On Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese Fare), Fr. Matthew Howell discusses the themes of the day: the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, forgiveness, fasting, and repentance. He uses Matthew 6:16 ”
He frames everything in the context of Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” He claims that when Adam and Eve stopped hungering for communion with God that they fell into sin, and therefore we must control our selfish impulses in order to unite ourselves with God’s self-emptying love. He connects the hunger and thirst for righteousness to scripture verses about the water of life and heavenly food (Rev. 21:6, Rev. 22:17, Zech. 14:8, Jn. 4:10, and Jn. 4:34). He also talks about how we ourselves are expelled from Paradise whenever we sin, but that Christ comes to reopen the Gates of Paradise to us through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. Fr. Matthew also explains the liturgical connection between Forgiveness Vespers and Pascha in terms of how the Holy Doors on the iconostasis are used to remind us of our separation from God in Paradise. Along the way, he once again mentions hell-bound goats and also quotes Elder Zacharias from Essex about forgiveness.
Quotes from Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou, At the Doors of Holy Lent, published by Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist, 2021.
Page 259: “We forgive and the abundant life of Emmanuel reigns within us, abolishing the dominion of the fear of death and of ‘them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul'” (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4).
Page 259: “We forgive so as to break all earthly chains and open the gate of Heaven.”
Page 260: “We forgive and we are freed from the poison of bitterness and the demonic hatred that reeks stench throughout the whole world…And when we are not able to forgive, we repent, so that His spirit may come to loose the bonds and engender forgiveness within us. The hart opens, Heaven opens too; the heart becomes heaven and declares the glory of God.”
Romans 13:11-14; 14:1-4
Brethren, salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for God is able to make him stand.
The Lord said, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.