Vesper of Forgiveness in the Holy Metropolis of Corfu
On Sunday, February 18, 2018, his Eminence, the Bishop of Corfu, Paxoi and Diapontian Islands, Mr. Nektarios did the Vesper of Forgiveness in the Holy Church of Saint Spyridon the Wonderworker with according devoutness.
In his preaching, his Eminence talked about fasting during the Holy and Great Lent, the “big sea” according to our Church. Believers are invited to enter the stage of virtues and are fighters of the spirit, soldiers of Christ. We Christians fight eternally. Christian life is a continuing and endless struggle. However, the period of the Holy Lent, as our preparation time, for the great feast of Easter, requires an intensified effort, warmer zeal and a more methodical struggle.
The spiritual struggle is clearly determined by the Triodion: “In the period of dasting, we joyfully start”, that is we begin with joy the period of lent, by submitting ourselves in the spiritual fights. To purify our soul and our flesh. As we fast from various foods, we should abstain from every passion, immersing ourselves in the virtues of the Spirit. The first thing that we are encouraged to do is to purify our Soul according to the holy hymnographer. What is the soul? The Inner Man, the spiritual essence of the humans, the hidden heart of man, according to Apostle Peter (1 Peter 3, 4). When our soul stop acting by nature, as created by God, then is sick. Sin is the sickness of the soul. How can we purify our Soul? To keep it in order to always act by nature? The answer is given by our Holy Fathers and has to do with the three- part division of the soul.
The three parts are the reason, the sentiment and the desire. As Saint Maximus mentions: “As the body does sins through things and in order to come to the right path has for education the physical virtues, so does the mind through passionate things, and in order to see thing clearly, it has accordingly for educating the mental virtues.” With which virtues will we purify the powers of the soul? The first part by reading, the spiritual theory and pray. The second one with the love that opposes hate. And the desire with wisdom and abstinence.
In addition, the Bishop of Corfu mentioned that purification of soul means abandoning the passions and freedom of the evil thoughts. On the other part, humans are not only soul. They have also a body. Soul and body consist the united and indivisible entity of humans. Salvation is not only for the soul but also for the body. Humans are saved as a whole, spiritually and physically. And the salvation is managed with and continuous struggle of the body and the soul.
One of the most important virtues is fasting. And with fasting, our Fathers include all-night divine liturgies, chanting, praying and putting the senses aside. The spirit of life according to Christ is ascetic. Spiritual life without spiritual struggle cannot exist. Fasting and ascesis do not only mean abstaining from certain food. It necessarily includes a struggle to disburden from the passions and acquire Christian virtues, which occur from the Holy Spirit.
Fasting was given as an exercise of our self-control within Paradise. It passed in the righteous and the prophets of the Old Testament as a means of freedom against the pressing needs of the body. The leading of the Prophets is Saint John the Baptist, who was mainly fasting and showed in action the real content and use of fasting.
Furthermore, the Bishop of Corfu underlined another aspect of the fasting, the one that we do not often pay attention to. It is the experience of the unity of the Ecclesiastical Body. We mostly consider fasting as an individual achievement of our will, without social- ecclesiastical dimensions. However, the Orthodox lent is an ecclesiastical work. We fast as members of the Church. It is a way of life taught by Christ and His Apostles and loved by all the Saints. It is the basis of the unity within the Church. This truth can be observed from two points: a) when we fast keeping all the rules of the Church, we connect with all the members in a common way of living. B) According to the Archieratical prayer of Christ, the unity of his students is consolidated in His theory of Glory. According to Christ’s words, the reason for fasting is the loss of the Bridegroom. The route to search the Bridegroom till His entrance to humans’ hearts, is a route from the division of the fragmented world to its Unity.
In his closing, Mr. Nektarios encouraged the clergy and people to kneel in front of the image of Christ and Virgin Mary and ask for forgiveness from the Bishop, the Fathers and their fellow brothers. Forgiveness starts when humans take their brother’s difficulties on their shoulders. Under any circumstances, should we leave the other behind without our apologies.
By the end of the Vesper, his Eminence read the forgiving prayer and greeted with forgiveness the clergy and the people of the local Church.