Forgiveness Sunday


A colleague at work, who happens to be a Catholic catechumen, told me about a mass recently held at his church called the Mass of Penance (if I get the particulars wrong, knowing very little about the Western Rite, I apologize), in which forgiveness is granted, en masse, to the congregation.   There is a similar practice in the Byzantine Orthodox Church called the Forgiveness Vespers, which occurs on the eve of the forty day fast leading up to Easter.  The Sunday of Forgiveness commemorates the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden, reminding the faithful of the need to seek forgiveness before entering the holy weeks of Lent.  In practice, each congregant, led by the clergy, lines up and approaches each of her fellows in turn.  From each person she begs forgiveness for all offences of action and thought committed against her neighbor in the past year, and prostrates before her fellow before embracing.  The process is hard on the knees.  The complex emotions of contrition, combined with the physical discomfort, often lead to outright crying.

It is a devotional practice that might be recommended to the denizens of the Internet, where anonymity and the quick, reflexive nature of web-based intercourse tends to lead to easy offense.

Dear readers.  I seek forgiveness for any offense I may have provoked in the past year through careless words.  I apologize for my obscurantist, long-winded, and self-indulgent writing style.  I beg pardon for my tendency toward high-handedness and jargon.  I confess to often not knowing whereof I speak.  I retract any false claims I may have made in the past year, and regret any efforts I have made to mislead or hoodwink my readers.  I cop to being boring.  I wince at my flat attempts at humor.  I lament my misspellings and tortured prose.  I ask that you excuse me for failing to amuse, and for often wasting your time.  Most of all, knowing my own character, I am deeply sorry that, going forward, none of this is likely to change, and that I will put you through more of the same in the coming year.  For all this and more, I apologize.

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