On the final day before Great Lent, the Gospel teaches us the importance of reconciliation with one another, of mutual forgiveness. Vespers and Matins for this Sunday sing about the Garden of Paradise, which we lost through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Again, this reminds us that in this world we are exiles, that our true home is in the Eternal Paradise, the Heavenly Kingdom, and that the Paschal Pilgrimage leads us toward our eternal homeland.
This Sunday is also called Cheese-Fare Sunday, because according to the traditional rules of fasting, this is the last day when dairy products may be eaten. Some parishes have a meatless dinner on this day, to consume any remaining dairy products.47 Great Lent begins with Vespers on the evening of Forgiveness Sunday. The service is dramatic: it begins with the priest and deacon in bright vestments as though for a feast. At “Lord, I have cried,” we sing
Let us abstain from passions as we abstain from food, and persevere, to be worthy to see the Holy Passion of Christ our God, and the joy of His Holy Resurrection.
The Royal Doors are opened, and there is an Entrance.
Suddenly, everything changes. We sing the great Prokimen: “Turn not Your Face away from Your servant, for I am in trouble, pay attention to me, draw near to my soul and redeem me!” Lent has arrived. The priest removes his bright vestments and puts on a dark epitrakhil, the Royal Doors are closed, and the rest of Vespers follows the Lenten pattern. The responses are sung according to the unique Lenten chant.
Behold, this is the favourable time, the season of conversion. Let us turn away from the works of darkness, and clothe ourselves with the armour of light, so that crossing the ocean of the Fast, we may come to the harbour of the Resurrection… (Aposticha, Vespers for Cheesefare Sunday)
Just before the end of Vespers, the priest offers the Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian. This is the first time this typical prayer of Lent appears in our worship.
After Vespers, as we begin Lent, we offer one another mutual forgiveness. In our Lenten repentance, we are asking God to forgive us; God requires us to forgive one another as well. Mutual forgiveness is not easy; it requires the grace and help of God.
Excerpt from Our Paschal Pilgrimage. A Guide for the Great Fast for Ukrainian Catholics by Bishop Basil Losten
Blessed is the man… is sung
At Psalm 140
In Tone 8
- Lead my soul forth from prison* that I may give thanks to Your name.
O Christ, during this spiritual service,
we sing to You these evening prayers,
commemorating the mercy You have shown us
by Your resurrection.
- The just shall gather around me* when You have been good to me.
O Lord, O Lord, do not cast us away from Your face;
but in Your kindness have mercy on us
through Your resurrection.
- Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;* O Lord, hear my voice!
Rejoice, O holy Zion,
the Mother of Churches and the dwelling-place of God;
for you were the first to receive the forgiveness of sins
through the resurrection.
- Let Yours ears be attentive* to the voice of my prayer.
Christ the Word was begotten by God the Father before all ages;
yet in these latter times,
He freely willed to take flesh from the Virgin who did not know man.
By His death on the cross and His resurrection,
He saved mankind from the ancient curse of death.
- If You mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?* But with You forgiveness is that You may be revered.
O Christ, we glorify Your resurrection;
for by rising from the dead
You freed the race of Adam from the sufferings of Hades,
and as God You granted eternal life
and great mercy to the world.
- I have waited for You as You have commanded; my soul patiently relies on Your promise,* for it has trusted in the Lord.
Glory to You, O Christ our Saviour,
the only-begotten Son of God;
for You were nailed to the cross,
and then arose from the dead on the third day.
In Tone 6
- From the morning watch until night* let Israel trust in the Lord.
The Lord my Creator took me as dust from the earth
and formed me into a living creature
breathing into me the breath of life and giving me a soul;
He honoured me,
setting me as a ruler upon the earth over all things visible,
and making me a companion of the angels.
But Satan the deceiver,
using the serpent as his instrument,
enticed me by food;
he parted me from the glory of God
and gave me over to the earth
and to the lowest depths of death.
But, Master, in compassion, call me back again.
- For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him there is plentiful redemption;* and He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
In my wretchedness I have cast off the robe woven by God,
disobeying Your divine command, O Lord, at the counsel of the enemy;
and I am clothed now in fig leaves and in garments of skin.
I am condemned to eat the bread of toil in the sweat of my brow,
and the earth has been cursed so that it bears thorns and thistles for me.
But, Lord, who in the last times was made flesh of a Virgin, call me back again
and bring me into Paradise.
- Praise the Lord, all the nations;* proclaim His glory, all you people.
O precious Paradise, unsurpassed in beauty,
tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight,
glory of the righteous, joy of the prophets and dwelling of the saints,
with the sound of your leaves
pray to the Maker of all:
may He open to me the gates which I closed by my transgression,
and may He count me worthy
to partake if the Tree of Life
and of the joy that was mine
when I dwelt in you before.
- Strong is the love of the Lord for us;* eternally will His truth endure.
Adam was banished from Paradise through disobedience and cast out from delight,
beguiled by the words of a woman.
Naked he sat outside the garden, lamenting, “Woe is me!”
Therefore let us all make haste to accept the season of the Fast
and hearken to the teaching of the Gospel,
that we may gain Christ’s mercy
and receive once more a dwelling-place in Paradise.
Adam sat before Paradise and lamenting his nakedness,
he wept: “Woe is me!
By evil deceit was I persuaded and led astray,
and now I am an exile from glory.
Woe is me!
In my simplicity I was stripped naked,
and now I am in want.
O Paradise, no more shall I take pleasure in your joy;
for I shall return to the earth from whence I was taken.
O merciful and compassionate Lord,
to You I cry aloud:
I am fallen, have mercy on me.”
In Tone 8, Now…
Out of his love for mankind
the King of heaven appeared on earth and dwelt with men,
for He assumed a human body from the pure Virgin
and was seen in the flesh He received from her.
He is the One and only God having two natures but not two persons.
Wherefore we profess and declare the truth
that Christ our God is perfect God and perfect Man.
O Mother, who knew not carnal union,
intercede with Him that He may have mercy on our souls.
In Tone 8
O Jesus, You descended from heaven
so that You might ascend the cross.
O immortal Life, You came to die.
You are the true light to those who live in darkness,
and You are the resurrection of the fallen.
Therefore, O Saviour of all, we glorify You.
The Lord reigns, He is clothed in majesty. * Robed is the Lord, and girt about with strength.
Let us glorify Christ, the Saviour of our Souls
Who arose from the dead.
For He took upon himself a soul and a body,
and during His passion He separated the one from the other.
His pure soul went down to conquer Hades,
while His holy body lay uncorrupted in the grave.
For He has made the world firm. * which shall not be moved.
O Christ, we glorify Your resurrection with psalms and hymns.
For by Your victory over death
You delivered us from the sufferings of Hades,
and as God You granted us eternal life and great mercy.
Holiness befits Your house, O Lord, * for length of days.
O Lord of all, Creator of heaven and earth,
You are above all understanding.
Through Your passion on the cross
You freed us from the sufferings of Hades.
And, after condescending to be buried, You arose in glory;
and with Your mighty arm You also raised up Adam.
O most merciful Lord, we glorify You;
for by Your resurrection on the third day
You granted us remission of sins and eternal life.
In Tone 6, Glory…
Adam was cast out of Paradise through eating from the tree.
Seated before the gates he wept,
lamenting with a pitiful voice and saying:
“Woe is me,
what have I suffered in my misery!
I transgressed one commandment of the Master,
and now I am deprived of every blessing.
O most holy Paradise, planted for my sake and shut because of Eve,
pray to Him that made you and fashioned me,
that once more I may take pleasure in your flowers.”
Then the Saviour said to him:
“I desire not the loss of the creature which I fashioned,
but that he should be saved and come to knowledge of the truth;
and when he comes to me I will not cast him out.”
Christ the Lord, my Maker and Saviour,
came out of your pure womb in the likeness of me, O Woman without stain,
and He delivered Adam from the original curse.
Therefore, O Woman all pure,
since you are the Mother of God and a true Virgin,
we never tire of calling you with the salutation of the angel:
“Hail, O Lady,
O our intercessor, our shield,
and the Redemptress of our souls!”
In Tone 8
You came down from on high, O Merciful One,* and accepted three days of burial* to free us from our sufferings.* O Lord, our life and our resurrection,* glory be to You.
O gracious Lord, for the sake of mankind You were born of a virgin;* through Your death on the cross You conquered death;* and through Your resurrection You revealed yourself as God.* O merciful Lord, do not disdain those whom You have created with Your own hands,* but show forth Your love for mankind.* Accept the intercession which the Mother, who bore You, makes in our behalf.* O Saviour, save Your despairing people!
Troparia and Kontakia
Troparion, Tone 8: You came down from oh high, O Merciful One,* and accepted three days of burial* to free us from our sufferings.* O Lord, our life and our resurrection,* glory be to You.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and ever. Amen.
Kontakion, Tone 6: O Master, Guide to Wisdom*, Bestower of prudent counsel,* Instructor of the foolish and Defender of the poor ones;* make firm my heart and give it understanding.* Give me a word, O Word of the Father:* Behold, I shall not stop my lips from crying out to You:* In Your mercy, have mercy on me who am fallen.
Prokeimenon, Tone 8
Pray and give praise to the Lord our God.* Pray and give praise to the Lord our God.
verse: In Judea God is known; His name is great in Israel. (Psalm 75:12,2)
Alleluia, Tone 6
verse: It is good to give praise to the Lord, and to sing to Your name, O Most High.
verse: To announce Your mercy in the morning and Your truth every night. (Psalm 91:2,3)
Praise the Lord from the heavens;* praise Him in the highest.* Alleluia, alleluia,* alleluia. (Psalm 148:1)