Orthodox Daily Devotional for March 24-30
I Thessalonians iv
BRETHREN: We beseech you, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.
The 2nd Sunday of Lent focuses on St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica and Wonderworker (see Nov. 14). St.. Gregory is known as the one who exposed the heresy of Barlaam, an Italian monk, who rejected the Orthodox teaching about the blessed light, which illuminates the internal person sometimes openly visible (as for example on Tabor and Sinai), and who did not admit the possibility to achieve this inner light through both prayer and fasting and other individual efforts (i.e. to achieve the ‘glow’ that manifested by Moses in the Old Testament). St. Gregory is also glorified in the service on this day by the Holy Church. Thus the Holy Church, celebrating on the previous Sunday the triumph of Orthodoxy over all heresies, on the present Sunday celebrates the victory of Orthodox ascetic teachings over all false doctrines opposing it.
Vn Bede’s Psalter Psalm 16
1Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust.
2O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee;
In Christian history the number 40 is sacred and confirmed anew, with even much greater and sacred examples. The Savior Himself, fulfilling the law, is brought into the temple on the fortieth day. Preparing to announce the good news of the Gospels to the world, He leaves for the desert and fasted there for forty days. After His resurrection He willed to remain on earth for forty days before His ascension into heaven. Following this great example, the Holy Church in the very beginning blessed the number forty, as a specially significant number: such as, the fortieth day after birth, the fortieth day after death, the forty day repentance, and, finally, established the forty-day fast, the Holy Forty Days.
5Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.
6I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech.
7Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them.
8Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, Psalm 17
Series… Seven Stages of Forgiveness by Fr. Konstantin Kobelev
First stage: Don’t make any enemies
The most correct conduct with enemies is to not have any enemies at all. The first stage of achieving peace with those who offend you is to avoid situations where people become offenders. Enmity between people is most often caused by sin. Therefore, we must be attentive to ourselves, analyze our behavior, and not fall into emotionalism. If you feel an increase in tension in your relations with someone, in those moments try to be quieter, remain silent, be patient, and if possible, try to simply take a break from communication.
Second stage: In having a conflict, don’t let it get personal
But perhaps you did not have the strength to hold out on the first step, and a conflict breaks out. It should be noted that even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had conflicts with people. At times it’s impossible to live on earth without conflict, preserving your views and beliefs and your soul. Sometimes there really are situations when we must openly stand for the truth, not fearing to confront evil.
But it’s necessary to separate the person from his actions and resist not the person, but his wrong actions. Condemn sin, but not the sinner. Sin itself does not need justification; it’s even dangerous: If we stop condemning sin, we could lose the understanding of the boundary between truth and falsehood.
Not condemning a person does not mean weakly allowing him to continue to do unseemly things.
Non-condemnation has nothing to do with appeasement. Moreover, in the case that someone persists in his sin, communication with him should be broken.
Third stage: Give the offender over to God
Then the conflict exhausts itself and a fracture appears in your relations with the person—an offense. We have a burning desire for revenge, whether overtly or covertly. At this stage, it’s more correct not to seek such opportunities, not to advocate “for justice”—but to entirely give your offender over into the hands of God. If he is worthy of punishment, let God punish him.
The punishment of the Lord is not so much a penalty for sin as it is an admonition. It’s no wonder the word “punishment” [in Russian] comes from the word “instruction.”
Seeing as we ourselves are powerless to admonish our offender, we may well ask God to instruct him (not just pain and torment in retaliation!), and the Lord Himself will govern whatever is better, more beneficial, and more intelligible for him.
Fourth stage: Depart in peace
There is a common misconception: If relations have not been restored after a conflict, it means the people did not forgive one another. But that’s not exactly true.
A man can’t change and become someone else overnight. But we’re not required to continue the relationship with someone who offends us to no end. We mustn’t hold evil and offense against him within ourselves—but to drag out a friendship or other close relations is not necessary, and even harmful.
For example, if a husband continually cheats on his wife, then she, having inwardly forgiven the cheater, is allowed to leave such a husband to save herself from destruction.
We cannot condone sin, and when it is compounded more and more, it could lead to a real tragedy. For example, if a wife endlessly forgives her husband’s assaults and stays with him and he doesn’t start to change his behavior, then it could end with the husband in jail and the wife in the grave.
Therefore, there is no need to forcefully make “friends” with someone who continually offends us. Forgive and walk away.
4th stage continued…
Sometimes there are situations in the parish when some of the parishioners don’t get along, although both are wonderful people, but there’s some kind of misunderstanding… So what to do? It doesn’t always work out to be friends with everyone. It would be ideal, but people don’t live up to the ideal.
In such instances, priests advise: Don’t try to force a relationship—ask forgiveness of one another and then keep a distance from one another. It doesn’t matter who’s right and who’s to blame. It’s better to avoid sin in advance than to impose upon one another and be tempted.
But how can we feel this internal forgiveness? Try to mentally give the offender into the hands of God. But this is by no means about the malevolent expectation of human suffering. Even when we feel everything inside seething and hurting, even when we’re not in a state to forgive personally, we should ask God’s forgiveness for the one who offended us. That is the best and highest on the path of forgiveness—when we sincerely want the Lord to be merciful to those who have offended us.
Therefore, on Forgiveness Sunday we say: “God will forgive.” That means that in eternal life, in the Heavenly Kingdom, we wish for this man to be forgiven by God.