Forgiveness Sunday Archpastoral Services at Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Palos Park, IL
On Saturday and Sunday, February 17-18, 2018 the entire parish family of the Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Palos Park, IL experienced a triple celebration in the life of the community: the leave-taking of the holy feast of Presentation of our Lord, beginning of the Holy and Great Lent and a Baptist of Amilia Grace Sendeha, daughter of Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl and Dobrodijka Olenka Sendeha.
The parish celebration was led by the Eparchial hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA – His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. Vladyka was truly welcomed by the Windy City’s winter extravaganza: Saturday morning presented itself as a real mid-February day with several inches of snow.
On Saturday morning, Vladyka Daniel visited parochial School of Ukrainian language and Religion. Expressing his gratitude to the teachers and parents of the parochial school, Vladyka Daniel spoke of the investment of the youth in the life of the Church...
Later in the day, a child of God Amilia Grace was Baptized and Chrismated. Vladyka called everyone’s attention to the fact of a white winter day that brings to mind the call to Christian brightness of a newly baptized. Holding the baby in his arms, Archbishop Daniel led the churching service by which the newly baptized baby was welcomed into the Orthodox Christian community.
Sunday morning was a day of liturgical prayers that concentrated on the importance of the Lenten journey, calling the entire congregation to repentance and forgiveness. Archbishop Daniel led the clergy and the faithful in the Forgiveness Rite, during which every person in attendance asked for and offered forgiveness.
In his sermon, Vladyka stated: “… in a few short moments we shall enter the Great Fast, the Church in her wisdom calls us to reflect on the essential elements of a truly Lenten effort. Prayer is a part of every Orthodox Christian’s life — it almost goes without saying. That prayer becomes the foundation of everything else we do during Great Lent. Besides our personal prayer, the Church calls us to more corporate worship, giving us the Eucharist as many as four times a week to strengthen us in our efforts.
But the Lord brings our attention to the other great tools of true spiritual effort. First, fasting. The true fast does not find fruits in following mere “rules.” “What can I eat? Does this have any milk in the ingredients? When can we have fish, wine or oil?” Those rules are there as guidance and not as ends in themselves. We can feel so proud that we have “followed the rules.” But the self-denial of fasting also leads to peace, calm, a new look at the things we too often see as important. In our consumer society, we never deny ourselves anything at any time. We have truly come to believe that man does “live by bread alone.” The lengthy, and sometimes grueling, fast strips us of the superfluous and leaves only the essential. We learn to eat to live, and not live to eat.
The Lord also brings our attention to treasure. Almsgiving — the act of giving to those less fortunate — is an essential part of the fast. Knowing that we have more than enough and that God calls us to divest ourselves of some of that treasure as a “letting go” to realign our hearts to the true Treasure is an essential part of fasting. St. john Chrysostom reminds that the wealthy (which most of us are in comparison to much of the world) hold their riches in trust for the poor.
Finally, we are called to forgive, for forgiveness — true, sincere forgiveness, holding nothing in our hearts against anyone — is the concrete action that makes us reflect God more than any other action. It is also perhaps the most difficult task that the Lord demands of us. Being offended so easily in our world of social media and instantaneous actions and reactions is perhaps the greatest temptation that we must fight. If our hearts are destroyed by holding onto the “wrong” treasure, what destruction is being wrought when we feel justified in holding anything dark or evil in our hearts about another? We examine ourselves and confess our sins, expecting forgiveness from God, but often feel completely justified in hatred and anger against one of God’s creatures for “slights” and “insults,” when our very actions are a slight and insult to God Himself. Brothers and Sisters, let it not be so!
Let us bow down before each other and seek (and grant) forgiveness as we enter into this tithe of the year. Let us pray personally, and corporately, with a sincere and humble heart. Let us place our treasures where they belong. May we fast in order to create a space for the One who is going to His Passion and Resurrection for us. I wish for all my faithful parishes and each and every one of you a most fruitful and joyous Fast. May we all rejoice in the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at the end of these most holy days…”
Archbishop Daniel’s message had touched many of those participating in the service and had set a tone of forgiveness and acceptance into their Great Lent journey. The service concluded with the entire parish asking for forgiveness from the hierarch, pastor and each other so they could better prepare for the upcoming Feasts of Feasts, Holy Pascha.
As the liturgical day came to conclusion, everyone in attendance partook in a pancake luncheon prepared by the local parish Boy Scout troops, thus supporting the organization (Boy Scouts of America) that throughout the years of its existence has made an enormous investment into the future generation of patriotic citizens of the United States of America.