What a beautiful gift the church offers us each year in the form of Forgiveness Vespers. It can be a hard service. It is off putting to some. Some may wonder why we would ask forgiveness of people we don't know, or people we feel certain we haven't wronged? To miss out on this interaction though is to miss out on a great catharsis of the Orthodox faith. The church offers us this moment to cleanse. It matters not if I have offended each and every person present (though odds are, without my knowledge I more likely than not have at some point). Even if I am asking forgiveness of someone I have never met, I am a sinner. I was created in the image and likeness of God, and I have corrupted that image and likeness each day. I have damaged and stained that beautiful white garment I was given at baptism. Each time I tarnish that image, I sin against all of humanity. So, this forgiveness is asked of all of humanity, that I might start fresh each year and work towards preserving that likeness better. And of course, there are those moments when I come face to face with those who I know I have harmed. Maybe it is just a careless word, maybe it is a strained relationship, maybe it is a long term tension between personalities that likely will never be close. And maybe it is someone I have hurt deeply through word or deed. Certainly each member of my family has received painful wounds from me. Each encounter is a moment to humble oneself before Christ and each other, to ask forgiveness, and to seek to do better in the coming year. The hugs, the words of forgiveness, the shared tears, all are small steps toward the healing of the soul. What a great gift the church offers us each year, to humble ourselves before God and each other. The joy and lightness upon leaving this service can only be compared to that of confession or of the Paschal service when one has fasted, prepared and entered into the full cycle of services. It brings a sense of new beginning, and for that I am ever grateful. To each of you in the online world with whom I have crossed paths, I ask the same. For any stray word, false humility, false appearance or hurt; Forgive me a sinner.
"Behold, the Lord will pass by, and before the Lord, a great and powerful wind will be rending the mountains and shattering the rocks; but the Lord will not be in the wind. After the wind, an earthquake, but the Lord will not be in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there will be a fire, but the Lord will not be in the fire. After the fire, there will be a sound of a gentle breeze, and the Lord will be there."
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she may help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Luke 10:40-42