Sunday of the Prodigal Son. 2015

As I ponder the multitudes of dreadful things that I have done, wretch that I am, I tremble for the fearful day of judgement. But confident in your merciful compassion, like David I cry to you,

‘Have mercy upon me, O God, in accordance with your great mercy’.
Matins Tone 6

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am writing to you as your Priest at this important initial stage in our annual journey to the Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are many other stages on this journey which Christ Himself had to endure for us.

In spite of the many  healings and miracles for which He was sometimes thanked by those He helped,  Christ was held in contempt by the authorities who deliberately  failed to understand the true meaning of God’s unshakable love for mankind and feared for their authority.

We start today with the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. We can draw many analogies from this parable but as the son returns to the father, the bond between them is emphasised by the running to meet each other. The son is forgiven and reconciled and yet not everyone is happy. The brother is down cast with jealousy and disappointment and the unjustness of his squandering sibling returning home to glory having led a very wasteful few years away.

The main message of the parable – although there are many – I feel, is forgiveness.  Through forgiveness we become wholesome. When we ask for God’s forgiveness at Confession we are then given the reconciliation necessary for us to “put on Christ” and receive the Heavenly Gifts.

It seems  therefore a reasonably easy task to be forgiven – as long as the “confession is sincere, deep and full” (Father John of Kronstadt) and we really want to be forgiven.   And yet, we find it difficult to truly forgive forever others who have “trespassed against us”.  We need to gently dismount from our high horses and bow to those who have offended us and offer sincere prayer and forgive them. Forgiveness must be “from the heart” (Matthew 18:35) – our heart – “no outside criterion of forgiveness,  human or divine” (Abbess Thekla).

This is what we shall be working towards in 2 weeks’ time: Forgiveness Sunday – the expulsion of Adam from Paradise.  As Adam and Eve disobeyed the instruction of the Almighty Father not to eat of the fruit, they created our “freedom” to choose what to do and whom to obey. As they allowed sin into the world then we carry that sinful burden too – and Gosh! we certainly know how to sin and continue sinning.

In preparation for the mutual forgiveness I have attached below the prayer for the General Confession which being Orthodox and traditional does not beat about the bush.  Nothing is left for the imagination.

Let us go forward with love, truth and honesty to forgive our neighbours, family and those who would harm us as He forgave the penitent thief: as He has forgiven you and me many times already!  
Please pray for Matushka Elizabeth and also for me.

Father Christopher