Friday, March 18, 2011

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for Forgiveness Sunday, 2011

The Arabic original of this sermon, given in Kousba on March 6, 2011 can be found here.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Beloved, we are on the threshold of Great Lent. Today is called Forgiveness Sunday or the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise. At this beginning, we must follow a new upward path, as the Apostle says today in his letter to the Romans, “the night is over and day has drawn near,” which means that we must say in our mind that we want the day. Night, as the Apostle explains it, is darkness, it is negative actions, but we must adopt the light because the day has drawn near and we must not live in darkness, but rather in light and day. This is because from today we are preparing to go up this ladder in order to taste the resurrection of Christ. The light is Christ, so let us put him in the center of our life and accept the fast.

For a believing person, the fast is not a period of sorrow but rather a period of joy and this is why you heard the Gospel say, “do not look somber like the hypocrites, but rather wash your faces.” So let your faces be washed with joy. Do not scowl—be joyful in the fast.

Why do we fast? So that we can be light and not heavy, not only with food but also with cares, the cares of life. It is so that we can put them off to the side and not fear and not be bewildered by all the news of the world, no matter how disturbing they are, or by making a living, no matter how difficult it is. Instead, let us have this hope in Christ, that we may live and be victorious in Him and that we will see everything positively.

The we pray day after day, fasting with our brothers and praying with them, since the fast is so that we can draw near to God and to our brothers, so we can step out of ourselves. We fear because we cling to ourselves, so let us pay attention to others. The Gospel asks us to pay special attention to the weak. All of us are weak, but the Lord puts before us people and says to us, “help these weak people.” When we help a weak person, who is poor or ill, we rejoice more than him, as though he is the one giving us help.

This is the ambiance of the fast. It is in refraining not from foods and animal fat, but in refraining from all that does not pertain to God, that we sacrifice a little bit of our evenings out, a little bit of our pleasures. The faithful youth sacrifices and fasts and repents for the sake of all the other youths. A person (a man or a woman), when he fasts or prays or repents does not repent and fast and pray only for himself, but rather he prays for others who do not repent, do not pray, and thus we are given grace upon grace. This is our tradition, the tradition of the saints.

Let us ask God to give us this grace, so that we can pray and fast and rejoice and forgive and not be jealous in our hearts and then the light of Christ will shine in our souls and we will see everything clearly with Christ, amen.

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