they pray for us, Christ in them touches us.  This communion of the saints is another way in which Christ is with us, another way in which we experience His presence.

The friends of the paralytic sought out Christ and through persistence and effort they found themselves in the blessed presence of Christ.  So we too, seeking Christ will find ourselves in His presence - and this awareness, this experience of being in the presence of Christ is the essence of our personal relationship with Him.  This relationship which we maintain through prayer and through the communion of the saints. 

Our salvation is to live with Christ, to be filled with Him, to become like Him, to be united with Him.  Our salvation is to be continually in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and to share His life.  During this lent and beyond, let your purpose be to remain aware of Christ’s presence in you, never lose sight of Jesus Christ as a person, but continue through prayer to commune with Him that your relationship with Him might never cease but that it might only grow ever stronger.

3/5 - Triumph of Orthodoxy - Fr. Matthew Garrett

We read in the first chapter of the book of Genesis, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” Unlike the creation of the heavens and the earth, before the creation of Man, the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity took council with one another.

By making man in His image and likness God granted to man certain qualities that He has in the highest degree. God is love, and He gives to man the capacity for love. It is not that God shows love or possess a loving quality, but rather it is something that God is, and it is out of this love that He both creates man and redeems man. He also gives to man a reason endowed soul capable of thinking, of understanding great things with wisdom. He gives man dominion over creation, most particularly dominion over himself. Man is given free will even though this free will allows him to choose that which is evil over that which is good. And God creates man knowing that Adam and Eve will sin, and that in order for man to be redeemed and restored that the Son of God would have to be incarnate and suffer, and that the Holy Spirit would have to be sent into this fallen world to dwell in us sinners to lead us to immortal life.

Man, created in the image and likeness of God is the first icon, not because he physically looks like the invisible God, but because the characteristics that man possesses in the very highest faculties of his soul come from God and connect him to God. Saint Gregory of Nyssa compares the artist’s craft to God’s handiwork, saying that “purity, freedom from passion, blessedness, alienation from all evil, and all those attributes of the like kind which help to form in men the likeness of God: with such hues as these did the Maker of his own image mark our nature.” An image necessarily has a connection with its prototype. It is the connection of image and prototype, the likeness if you will, that makes images so important to us. An old photograph can bring back countless memories or emotions, not because of the quality of the image, or the materials or process by which it was made, not even because of the beauty of the image, but by what it connects us with.

God then is the first to make an image of himself, and the Devil, the serpent, was the first iconoclast. The serpent sees in Adam and Eve the God against whom he rebelled, and seeks to destroy the image in man. And so he tempts man to replace this image with another false image. He tells them “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” He convinces them to reject godliness, that very real connection to God, in favor of making themselves gods to themselves. Before they knew only good; now they knew evil, ugliness, nakedness, shame, and deceit. And now man wavers between good and evil having to choose between the two. Now the soul finds itself enslaved to the body, instead of being an unerring guide toward union and communion with God. Things that were good in man have now become distorted passions and appetites which lead us from Him.

The Sunday of Orthodoxy which we celebrate today, which we call the Triumph of Orthodoxy is that the holy images have been restored. But this triumph begins with the restoring of the fallen image of man. We are created in the image of the Most Holy Trinity; and when we had fallen away and distorted through our sin the likeness of God that was given to us, the Son of God -- true God of true God, one in essence with the Father became truly man like us in everything but sin; and sends to us the Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified as God in order to dwell in us and transform us back to His likeness.

This is the faith that the icons safeguard. As simplistic as it may sound, because the God-man Jesus Christ, having become like us in all things, was depictable in accordance with our human nature, each picture of Christ makes clear that God became truly man. Only the Creator of the image of God in man could come to restore that image. Each icon of Him is confirmation that we believe rightly in the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation. In addition, the images of the Saints show us that the work of the Holy Spirit is manifest in those who have united themselves to Christ. Each of us bears the image of God and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can be brought back to likeness with God.

And so the Church has safeguarded these truths, these precious gems that have been handed down from the Apostles. But they are not important simply because they were revealed to us by God, not just because they were safeguarded by the Apostles and their successors, not only because some theologian says so, but because without these things being true, man is still disconnected from the God who created him with no hope of ever finding the union he desires.

These truths are not just something that we agree to, but something that is lived. Saint Gregory Palamas says that “The final outcome of godly doctrines, and the effort and consideration devoted to this subject is truth and steadfast faith which are in harmony and agreement with our God-bearing Fathers. On the other hand, this is the starting point, not the final outcome, of active virtue, and if it fails to achieve the appropriate end, it will make the judgment against the believer more severe.” To put this in overly simplistic terms, Orthodoxy has triumphed, what about you? Look at the description that was given in the epistle this morning of what the righteous of the Old Testament endured out of faith, and for righteousness sake. Look also at the great cloud of witnesses that surround us from the New Testament and the years since then. Knowing the truth, encountering the true God was not sufficient to make them holy, they had to live according to what they knew. We should not be content to have icons in our Churches and in our homes, we should instead strive to be icons ourselves, to grow in our likeness to the Most Holy Trinity, to pattern our lives after the life of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, to increase in virtue and perfection by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

That first iconoclast, the serpent seeks to destroy the image in you even to this day. He seeks to pervert your mind and your heart, that knowing that good requires sacrifice and evil gives temporary pleasure, you might choose evil. Like the defenders of icons, we must cherish and protect the sacred image that was gifted to us. We are in this season of fasting as we prepare to meet our Risen Lord, it is through the virtues that we cleanse and adorn our bodies, and it is by fasting and self control that we hold back the passions through which the serpent attacks us.

Fasting wearies the body, it puts to death the flesh, but it renews the soul, it makes it new again. But don’t just fast from food. Saint Gregory Palamas says that “If you abstain from food while your sight lures you into adultery, inquisitiveness and malice in the hidden place of your soul, your hearing is open to insulting words, lewd songs and evil slanders, and your other senses are open to whatever harms them, what is the benefit of your fasting?… We are made up of a soul and a body, and both soul and body consist of many members… therefore true fasting must extend to every part, cleansing and healing them all.”

So honor and venerate the image of God enshrined in the temple of your soul by protecting it from those who would smash it to pieces. Consider these words of Saint Gregory of Nyssa:

“If you would think narrowly of yourself, (then remember), that you are Christ’s creation

And breath, a venerable part (of him), and therefore are heavenly,

And earthly; you are a created god, an unforgettable work (of the Creator),

Going to the imperishable glory through the suffering of Christ.

For man is the temple of the great God; and this makes him such (a temple),

Who is renounced from the earth and goes continuously to heaven.

I command you to preserve this temple with sweet smelling fragrance

From your deeds and words, always keeping God within yourself.”

2/26 - Forgiveness

Today we stand on the verge of Great Lent.  Today we make our final preparations for our journey to the Cross and to the Resurrection.  As the saying goes, it is best to begin at the beginning, and so today we remember the beginning – we remember why it is that we set out on this path of repentance and struggle against temptation and our own sinful nature.  In the beginning, God created all things and as the crowning adornment of all creation, He made man – He created our first parents Adam and Eve.  It was their destiny to grow and develop and continually draw ever nearer to their Creator and to be united with Him and share in His divine Life.  But our first parents fell subject to the wiles of devil – himself an angel created by God who had turned away from God in the delusion that he could be the equal of God by his own efforts.  Thus our first parents sinned and disobeyed God.  Knowing what had transpired, God came to seek out Adam and Eve and ever so gently gave them the opportunity to confess their disobedience, to repent and ask for forgiveness but they resisted and instead of repenting, they attempted to justify themselves and place the blame on someone else.  God banished them from paradise and consigned them to work out their repentance and salvation in the world, in pain and labor and by the sweat of the brow.  This then is where we begin – having been banished from paradise, now we must work out our own repentance that we might fulfill the high calling for which we were created.

But God does not abandon us.  Even though, by our sins we constantly turn away from Him, He always seeks us out that we might repent and turn back to Him.  He has promised that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and then has laid out the path for us to return to Him.  This path is the path of humility and self-emptying.   It is necessary for us first and foremost to humble ourselves. 

Today we have the opportunity to humble ourselves – to sacrifice our pride and self love.  To do this is not simple and so we are given today a tool to use in humbling ourselves.  That is the tool of forgiveness.  Later today we will have the opportunity to practice forgiveness so that we can get a little head start on the process.  In the ritual of forgiveness at the end of the vespers today, we will all do two things that bring about humility and self-sacrifice.  First we will ask forgiveness of one another.  Often we talk about how important it is to forgive one another as Christ forgave us, but something that we don’t talk about is that we must also ask to be forgiven.  It is this action which destroys our pride, it destroys our self love because in order to ask forgiveness we must first confess that we have been in the wrong, we have sinned (not only against God but against one another).

When someone points out even one of our faults, what is the first thing that rises up within us?  We seek to justify ourselves, to explain why this action is not our fault, to try and disown or distance ourselves from any guilt or responsibility that might be associated with this fault or deficit. We even try to suggest that it is the other person’s fault that they are offended by us. The last thing we want to do is to say, “Yes, I have made an error; yes, I have sinned”.  To acknowledge that we are not perfect, that we are indeed sinners goes against the pride within that keeps telling us how wonderful we are and how much better we are than those around us.  But to confess our sin – and even more difficult, to ask forgiveness of the one we have wronged – is very difficult.

This is where our first parents confirmed their own sin – by refusing to ask for forgiveness.  God very gently and kindly gave them every chance to admit their error – but Adam and Eve first denied their sin and then when confronted with the sin itself, tried to blame someone else (Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent, i.e. the devil).  Their refusal to ask forgiveness sealed their exile from the Garden of Eden and set them on the path of repentance through suffering, labor and toil.  To ask forgiveness is to humble yourself, to empty yourself of pride, to confess that you are imperfect, and to assume the responsibility for your sinful actions.  When we ask one another for forgiveness later today if we are sincere, this may be the hardest thing that we do throughout the whole of Lent.  However, it may also be the most valuable and profitable thing we do – for in doing so we set ourselves on the path of humility, which is the path of Christ.

Having asked for forgiveness, we will then be called upon to do the next difficult thing – to forgive.  Forgiving is also a sacrifice because in doing so we must give up what is ours according to the law.  Our Lord reminded us, “You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  This was not just a folk saying, rather it was the law of Moses by which the people lived.  If someone offended you, it was your right to return that offense in an equal amount without incurring any kind of guilt.  That revenge belonged to you, it was your right.  But, when you forgive, you transcend the law, you surpass it, for you give up what rightfully belongs to you, you sacrifice your “rights”.  We hear a lot about “rights” these days, demanding our rights, protecting our rights, expecting others to respect our rights and so on.  And this is according to the law given to Moses.  But our Lord has called us to surpass the law – to sacrifice our rights and instead to forgive. 

Forgiving is almost as hard as asking forgiveness because here we are again humbling ourselves, setting aside our own rights, sacrificing that which is rightfully ours.  These two actions, asking forgiveness and forgiving set our feet firmly on the path of Christ, firmly on the path of humility. Therefore, later today when we stand face to face and ritually ask forgiveness and forgive one another, don’t let this simply be an empty ritual, but let it be a true sacrifice, a true self-emptying, a true act of humility.  Confess your sins one to another and forgive one another as Christ has forgiven you.  This then will be your good beginning to Lent, a good beginning on the journey from our exile from Paradise, to our healing and restoration in the glorious Resurrection of Christ.

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