Forgiveness Sunday: Fasting from Spiritual Complacency

In the Byzantine tradition of Orthodox Christianity, we begin the Great Lenten Fast with Forgiveness Sunday Vespers. After our usual evening prayers, we include the prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian with prostrations. Then, we exchange the kiss of peace asking for and receiving forgiveness from each person in the church. The next 40 days is a journey to bring our souls away from the sinful ways that corrupt us and more earnestly walk the path of Christ and salvation.

Adam & Eve Expelled from Eden

Everyone has one temptation or another that they find most seductive. Some of us are given to greed. Others to sexual issues. Still others fall into pride. Reading St. Nikolai Velimirovic recently, sexual immorality is closely linked to murder as seen in the life of King David with Bathsheba.* I believe one sin that inevitably brings other demons with it is spiritual complacency. Had David been watchful enough to be out with his soldiers as it was the season for kings to be on campaign, he would have never seen the woman in the first place. He had other options as well such as going to the temple to pray for his men instead of loitering on his rooftop. Having seen Uriah’s wife, he had plenty of wives and concubines to satisfy his desires. Indeed, he could have repented of his lustful desires for her.

Repentance of David

Complacency is highly toxic because it causes us to lose sight of God’s way for us and the goodness he has already given. Once when we are so blinded, Satan can use an ordinary situation to infect us with sin. The infection becomes a disease as we reach for another toxin to soothe the pain of the sore and a covering to hide it from others. Unless confession is made to God and repentance is lived, the hidden sickness will be exposed for the world to see and ridicule.

“Forgive me, a sinner.” “God forgives and so do I. Forgive me, a sinner.” “God forgives and so do I.”

The tools of Lent are almsgiving, fasting, and prayer. With a greater focus on using these three, we can see our flaws and weaknesses better. Proper sight can help us better apply spiritual medicine for our healing. This time of year, we are to come off of our palace rooftops and do battle against our demons. Go to the temple for repentance and thanksgiving. Confess our sins of thought before they become words and actions. Share the good things we have and not try to take what belongs to someone else.

Fr. Simon Menya of Uganda and Ryan Laferney of Indianapolis, friends in the Fellowship of St. Moses the Black

David’s complacency brought hypocrisy and death to his reign. The God of mercy saw his humble repentance and used this king’s bloodline to bring about the Incarnation of salvation. Let’s be attentive to the ways of the Lord as we approach His glorious resurrection.

*2 Samuel (2 Kingdoms {Septuagint}) 11 & 12

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