Beloved brethren! We have already reached the very gates of the holy fast! They are even now about to open before us! Already, according to the typicon of the Holy Church, we hear the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ read to us today in the Holy Gospels about the correct way to begin thepodvig of fasting.

For if ye forgive men their trespasses,says the Gospel reading for today,your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:14–15). The holy Church greets us with this announcement at the gates of the fast! This is the requirement the Church offers us on the very threshold of the spiritual chamber of repentance. We intend to prove our repentance for various sinful distractions through various deprivations and wearing out of the body. The Gospels requires mercy from us before sacrifice, so that the sacrifice would be pleasing to God.

All who wish to begin this podvig of fasting and prayer, all who wish to reap abundant fruits of your repentance! Hear the word of God, hear God’s commandment, and let go, forgive your neighbors their sins against you. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Amen.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)
Translated by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Also see: A Sermon with Metropolitan Kallistos (video) at: