The Power of Foregiveness
“14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. 19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:14-21
On this day, called Foregiveness Sunday, the Church beckons us to make final preparations for our journey through Great Lent. The Gospel reading teaches us about forgiveness, which lies in the center of Great Lent:
Our Lord teaches quite clearly on this matter: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” We learn from our dear Lord to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Many are the examples we see in the Scriptures attesting to this and many are the living examples we see in the lives of the Saints exemplifying this in their deeds.
There is a story of two friends that shows us the power of forgiveness and the wounding of the soul when we choose not to forgive our brother.
The biography of this martyr Nicephorus clearly demonstrates how God rejects pride (ed. note: the pride and arrogance caused from harboring a grudge) and crowns humility and love with glory.
There lived in Antioch two close friends, the learned priest Sapricius and the simple ordinary citizen Nicephorus. Somehow, their friendship turned into a terrible hatred for each other. The God-fearing Nicephorus attempted on many occasions to make peace with the priest. However, at no time did Sapricius desire to be reconciled. When the persecution of Christians began, the presbyter Sapricius was condemned to death and brought to the place of execution. The sorrowful Nicephorus followed after Sapricius beseeching him along the way to, at least, forgive him before his death that they might depart in peace.
“I beseech you, O martyr of Christ,” said Nicephorus, “forgive me if I have sinned against you!” Sapricius did not even want to look at his opponent but quietly and arrogantly walked toward his death.
Upon seeing the hardness of the priest’s heart, God did not want to accept the sacrifice of his martyrdom and to crown him with a wreath but He mysteriously withheld His grace. At the last moment, Sapricius denied Christ and declared before the executioners that he would bow down before the idols.
So it is with blind hatred! Nicephorus implored Sapricius not to deny Christ saying: “O my beloved brother, do not do that; do not deny our Lord Jesus Christ; do not forfeit the heavenly wreath!” But, all was in vain. Sapricius remained adamant. Then, Nicephorus cried out to the executioners: “I, also, am a Christian; behead me in place of Sapricius!”
The executioners informed the judge of this and he ordered the release of Sapricius and, in his place, beheaded Nicephorus. Nicephorus joyfully lowered his head on the block and was beheaded. Thus, he was made worthy of the kingdom and was crowned with the immortal wreath of glory. This occurred in the year 260 A.D. during the reign of Gallienus.
From the Prologue of Saint Nikolai