Cheese Fair Sunday
(Kyriake tes Tyrines)


By the mercy of God
Archbishop of Constantinople,
New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch,
to the entire flock of the Church,
Grace and peace from our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and prayer, blessing and forgiveness from us

Beloved brethren in Christ and dearest spiritual sons and daughters,

Tomorrow marks the beginning once again in our life of the period of Holy and Great Lent. It is well known that this is a period of spiritual exercise during which we are assisted by fasting. Our Church, however, places great importance to our sincere repentance, as She taught us at the opening of the "Triodion" with the parable of the sinful publican, who repented and was saved, and the haughty and unrepentant Pharisee, who was condemned in spite of observing the commandments of the law.

Today, the Lord stresses, through the reading of the sacred Gospel, that our repentance is accepted only if we forgive all those who did wrong to us. Indeed, we daily ask from our Father in Heaven, through the Lord's Prayer, to forgive our trespasses as we have forgiven the trespasses of others that have been committed against us. There is a question, however, whether in repeating these words we truly forgive those who do wrong to us, or whether we repeat the words of the Prayer out of habit and without being fully conscious of their significance.

My beloved spiritual children in the Lord, there are two characteristics of the noble and sensitive Christian soul. The first one is to grant forgiveness to those who have harmed us, according to the example of the Lord who forgave those that crucified Him and prayed for them; and the second is to give thanks to our great Benefactor, our Lord Jesus Christ, and to every fellow human being who supports us. Our entire Church is full of gratitude to God, and the Sacrament of the Eucharist constitutes an expression of gratitude as its very name, "Divine Eucharist", signifies. The constant repetition of "glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages" is an overflow of our heart, which is filled with thanksgiving.

The heart that forgives and gives thanks is full of joy and happiness. On the contrary, the heart that is full of ingratitude and acrimony lives in the terrible antechamber of voluntary hell. The ungrateful person is never satisfied, and he who is constantly dissatisfied is miserable. On the other hand, the resentful person, who constantly brings to mind the evil deed that he suffered from someone else, cannot find peace. The memory of the evil deed is a new appropriation of evil, a continuous resuscitation of the evil deed, which is no longer due to the person who committed it once, but to the person who suffered it but does not wish or is not able to forgive. And yet, the presupposition of us being forgiven by God is that we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Great lent will be of benefit to us, my Beloved spiritual children, only if we enter the spiritual battle it entails with the powerful weapons of granting forgiveness to those who harmed us and expressing our gratitude to those who became our benefactors; principally, of course, to our Lord Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins and prepares for us a place of peace and blessedness. No one whose heart is resentful and ungrateful is accepted into this place and blessedness.

It is our wish to all, my Beloved, that we go through this period of the Holy and Great Lent with spiritual and bodily health and with repentance, so that we may arrive at the end of it, purified from every stain of ingratitude and resentment and filled with the spirit of forgiveness and thanksgiving, having our own sins forgiven and our hearts fulfilled in peace and ineffable joy. Amen!

Holy and Great Lent, A.D. 2003, March 9, 2003
Your fervent suppliant before God,
+Bartholomew of Constantinople
Protocol No.238

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