The letter below was sent by Fr. Demetrios Carellas on Monday of Bright Week this year. The content is a valuable reminder for each of us as long-standing conflict is often a stumbling block for many and personal peace remains elusive. I hope you’ll have time to read it in its entirety:
"It is the day of the Resurrection; let us be radiant in the
festival, and let us embrace one another. Let us say, O brethren,
even to those who hate us: Let us forgive all things
on the Resurrection..."
[Resurrection Doxastikon in the 1st Plagal tone]Christ is risen!
This year, the words of the closing hymn of the Resurrection Matins service really spoke to my heart. It is: a call to heart-centered intimacy; a call to forgive everything - past and present - in the spirit of the never-ending JOY of our Saviour's Holy Resurrection, even to those who hate us.
Well, then, should not this Christ-centered call apply also to family members and friends with whom we are currently - at best - 'benignly rejecting', and - at worse - festering bitterness and/or contempt? My brothers and sisters in the risen Lord Jesus, how can we expect our Lord to - as another Resurrection hymn states - "make our lives peaceful", if we continue to show Him our contempt through the way we treat those closest to us?
What a glorious time this is for us to let go of our anger, harshness and judgment of those whom we feel have offended us, rejected us, been cruel to us --- even for years? And here is the most effective way to do this: We must pray that our Lord Jesus will grant us His grace to take full blame for the conflict, and not expect any apology from the other party --- even if, by the standards of this fallen world, we were ones being "wronged". In this way, my beloved sojourners on the sea of life, we will be victorious, even if the other person chooses to reject our efforts. I have total confidence in the truth of what I am sharing with you, because I have frequently read about these things in the teachings of our holy Church Fathers, and in the lives of our Saints; and actually have seen living results of it in my 37+ years of service to our Lord Jesus and His Church.
When we surrender our wills to Christ in this manner, then He will give to our hearts at least these two things: His peace, "which surpasses all understanding"; and a love for the other person that is no longer me-centered and conditional, but Christ-centered and unconditional! And then we will experience and inward freedom, that words cannot circumscribe!
However, (please forgive the length of this!) we cannot approach the other person with any hidden agenda; or our efforts will bear no good fruit. A story from the Desert Fathers will clearly illustrate this: Once two monks at a Monastery became quite angry with one another, and begin to harbor resentment for one another. One of the monks decided to make an attempt reconciliation with his brother. However, on the way to speak with him, he allowed the devil to fill his thoughts with memories of the unkind things the other had said to him, and to put in his mind that: if he asked for forgiveness, then the other monk had to do likewise. Thus, the reconciliation attempt failed completely.
Therefore the monk went to his Spiritual Father, who explained to him that his hidden agenda made it impossible for God's grace to enter into the conversation. Therefore, he instructed his spiritual child to pray fervently for God's grace; and to approach his brother --- unconditionally, and willing to accept full blame for the loss of their friendship. Approaching his brother's cell in this manner, armed him with with God's grace, their division was destroyed!
O my dear and blessed brothers and sisters in the risen Lord, think of what healing power would start taking place within ourselves, our families, our parishes, even our Nations, if you and I choose to follow this path during the next 38 days --- if we too "forgive all things on the Resurrection!
Truly He is risen!
Your servant in Christ,+Fr. Demetrios