Behold, my friends, the arena of Holy Lent opens today. Behold, we’ve arrived at the gate of the fast and are about to engage in the warfare of the spirit. We’re now approaching the harbour of salvation and should be glad and rejoice more than when we ate and spent to our heart’s content. Let’s cross the threshold of restraint, then, with much rejoicing and jubilation, thanking the Lord that we’ve escaped the powerful and harsh turbulence of the billows of the spiritual tempest and have reached the safe haven, which is calm and secure, is balmy and tranquil, truly serene and life-saving. We’ve left behind the pall of disbelief, the wintry blasts of dissipation; we’ve fled secular turmoil and the great storm of the gale-force winds of excessive consumption of food and drink; we’ve escaped carnal pleasures and the distractions of worldly cares; we’ve been freed from the darkness of ignorance and have reached roseate spring, that is the fair weather which profits the soul. Let’s welcome this bright and sunny day, then, overjoyed and elated, and let’s cast off the gloomy works of dark and soul-destroying sin, as Saint Paul urges us to do. These are fornication, impurity, passion, wicked desire and greed, which all constitute idolatry. Anyone, for example, who’s avaricious will perish as being unmerciful and uncaring. Let’s divest ourselves of the works of darkness and sin as if they were a garment, and let’s clothe ourselves in the works of light, sanctity, and purity, which are weapons and armaments of the soul. Let’s walk in orderly and virtuous comeliness, because sin is the cause of ugliness and dishonour, whereas virtue is the emissary of honour and loveliness.
Let’s not indulge in gluttony, drunkenness and diabolical songs, through which we fall into licentiousness, infamy and the like. Let’s rather clothe ourselves in our Lord Jesus Christ, because those who bear Christ have acquired all the virtues, since the appearance of Christ destroys the carnal passions and enables spiritual achievements. And let’s not dwell on the advantages of the flesh, lest we fall into desires and pleasures and unbecoming cravings. Let’s encourage the flesh towards chastity rather than licentiousness. If any are weak and sickly in the soul or the faith, let’s admonish them, for their correction. If any have wronged us, in knowledge or in ignorance, let’s forgive them. If we, from our heart, forgive them all their transgressions, our heavenly Father and Lord will also remit all our own debts. We find the forgiveness for our own sins in forgiving others, and the mercy of the Lord is concealed within kindness and sympathy towards others. By the measure by which we measure others, the Lord will measure us. This is what the divinely-inspired Evangelist, Matthew, preaches today, saying: The Lord said, ‘If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’.
The Lord is always working for our salvation. He doesn’t want the death of sinners, but their return. Every day He urges us to repentance. He’s shown us many and varied ways to find salvation easily, without suffering hardships and ascetic struggles. What’s difficult about humility? How hard is it to humble the soul, to make the heart contrite, to count yourself as nothing, to achieve meekness, to acquire patience, tolerance and modesty? Can you not avoid judging others, can’t you feel as sorry for them as you possibly can and forget the harm they’ve done you? There are many ways and means of salvation open to us, if only we want them. One path and road that leads us straight to certain salvation is the most beneficial of all, involving no effort or exertion. It’s that of forgetting, not remembering the harm done to us by others, but of forgiving them whole-heartedly.
Above all of the commandments that our good and forgiving Lord legislated for us and ordered us to observe is this one regarding the forgiveness of others for their trespasses against, so that we in turn will be forgiven by God for our own innumerable, mortal sins. In many places in Holy Scripture, the Lord’s preference for love and fellow-feeling is apparent. This is why here He imprints this desire in our heart and soul and urges us to forgive our trespassers, not to speak badly about them or curse them. Love is the root and foundation of all good things. Since resentment is the enemy of love and its great opponent, this is why He, Who is tolerant, teaches us forgiveness. And He promises that, in return for us forgiving others, He’ll forgive our own sins. For there’s no transgression He hates so much as inhumanity towards other people, callousness and brutality.
Therefore, as we judge others, so will our Father in heaven judge us. If we forgive our fellow-servants, we’ll be treated with the same grace by God.