Monday, February 19, 2007

Forgiveness and Freedom

Yesterday was Forgiveness Sunday and last evening the beginning of Great Lent. One of my favorite images of forgiveness is from Dostoevsky's Brother's Karamozov, the section "From the Life of the Elder Zosima." As a child Elder Zosima's brother became very sick and near the end of his life he repented.
"Dear mother, heart of my heart," he said (he had then begun saying such unexpected, endearing words), "heart of my heart, my joyful one, you must know that verily each of us is guilty before everyone, for everyone and everything. I do not know how to explain it to you, but I feel it so strongly that it pains me. And how could we have lived before, getting angry, and not knowing anything?" Thus he awoke every day with more and more tenderness, rejoicing and all atremble with love... The windows of his room looked onto the garden, and our garden was very shady, with old trees, the spring buds were already swelling on the branches, the early birds arrived, chattering, singing through his windows. And suddenly, looking at them and admiring them, he began to ask their forgiveness, too: "Birds of God, joyful birds, you, too, must forgive me, because I have also sinned before you." None of us could understand it then, but he was weeping with joy: "Yes," he said, "there was so much of God's glory around me: birds, trees, meadows, sky, and I alone lived in shame, I alone dishonored everything, and did not notice the beauty and glory of it all." "You take too many sins upon yourself," mother would weep. "Dear mother, my joy, I am weeping from gladness, not from grief; I want to be guilty before them, only I cannot explain it to you, for I do not even know how to love them. Let me be sinful before everyone, but so that everyone will forgive me, and that is paradise. Am I not in paradise now?[1]

And, so today the Great Fast begins and for the first time in weeks the sun is out here in Pittsburgh!
Thy grace has shone forth, O Lord, it has shone forth and given light to our souls. Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the season of repentance. Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light, that having sailed across the great sea of the Fast, we may reach the third-day Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls.[2]

Peace to everyone as the Lenten Spring begins.

[1] translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] Sunday of Forgiveness Vespers from The Lenten Triodion translated by Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware, published by St. Tihkon's Seminary Press.

1 comment:

Frankita said...

i have this book, but i haven't read all of it yet. i do like the passage you quoted.