Today is the Sunday of Forgiveness, the final day before the beginning of the Great Lent.
St Peter Damascene (12th century) assures us that forgiveness is an open door to everyone, even those who are mired in habitual faults and failings.
Full repentance (Gk “metanoia”, leaving old patterns of thinking behind) is best, he admits; but just refusing to give up will do.
BESIDES, we should not give up, on not finding ourselves to be what we should be.
Now, it is bad that you have been sinning, O man.
But why then wrong God, and in your ignorance take him to be powerless?
Surely the one who has so perfectly made such a world as you see, is not powerless to save your soul?
If you say, “my condemnation is all the greater in the light of his condescension” [i.e. the incarnation], repent! and he will accept your repentance, as he accepted the repentance of the wastrel [prodigal son] (Lk 15:11-32), and of the harlot (Lk 7:36-50).
But if you can’t do even this much, but you fall out of habit into things which you do not want, have humility like the Publican (Lk 18:9-14), and it will be sufficient for your salvation.
The man who sins, without repenting, and yet does not give up [the struggle], of necessity regards himself as lower than all creation, and does not dare to sit in judgment on or censure any brother of his (Lk 6:37).
Rather, he is amazed at God’s love towards mankind; and there springs up a kindly feeling towards his Benefactor, and he is able to receive many other good things too.
And if he lies in the devil’s power by committing sins, then again he disobeys the enemy (who is pushing him to give up) by fear of God.
And there is in that a share in God, since such a man has kindly feelings, thankfulness, patient endurance, fear of God, not sitting in judgment, that he might not be judged.
All these are vital qualities.
St Peter Damascene, “A Treasury of Divine Knowledge”, Book I. The section is entitled, “That we should not despair, even if we sin many times”. In the Philokalia, Vol. III.
Glory be to the Father…
OPEN unto me the gates of repentance, O Giver of life! For my spirit hath prevented the dawn, to come to thy holy Temple, bearing about the temple of this body full-stained; but as thou art the Compassionate, cleanse me, by thy tenderly pitying mercy.
Now and forever…
O MOTHER of God, set my footsteps straight upon the path of salvation: for I am soiled in soul by shameful sins, having wasted my whole life in idleness. By thy intercessions, rescue me from all uncleanness.
Stich. HAVE mercy upon me O God, according to thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of thy compassions, do away my offences. (Ps 50:1).
WHEN I ponder the multitude of the terrible things I have done, wretched I am; I tremble at the fearful day of judgment; but taking courage at the mercy of thy tender pity, as David did so also I cry to thee: Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy great mercy.
At Matins on the Sunday of Forgiveness (Cheese Sunday). Original at Analogion. Appropriately enough, these prayers occur also on the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, which you can find in English at Anastasis.