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In doing some reading about traditions in and around the Lenten season, I wanted to see how our Orthodox friends entered into this time.  While I am not of the Orthodox church, I have been deeply impacted by some of their authors especially in the areas of prayer and the incarnation.  As I investigated their ways, I came across a practice which struck me deeply.  It is (as far as I understand) done on the Sunday of Forgiveness – which happens to be today – during the vespers service.

At last we reach the Rite of Forgiveness. As vespers come to a close, parishioners form a large circle. Nearest the altar the two ends overlap, as a deacon turns to face the priest. The priest bows to the ground, then stands to say, “Forgive me, my brother, for any way I have offended you.” After the deacon says “I forgive you,” he bows to the ground, and asks for and receives the same forgiveness. Then the two embrace. Each of them moves to the next person in line.

Over the course of an hour or so, every single person will stand face-to-face with every other person. Each will bow to the ground and ask for forgiveness; each will bestow forgiveness on the other.”  (from here)

Wow!  So many thoughts swirl in my head as I read this.  First, I wonder what would happen if something like this happened in my place of worship.  How would relationships change as each of us asks forgiveness and then gives it in return?  Secondly, it brings a deep sense of humility to me as I think about those I have wronged or who have wronged me.  I want God to use this week of Lent to show me areas of unforgiveness in my heart AND I would like for the Spirit to give me His desire for forgiveness.  Thirdly, I think I would like to at least engage in this practice with my husband and kids.  Although we try to keep short accounts with one another, I wonder what difference the bowing and standing face-to-face with each other makes.

Food for Lent:  (Since we both fast during the Lenten season and the first temptation presented to Jesus is that of “fixing” His hunger – we need different sources of nourishment)

Matthew 6:5-18, Matthew 18:21-35, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11, Colossians 3:12-17

Living Lent:  Practice forgiveness this week.  Whatever it looks like…do it.

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