Romania: Orthodox believers observe Forgiveness Sunday
Holiday. Forgiveness Sunday (Cheesefare Sunday). March 1st 2020.
Where? Romania and all other Christian Orthodox countries.
The meaning. This is on the last Sunday before Great Lent, when all Orthodox Christians ask each other for forgiveness for injured feelings, offence and disrespect. It is the last day when it’s allowed to eat dairy food (milk, cheese), eggs but not meat, the day which closes a week called “Maslenitsa” (Pancake Week). Great Lent begins after Forgiveness Sunday; it’s considered to be the most important Lent for Orthodox Christians. It lasts 48 days till Orthodox Easter, which is on March 10th in 2019. Also on this day the Church looks back on the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Paradise.
How it is celebrated. A lot of Orthodox Christians start their day with the words of forgiveness. “Forgive me for what I’ve done wrong” – you ask your parents, your children, your spouse or partner, your friends and your close ones”, Anka from Romania says. “People call their relatives, or send emails just asking for forgiveness. It's also very important to feel that you sincerely (truly) forgive others, to feel that negative energy and bad thoughts are leaving your heart. The traditional answer is: “God forgives, forgive me”. It makes us free before Great Lent and purifies our souls”, explains Anka.
87 % Romanians are orthodox. Many believers attend Forgiveness Vespers on this day. Priests teach: “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). On this day people get blessing for fasting from the priest, it helps spiritually to endure 48 days without animal products. Lent is a serious trial for believers. According to church canons, a human being can purify his soul and get ready for Holy Easter only through fasting.
Family traditions. Unfortunately, there is no any Orthodox Church in Villach. However, on the last Sunday of each month the Orthodox believers can visit Serbian Orthodox church service and communicate the Blessed Sacrament. Anka tries not to miss it. “In Romania we attended church on this day, but now we need to wait for the end of the month. Anyway, I begin this Sunday with words: “Forgive me”. And I teach my son to do the same, because it’s really important, to be able to forgive. Then we get together by festive dinner”.
(Research and text Vita Vitrenko)