In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember Saint Scholastica, sister of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Saint Scholastica, pray for us.

We know of Saint Scholastica, twin sister of Saint Benedict (whom we are blessed to have the holy relics in our oratory), from the writings of Saint Gregory the Dialogist. Saint Scholastica and Saint Benedict stayed in separate monasteries, keeping the strict monastic rule, and only met each other for spiritual discussion once a year. Saint Scholastica begged her brother to stay, during the last meeting between the siblings. But Saint Benedict wanted to leave and return to his monastery. Saint Scholastica then prayed to God. Shortly after, a storm came and prevented Saint Benedict from returning to his monastery. Saint Benedict told his sister, “May Almighty God forgive you sister for what you have done,” To which Saint Scholastica replied, “I asked a favor of you and you refused it. I asked it of God, and He has granted it!” 3 days later, Saint Benedict saw from his cell, his sister’s soul leaving her body and ascending to Heaven in the shape of a dove. She reposed in 543AD.

This is the Maslenitsa (Cheesefare week), the week before Great Lent starting on Clean Monday, the coming Monday. This sunday is also Forgiveness Sunday, when we ask for each other’s forgiveness for all the debts and grievances we cause one another, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses” (St Matthew 6:14-15). Clean Monday, right after Forgiveness Sunday, symbolizes our starting of the Great Lent, forgiven, and clean for the spiritual journey ahead.

Our father among the saints, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, lived through his deeds of forgiveness and not mere words. He was so pious that the devil would disturb him increasingly and ever more ferociously. One day, three men surrounded St Seraphim and asked the old saint for money. The saint had none, and the three men attacked St Seraphim and left him for dead. However, the Mercy of God prevailed and St Seraphim lived, albeit with with hunch and needed to use a walking stick. The three men were eventually caught, but St Seraphim requested that these three men be not punished. The three men repented before the saint in tears, and left promising the saint to pursue good thereafter.

St Seraphim talked about forgiveness in this manner, from Volume 1 of the Little Russian Philokalia:

“For whatever kind of offense, we must not avenge for ourselves. Instead, we must forgive from our hearts no matter how much our hearts say otherwise, by convicting our hearts to the Word of God, and pray for them: ‘If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses (St Matthew 6:14-15). We must not nurse in our hearts malice or hatred towards someone who bears ill-will, but love him as much as possible, do good, following the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you (St Matthew 5:44). And so, if we will strive as much as we can in our power, to fulfill all these, then we may hope that Divine light will shine early in our souls, opening to us the path to the Jerusalem on High.”

St John of Kronstadt, one of the saints whom we commemorate, said this (My Life in Christ, Part 1, p. 27):

“Often during the day I have been a great sinner, and at night, after prayer, I have gone to rest, justified and whiter than snow by the grace of the Holy Spirit, with the deepest peace and joy in my heart! How easy it will be for the Lord to save us too in the evening of our life, at the decline of our days! O save, save, save me, most gracious Lord; receive me in Thy heavenly Kingdom! Everything is possible to Thee!”

St Nikolai Velimirovic of Serbia, said:

“If your heart has been softened either by repentance before God or by learning the boundless love of God towards you, do not be proud with those whose hearts are still hard. Remember how long your heart was hard and incorrigible. Seven brothers were ill in one hospital. One recovered from his illness and got up and rushed to serve his other brothers with brotherly love, to speed their recovery. Be like this brother. Consider all men to be your brothers, and sick brothers at that. And if you come to feel that God has given you better health than others, know that it is given through mercy, so in health you may serve your frailer brothers.”

What greater forgiveness than from the tender mercy of God (Jeremiah 31:31-34)? Let us call upon the Holy Name of Christ our Lord and Savior often, for the cleansing of our sins, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Fr Raphael+

Readings
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 93:1-5 (LXX 92)
St Luke 23:44-56
St Jude 1:11-25