During his Sunday homily, Patriarch Daniel stressed the importance of forgiveness of those who have wronged us, noting that this is ‘the good beginning of the Lenten season,’ through which we resemble the Compassionate and Forgiving God. His Beatitude said that ‘forgiveness of sins often implies the crucifixion of our own egoism, opening our soul unto resurrection.’
On the Sunday of Adam’s Expulsion from Paradise, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church cautioned that ‘without forgiveness no one can enter Great Lent, as spiritual struggle for the remission of sins and illumination of the soul,’ because by forgiving others we cultivate ‘humility and the inner freedom to live in God’s compassionate love.’
‘Man’s relation with God depends on his relationship with his fellow people,’ the patriarch noted explaining that ‘man cannot draw close to God by not paying attention to his neighbour.’
Since every human being is created in the image of the Compassionate God oriented towards humanity, there is a sacred tie between God and every human being. The way and measure by which man shows love for his fellows contribute to the edification, cultivation and strengthening of his communion with God, the Fashioner of heaven and earth and the Lover of mankind.
The Patriarch of Romania went on to explain why we fast. He said we fast ‘because we love our Heavenly God, the Giver of eternal life, more than all the transient, material goods, more than tasty food, fine drinks or the passionate delight of the senses.’ He drew attention that ‘we should not fast in order to be praised or admired by people.’
His Beatitude went on to reflect on a bible verse from the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus says, when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting.
In Hebrew tradition, the patriarch explained, ‘putting oil on the head means that life is a blessing and joy received from God. Washing the face means having a natural, welcoming attitude of communication towards others, without drawing their attention with a cheerless or darkened countenance.’
The patriarch noted that ‘fast should be man’s inner, intimate, spiritual work of personal communion with God, Who mystically and silently observes the soul and deeds of the devout, sacrificial, praying, and fasting man.’ His Beatitude added that ‘we should fast with joy, not with sorrow,’ because ‘humility and joy are the signs of genuine fasting.’
During his Feb. 18 sermon, the Patriarch of Romania offered several definitions of fasting:
- Fasting is self-offering brought to God as gratitude for the gift of life, and as a desire to sanctify our life (Romans 12:1).
- Fasting is a spiritual, self-sacrificial state of the person who fasts, a state freely cultivated according to the each one’s power.
- Fasting is the sign of the believer’s desire to be free from covetousness in order to unite through a more intense prayer with the limitless, eternal God, the source of life and eternal joy.
- Fasting is not only abstaining from food of animal origin, but also restraint from any kind of material greed and self-control over any desire to selfishly dominate others.
- Fasting is self-control from any thought or deed that diminishes the love of God and of one’s neighbour.
- Fasting is a spiritual work well-pleasing to God, when performed out of love for Him.
Ending his Sunday homily, Patriarch Daniel said that during Great Lent we should correct the behaviour of the old Adam within us, not by blaming others for our sins, not by accusing or judging other sinners, but by admitting and crying for our sins, by judging ourselves during the Mystery of Repentance, in order to receive remission of sins and partake of Christ’s holy, humble, and compassionate love.
Photography courtesy of Robert Nicolae/ Basilica.ro Archive