Every year on this holy evening of Forgiveness Sunday great joy comes forth from both good Christians and from us, your pastors, for you come in a great multitude in order to inhale deeply of the Divine fragrance of the words of Christ that are both the most important and the most simple: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
When a certain scribe asked the Lord Jesus Christ which commandment was greatest in the Law, He answered Him: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
Thus, the commandment of wholehearted love for God and our neighbors comprises the essence of the whole Law of Christ; and if we do not fulfill them, if we do not forgive men their trespasses against us, then we do not deserve the name of Christian and resemble the pagans, who only love those that love them, and transgress against those that hate them.
All of you, my brothers and sisters, want to be close to our Savior Jesus Christ and are aware of the immense importance of the law of love and mutual forgiveness of one another; and on the holy evening of Forgiveness Sunday you have come to the churches of God in order visibly to ask forgiveness of one another in order to fulfill the foundational law of Christ concerning mutual love. May God bless you for this good and pure striving of your souls and hearts.
But I should also remind you, as good Christians, that apart from the forgiveness of people who have sinned against us, there exists other responsibilities, of which the Apostle Paul speaks to us in his Epistles to the Romans and Galatians.
In the first of these we read: “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).
Many are the infirmities of our neighbors, which cause us unpleasantness and difficulties. Many of them are very annoying, bothersome, and garrulous; many of them have unpleasant and even disgusting illnesses; many are liars and slanderers, who lay on us, as on strong spirits and hearts, by God’s mercy, the duty to bear their infirmities.
But in the Epistle to the Galatians we read the holy words of the Apostle Paul: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
You all know how great and heavy the burdens and hardships of very many of our neighbors are. Let us not only forgive people their trespasses against us, but also to bear patiently the infirmities of the weak – not trying to please ourselves, nor trying to get rid of them.
Let us also help, as much as we can, our neighbors in the bearing of the often heaven burden of their lives – and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Let us fulfill the holy and salutary rite of mutual forgiveness of one another. And first I ask you, my God-given flock:
Bless me, holy fathers and brethren, and forgive me the sinner, for all that I have sinned in this day and in all the days of my life: in word, in deed, in thought, and in all my feelings.
Translated from the Russian.