“FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS AS WE FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS”
Salvation is the therapeutic process of healing and oneness with Christ our God. We begin our journey toward God and healing with the first step of repentance. As a child taking their first steps excites parents, so too the angels and our Savior rejoice when we begin our baby steps in repentance.
As we mature, our steps become stronger and our strides take us further, but we never mature beyond taking steps. In the same way, we never mature past repentance. We do not reach a place on this side of heaven in which we no longer need to repent for wicked thoughts, words, and deeds. Rather, as we mature spiritually, we know ourselves more fully and our repentance deepens.
As walking is healthy for the mind and body, so repentance is healthy for the body and soul. It is not a task of drudgery, but a constant reaching out of our hearts toward God. If repentance is a miserable place of depression, then we are too focused on ourselves and not on the mercy of God. We should feel bitter remorse for our sins and shed tears for them, but these are healthy tears that give birth to joy.
Salvation is oneness with Christ our God. We cannot drag any sin into this oneness because sin is that which is apart from God. For that reason we repent.
The wisdom of God is made manifest in linking these two seemingly different modes of forgiveness together in the same sentence as our Lord did in this prayer.
We humans are of one nature with one another. When division arises it divides us and is like a sickness in ourselves and our humanity. The Lord prayed several times that they may be one as You and I are One. It is human nature to be one with each other; it is the nature of sin to divide us.
When someone says something to upset me, and I become irritated with that person then I have allowed the passion of anger to bring division and sickness within me and humanity. The fact that we become upset by people or offended by them shows that we still have attachments in this world. Our ego is offended because we feel that we are right or have been wronged.
There are many reasons for an unnatural division within us, and some of them are seemingly good reasons. But in the end we must recognize the greatness of our own sinfulness and repent. We will then be able to forgive others because we will see that we are truly no better than them. In fact, we are lower than them and have been called to a life of repentance for our sins, not theirs.
When we forgive others, we enter into healing, and God and nature are naturally reconciled; but failing such a union, our nature remains self-divided in its will and cannot receive God’s gift of Himself.
The amount of grace we receive from God is proportionate to the amount that we open ourselves to His grace through forgiveness, repentance, and detachments.
IT TAKES TWO STRONG LEGS
As we walk this journey of repentance, let us think again of the analogy of taking steps. To walk toward the Kingdom, we need two strong legs: forgiveness of our sins and forgiving others. We cannot enter the Kingdom scooting on one leg and dragging the weight of bitterness behind us. It will not be allowed and we will be turned away.
In fact, we cannot be united in oneness with Christ if we refuse oneness with each other. Our Lord did not say, If ye forgive not men their sins, neither will your Father forgive yours as some kind of punishment or arbitrary rule.
It is because God created us and understands our nature and the nature of salvation.
Salvation is oneness.
Christ is coming back for His bride, not his harem, as someone once said. We cannot expect to be united to Christ in Whom all things find their unity and fulfillment, without first uniting ourselves to each other. It is not possible for oneness to be divided.
God gave us this command, to forgive one another, for our protection, healing, and salvation. No matter how badly someone has hurt us or wronged us or committed some heinous crime against us, it is not worth losing everything.
God eagerly desires to pour out His love and grace on us and bring us into unity with Him. However, it takes two strong legs to move toward Him. Search your heart and find areas of bitterness, anger, or even “mild irritation” and let those things go. Seek healing from a spiritual elder, and confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
He is willing to fill us with his love…are we willing to run to His embrace?
Part 1: Our Father who art in heaven
Part 2: Hallowed be Thy name, Thy Kingdom come
Part 3: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Part 4: Give us this day our daily bread
Part 5: Forgive us our debts…
Part 6: And lead us not into temptation…
Citation note: rather than inserting scripture references and St Maximos’ words in quotations, I decided to use italics in hopes that it would make this flow more easily and it would be more readable. All scriptural quotes are from the ASV or KJV, and all of St Maximos’ quotes are from his work entitled “The Lord’s Prayer” which can be found in its entirety in the Philokalia Volume 2, Faber and Faber Publishing.