Митрополит Антоний Сурожский

Vespers of the Forgiven Sunday

March 12, 2000
Theme: Great Lent, Spiritual life   Place: London Parish   Period: 1996-2000   Genre: Sermon

The service of Forgiveness is not a time when a priest has a right, or a call to teach forgiveness to others, to teach to others the recognition of sinfulness; it’s a time when he stands before God’s judgement with a broken heart, and also with a broken heart, with pain, with shame before those people whom God has committed to his charge, and whom he has proved unable to lead truly from earth to heaven. And so do I stand now; a priest whom I admired greatly in times when I was a young man, in his Will said, “What is an unworthy priest? He is an object of horror to God; he is a temptation and a scandal to people; he is a condemnation of his own soul”. And so do I stand today before you, aware of my true unworthiness, aware (that) the Gospel which we read last week, in which we were told that we will stand before the Last Judgement of God, how it affects us. Day after day we stand before God’s Judgement, day after day our conscience reminds us of every thing, of every way in which we have been unworthy of God, of the gift of life, of the faith He has granted us, and also of the immense love and compassion which others have manifested to us. Every day we stand before the Last Judgement because death may come at any moment, and at any moment our cry for forgiveness may be the last. And I am standing now before you aware of my unworthiness as a man and as a priest; and I ask of you: Forgive me. Forgiveness does not mean that you should forget all the ways in which I have been unworthy of my vocation; it means only that you will turn to God and say, “Lord, give him time for repentance, give him time to become worthy of his human, Christian and priestly calling”. And also, to form a determination when we all stand before the Judgement of God to say, “Forgive him now oh, Lord, let him go in peace”. And this for which I beg in my own name, I beg each of you to do to one another; turn to God in repentance for your own unworthiness, in gratitude for all His immense, incredible love and also in compassion, in deep, brokenhearted compassion for all those who are your neighbours, your brothers, your sisters, forgiving them in your soul everything, saying to God that if now we stood before the Judgement I would say, “Lord, I have forgiven, you have nothing against this man, this woman, this child”.

Let us now come to the icon of Our Lord Who so loved us that He gave His life because we are sinners. His death in a way is our doing. His forgiveness and the new life which He gave us, is His doing. And let us bow before the icon of the Mother of God. We all know the horror which a mother may feel at the suffering of her son; we all know what a child means to a mother; we can turn to Her and say, Mother, I have sinned against Thy son; if you can forgive me – no one can condemn. But not lightly, only if our heart is torn by pain and by repentance and if our spirit is alive with determination to be worthy of God, worthy of being loved by God, loved by the Mother of God, loved by everyone around us who has the greatness of heart to love us. Let us bow before the icons and then ask forgiveness from one another not in a perfunctly way but knowing that even  if we have done nothing to this person, because we have not been worthy of our calling, we have deprived this person of a gift which perhaps God had entrusted us for him and for her. If you can – forgive me; if you can’t – pray that God grant you one day the greatness of heart to forgive me and those against whom you may have something.

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