On Cheesefare Sunday, when the Church remembers Adam’s Expulsion from Paradise, Patriarch Daniel of Romania attended the Divine Liturgy at St George Chapel of his Patriarchal Residence.
In his sermon, Patriarch Daniel explained why forgiveness is one of the conditions to make a good beginning for Lent.
“By forgiving our neighbours, we crucify our selfishness and simultaneously show the beginning of a merciful love.” Therefore, man is forgiven by God, especially if he also forgives others.
“One cannot reach God by going over their neighbour,” Patriarch Daniel emphasised.
“When God created man in His own image, He breathed before him His Grace. Then He set His face toward humanity. Therefore, God has His face set or oriented toward humanity for eternity. This truth was emphasised by the fact that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took human form so that man would no longer turn his face away from God.”
When we want to get closer to Him, Patriarch Daniel noted, God, asks us not to forget our fellows and, if we ask for forgiveness of sins, to also forgive our neighbours.
Fasting as a spiritual struggle united with prayer
“Fasting as a spiritual struggle united with prayer proves to us that our forgiveness by God is fulfilled when we forgive our neighbours,” Patriarch Daniel said on February 26.
Forgiving our neighbours is also a condition to partake of the Body and Blood of the Saviour. Therefore, “for the beginning of Lent but also a more frequent Communion, this forgiveness of our fellow men is necessary,” the Patriarch of Romania added.
“This is how merciful love is cultivated, and it is acquired through fasting combined with prayer. (…) Pure love is born from man’s relationship with the Merciful God.”
Adam was cast out of Paradise for disobedience and lack of self-control
Fasting is the first commandment that man received in Paradise, Patriarch Daniel remembered. This was a test of will for man by which he acquired the likeness of God through obedience.
“The test to which Adam was exposed was that he had to choose between obeying the Giver and the temptation to take the gifts by stealth. This was a test of spiritual maturity. Adam was left to choose what he loves more: the Giver or His material gifts,” Patriarch Daniel explained.
The mistake committed by the first humans in Paradise was disobeying God and lack of self-control or fasting.
For this reason, the Romanian Patriarch explained, it was ordained that this Sunday should be placed at the beginning of Great Lent to remember that fasting has a particular value: that the fulfilment of God’s commandment is necessary for theosis (deification).
“Sanctification of life cannot be achieved without fasting of material goods and without giving priority to spiritual goods.”
Patriarch Daniel explained that the 40-day fast kept by Christ must be a model for the Great Lent. During His fast, the Saviour rejected three great temptations that we must also reject during life, namely “material greed, the spirit of domination over the world when a man is not free spiritually, but a slave of someone else, and vain glory or selfish self-assertion, without any benefit to others.”
“This 40-day fast is not just a simple period of food moderation. Fasting united with prayer is a school of freedom to choose between transitory, limited things and eternal life.”
The Lenten season
“The Lenten season teaches us to listen to God more by reading the texts of the Holy Scriptures, by listening to the services in the church, by restraining ourselves or fasting by using foods of vegetable origin that predispose to more prayer and that have stored in the light from the sun as a kind of symbol of the Light that we gather in the soul through prayer, by reading the holy books, through a more frequent Communion and almsgiving,” Patriarch Daniel said.
Fasting means “abstaining from gluttony, not just changing the menu from animal products to vegetable products, but also a measure. We don’t have to gorge ourselves on plant-based foods during Lent.”
“We must abstain from sins, not just from food.”
“The eyes should not be covetous for riches and pleasures, the hearing should not listen to slander or mockery, the lips should not speak everything but be temperate and use words that build up the soul. All must refrain from sinful thoughts, words, gestures and deeds,” Patriarch Daniel urged.
Patriarch Daniel concluded his sermon, saying that “fasting is a way of salvation, by following the example of the Saviour Jesus Christ, that of choosing between the Giver and the gifts so that God always has priority, and His gifts are not considered as goods to be raptured but must be received with thanksgiving as a sign of His blessing for all humanity.”
Photography courtesy of the Basilica.ro Files