Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Fourth Sunday of Triiodion: The Expulsion of Adam from Paradise

Prior to the beginning of the Great Lenten season, the daily lectionary takes us through great chunks of Hebrews, all of 1 and 2 Timothy, sections of Titus, all of 1 & 2 Peter, the 3 Johnanine Epistles, all of James and all of Jude. The 3 Johnannine Epistles, James and Jude are all some of the shortest books of the Scriptures and can easily be read in a few minutes. The reading of these particular books prior to the Great Fast is no accident. Those who disparage the daily lectionary have usually not even used it, but like to complain about it probably because it's one of those bad "traditional" things.

Anyone who has read through the 3 Johnannine Epistles in particular knows the famous passage that "If we say we have not sinned we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1: 8-9) Such words should be at the very front of our minds as today is the gateway to the Great Lenten Season. Today, we take our last eats of cheese and dairy (for those who observe the fast strictly) until Pascha, we increase our prayers, we start using the prayer of St. Ephraim and we immerse ourselves in repentance.

But if those words from John are not to be found in us, then there is no point to Lent. Our ancestors were expelled from Paradise because of sin. The Expulsion didn't occur because God was thinking that maybe some "tough love" and not living off his credit card for a while would be a good character builder for Adam and Eve. We are exactly like Adam; we are cast out of paradise. Yes, there is the hope that we may return, but not yet.

Despite the grandiose name, this day has another important theme: forgiveness. At all times of His presence on earth, Christ emphasized, preached, practiced, taught, lived forgiveness. Even right before His Ascension into heaven, He preached forgiveness. Lent cannot be strictly about an inward focus on repentance, as good as that is. It must also include an outward display of forgiveness. Otherwise, in our spiritual life, Christ continues to hang on the tree and does not resurrect on the third day.

I thus ask forgiveness from all of you whom I have offended this past year. A blessed Great Lent to all of you. Let us journey well to the empty tomb.

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