Forgiveness Vespers is coming up on Forgiveness Sunday!
It’s hard to believe we are already approaching the Great Lenten Season. Just a few weeks ago we were still saying “Christ is born!” And now it is time to go through our fridges and use up our meat and dairy products.
Last year, I wrote an article about Meatfare and Cheesefare Sundays. In it we covered the theme of forgiveness and the readings for the Sundays. We also talked about some Byzantine traditions. One thing we did not have a chance to cover last year was Forgiveness Vespers. Cheesefare Sunday is commonly referred to as Forgiveness Sunday in the church. And this is the day we celebrate Forgiveness Vespers, which marks the start of the Great Fast.
Yeah, I probably say this about every kind of Byzantine Liturgy, but Forgiveness Vespers is a beautiful service. In case you can’t make it to Forgiveness Vespers service, you can read through the text of the liturgy here. http://www.liturgies.net/Liturgies/Eastern/forgivenessvespers.htm. But the most special part of Forgiveness Vespers comes at the end. The priest stands before the people, usually in the same spot that the Eucharist is distributed. One by one, the parishioners approach the priest, who says to them “Forgive me, a sinner.” The parishioner responds “I do forgive. Do you forgive me?” to which the priest’s responds “God forgives and I forgive.”
In some churches, after exchanging forgiveness with the priest, the first parishioner stands beside the priest. Then after the second parishioner exchanges mutual forgiveness with the priest, the second parishioner exchanges forgiveness with the first parishioner. Then the second parishioner stands beside the first, and the third parishioner (who would have exchanged forgiveness with the priest while the first two were enacting their forgiveness) starts the process with the first parishioner. This way all the parishioners have a chance to work on forgiveness with each other.
During this time, it may come up that you ask and give forgiveness with someone you don’t even know. This is a good reminder that when we sin and fall short of the glory of God, this does not just hurt us. It hurts the whole church.
And in Forgiveness Vespers, we ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness for all the harm done to us.
Prayers for Forgiveness Sunday:
Konakion: (tone 6)
Master, Teacher of wisdom and Bestower of virtue, Instructor of the foolish and Defender of the poor, make firm and enlighten my heart. O Word of the Father, give me a word and I shall not stop my lips from crying out to you: In your great mercy, have mercy on me a sinner.
Prokeimenon: (tone 8)
Pray, and give praise to the Lord our God (x2).
Prayer of St. Ephrem: Check out our free printable here.
O LORD, Master of my life, grant that I may not be infected with the
spirit of slothfulness and inquisitiveness, with the spirit of ambition and vain talking.
Grant instead to me, your servant, the spirit of purity and of
humility, the spirit of patience and neighbourly love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace of being aware of my sins and of not thinking evil of my brethren.
For you are blessed, now and ever, and forever. Amen.
Clean Monday follows Forgiveness Vespers
Once Forgiveness Vespers is over, Great Lent begins. And Clean Monday is a great time to work on tidying the home. And letting go of all the items you don’t need and use in your home. If you want some help getting organized, you can check out our blog article Organization Crash Course to get you started.
The Byzantine Life
Hey! Thanks for sticking around to the end. If you enjoyed this week’s article, you might want to check out our Lenten Articles. For the pre-lenten season we have our article on Cheesefare and Meatfare. We also have an article on Great Lent. It covers fasting and abstinence, saying Alleluia, Presanctified Liturgy, and ways to actively participate in Great Lent with your family. Finally, for the conclusion of Great Lent, we have an article about Holy Week: A Guide to What Happens During Holy Week.