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Christ: Our Model for Forgiveness

by Fr. George Morelli

The presentation below was given to the Orthodox Peace Fellowship [an endorsed organization of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of America] Annual Meeting, held in Madison, Wisconsin on September 16-18 2011. I have consistently written on forgiveness as central to the teachings and practice of Christ Himself and the necessity of our emulation of this forgiveness to bring peace to those around us and achieve our own sanctification. Many of these articles are posted on Orthodoxy Today [] and the Antiochian Archdiocese [] website.

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Christ: Our Model for Forgiveness

  2. 2. Essence of the Godhead<br /> The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, is magnificently summarized by St. John Chrysostom in his Divine Liturgy: "for Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever existing and eternally the same."  <br />
  3. 3. Blessed Augustine of Hippo<br />'It would be easier to take the entire sea and pour it into this hole, than to explain the mystery of the Trinity.' The inability of mankind to comprehend God is even farther beyond the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (13: 12): "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." <br />
  4. 4. An Interrelationship of Love<br />The Divine Persons and their communicative interrelationship in love are intrinsic to the Divine Nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit cannot be conceived apart from each other, in as much as the Divine Essence will lead to Divine action (Divine Energy) and the creation of the cosmos and mankind itself. Mankind was created to be in communion with God and with one another. The depth of the Trinitarian communion of love, which is descriptive of their essence and which also will serve as the purpose of mankind's creation…<br />
  5. 5. Olivier Clément<br />The Divine Persons are not added to another, they exist in one another: the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, the Spirit is united to the Father together with the Son and 'completes the blessed Trinity' as if He were ensuring the circulation of love within it. This circulation of love was called by the Fathers [Sts. Basil and Maximus the Confessor] perichoresis, another key word of their spirituality . . . Along with kenosis [emptying]. Perichoresis, the exchange of being by which each Person exists only in virtue of His relationship with the Others, might be defined as a 'joyful kenosis'. The kenosis of the Son in history is the extension of the kenosis of the Trinity and allows us to share in it. Clement, O. (1993). The Roots of Christian Mysticism. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press.<br />
  6. 6. God is Love<br />Thus, not only the cosmos comes into existence, but also mankind comes into being. God had no need to create the cosmos, He did so out of His intrinsic love.  The Holy Trinity itself is love. As St. John tells us: "God is love.(1Jn 4: 8). St. Maximus the Confessor points out ". . . we maintain that only the Divine Essence has no opposite, since it is eternal and infinite and bestows eternity on other things."  Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (1981). The Philokalia, Volume 2: The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Makarios of Corinth . London: Faber and Faber.<br />
  7. 7. Man made in God’s image-called to be like Him<br />When God brought into being natures endowed with intelligence and intellect He communicated to them, in His supreme goodness, four of the divine attributes by which He sustains, protects and preserves created things. These attributes are being, eternal being, goodness and wisdom.  Of the four He granted the first two, being and eternal being. to their essence, and the second two, goodness and wisdom, to their volitive faculty, so that what He is in His essence the creature may become by participation. This is why man is said to have been created in the image and likeness of God. (cf. Gn 1: 26). . . .only the good and wise will attain His likeness."(St. Maximus the Confessor Philokalia II)<br />
  8. 8. Goodness and Wisdom must be chosen<br />The great spiritual perception of St. Maximus is that the being and eternity of mankind is simply given to us gratis. While God is unbounded, He freely binds Himself not to take this being and eternity from us. But goodness and wisdom is another matter completely; it is up to our volitive faculty.  We have to recognize goodness and wisdom; we have to desire goodness and wisdom, and we have to work at being wise and choosing to do good. <br />
  9. 9. Father, Thy will be done<br />
  10. 10. Jesus words to the Pharisees<br /> `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (Mt 9:13)<br />And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.“ (Mk 2: 17)<br />
  11. 11. Separate the sin from the sinner<br />In the book of Revelation Jesus (in the guise of an angel tells St. John:<br />"Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." (Rev 2:6). <br />
  12. 12. We are called to hate and not to choose sin<br />Sin is an illness and infirmity by which we succumb to our passions and make an evil choice. St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia II) calls evil "a privation of good." <br />
  13. 13. St. Symeon the New Theologian<br />Baptism does not take away our free will or freedom of choice, but gives us the freedom no longer to be tyrannized by the devil unless we choose to be. ... Whoever after baptism deliberately submits to the will of the devil and carries out his wishes, estranges himself — to adapt David's words  — from the holy womb of baptism (cf. Ps 57:3) ... We are created good by God — for God creates nothing evil — and we remain unchanging in our nature and essence as created. But we do what we choose and want, whether good or bad, of our own free will. Palmer, G.E.H., Sherrard, P. & Ware, K. (Eds.). (1995). The Philokalia, Volume 4: The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Makarios of Corinth . London: Faber and Faber.<br />
  14. 14. St. Simeon the New Theologian<br />
  15. 15. St. Isaac of Syria <br />Tolerance is intrinsic to the Love that is God: "how compassionate God is, and how patient; and how He loves creation, and how He carries it, gently enduring its importunity, the various sins and wickedness, the terrible blasphemies of demons and evil men.” (Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications).<br />
  16. 16. St. Isaac of Syria con’t<br />"all living creatures exist in God's mind before their creation." What this implies is that their place in the structure of the cosmos is retained even if someone falls away from God. <br />[Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications]<br />
  17. 17. St. Isaac of Syria<br />A compassionate person is the physician of his own soul, for, as if with a strong wind, he chases away from his inner being a dark cloud. Brock, S., trans. (1997). The Wisdom of Saint Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press, Convent of the Incarnation.<br />
  18. 18. God does not condone evil in any way<br />As St. Isaac understands it we must have relentless repentance: "continual and mournful supplication by means of prayer filled with compunction draws nigh to God in order to seek forgiveness of past offenses, and entreaty for preservation from future [offenses]." And for what purpose? St. Isaac answers for us that "they [sinners] will be perfected in love for Him, with a perfect mind which is above any aberration in all its stirrings.“<br />[Wensinck, A. J. (ed., trans.) (1923). Mystic Treatises by Isaac of Nineveh. Amsterdam, Holland: KoninklijkeAkademie Van Wetenschappen.]<br />
  19. 19. God’s Complete & Impassible Love Toward All<br />Everyone has a single place in [God's] purpose in the ranking of love, corresponding to the form He beheld in them before He created them and all the rest of created beings.... He has a single ranking of complete and impassible love towards everyone, and He has a single caring concern for those who have fallen, just as much as for those who have not fallen.<br />
  20. 20. Love Is Actualized by Forgiveness<br />But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled  to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny" (emphasis added) (Matthew 5: 22-26).<br />
  21. 21. Repentance: The Condition for Forgiveness<br />When someone who offends God or us they must repent. God, and we in imitation of Him, should embrace the repentant sinner with God's own love, in order to forgive him. We have to pray that we or anyone who has offended us or God, be reconciled to God and to us through His Church. The foundation of this repentance is a sense of his unfaithfulness to God and offense to us, contrition of heart, and determination to amend and have ametanoia, a fundamental change of mind and heart so as not to offend again.<br />
  22. 22. The Grave Danger of Setting Conditions for Repentance<br />Because of the brokenness of mankind, the individual who has been slighted is angry and frequently wants "blood" retribution. God's conditions for repentance, on the other hand, are so merciful, as to almost go unnoticed. Consider St. Luke's report of the two thieves, on their crosses next to the crucified Jesus:<br />
  23. 23. How Little it takes to ask for Forgiveness<br />One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (emphasis added) (Luke 23: 39-49).<br />
  24. 24.
  25. 25. Barriers to Forgiveness<br />Psychological<br />Spiritual<br />
  26. 26. Psychological Barriers<br />Current research psychology has helped us understand dysfunctional emotions such as anger have a cognitive theme and distorted irrational cognitive structures initiating them [Beck, A.T., Rush, S., Shaw, B. & Emery, G (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. NY: Guilford Press.];Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. NY: The New American Library; Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus NJ: Lyle-Stuart.] Beck, for example found the theme of anger is significant intrusion. The angry individual perceives some one has intruded on them or on someone or something they love and possess that he considers to be an extension of himself. The value of what they consider significant is such, that they feel they have a "right" to be angry. This is an exalted state of self-importance by which people define themselves which gives them this "right." It reveals an underlying postulate of self-definition that allows all anger to be justified.<br />
  27. 27. Irrational Cognition Con’t<br />Added to the interpretive perception are evocative cognitive distortions such as selective focusing: disregarding some nice things someone has done while centering on an error they made; mind-reading: concluding, without proof, the reason for someone's improper action was to "get at" the angry person and/or was directed to the person; fortune telling: predicting only unseemly things will happen to you and this will continue in the future; and catastrophizing: evaluating the errors, improper actions and unseemly behaviors of others as more that 100% bad. These distortions enable the individual to create ongoing irrational mental scenarios that fuel the anger emotion. (For further explanation of how these distortions trigger and interact with anger.Morelli, G. (2005, October 14). The Beast of Anger & Morelli, G. 2007, December 02). Forgiveness is Healing<br />
  28. 28. Spiritual Understanding of Significant Intrusion - 'Anger'<br />The root cause cannot be made more clear than what St. John of the Ladder (1982) has told us: "Pride is a denial of God, an invention of the devil, contempt for men. ... the source of anger, the gateway of hypocrisy." (italics mine). St John Cassian calls the demon of pride " ... most sinister, fiercest of all ... " (Philokalia I).<br />
  29. 29. Spiritual Cure of Anger: Humility<br />The ultimate model of humility is Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. This was told to the Philippians by St. Paul who said:<br />Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians: 5-8).<br />
  30. 30. St Silouan the Athonite <br />The reasoning mind, for example, will reject the commandment "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1) as nonsensical, urging that the faculty of being able to judge is a distinctive quality in man, making him superior to the whole world and affords him the power to dominate. [Sophrony, Archimandrite. (1999). St. Silouan the Athonite. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.]<br />
  31. 31. St. John of the Ladder points out:<br />Pride makes us forget our sins ... the remembrance of them leads to humility." Thus we must heed the further words of St. John: "He must not allow the memory of things that afflict him to be stamped on his intellect lest he inwardly sunders human nature by separating himself from other man although he is a man himself. When a man's will in union with the principle of nature in this way, God and nature are naturally reconciled. (St. John of the Ladder (1979). The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery)<br />
  32. 32. St. Isaac the Syrian <br />“…the person who has attained to knowledge of his own weakness has reached the summit of humility.” (Brock, 1997) Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press.<br />To bear a grudge and pray, means to sow seed on the sea and expect a harvest.<br />
  33. 33. St. Isaac the Syrian(1989) <br />But I say, if the merciful one is not also beyond justice, he is not merciful. That is, not only from his own part will he be merciful to others, but also he will endure injustice gladly and voluntarily. He will not establish and seek full justice in his dealing with his companion but will be merciful to him; because when he overcomes justice with mercy he will weave for himself a crown, not of those who are just according to the Law, but of the perfect according to the New Covenant<br />
  34. 34. St. Silouan the Athonite. <br />St. Silouan tells us: "God is love, absolute love embracing every living thing in abundance. God is present in hell, too, as love. By allowing man to know this love, in so far as he is able, the Holy Spirit reveals to him the path to the fullness of being." A short account, related by the saints biographer and cell attendant, Archimandrite Sophrony, of an exchange between the St. Silouan and a visiting hermit monk It shows the unfathomable depth of love God has and we should have toward all who have offended us: The hermit "declared with evident satisfaction that 'God will punish all atheists. They will burn in everlasting fire.'"<br />Obviously upset, the Staretz said, "Tell me, supposing you went to paradise, and there you looked down and saw someone burning in hell-fire - would you feel happy?" "It can't be helped. It would be their own fault," said the hermit.<br />The Staretz answered him in a sorrowful countenance. "Love could not bear that," he said. "We must pray for all."<br />
  35. 35. St. Silouan the Athonite<br />
  36. 36. The demon of political anger<br /> Political Outrages: a different class of offenses.. This included not only politicians, political parties, but even the citizens themselves of some countries. It is as if the realm of government and politics is on a completely different domain or level than that of one to one individual interaction. It is as if our Lord's teaching on forgiveness should not extend to groups making up the political arena.<br />
  37. 37. Deindividuation<br />Research psychology gives some insight about about why applying forgiveness to groups may be more difficult than to individuals. Individuals in groups are often de-individuated. [Diener, E., Fraser, S. C., Beaman, A. L. and Kelem, R. T. (1976). Effects of deindividuation variables on stealing among Halloween trick-or-treaters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 33(2), 178-183.]<br />We do not see them as individuals but as group members. They are without individual personhood. By definition 'groups' are an abstraction. Violent, destructive acts, and surely unforgiveness therefore, is more easily applied to groups and by members of groups to each other.<br />
  38. 38. Fruit of Humility: Forgiveness<br />What is forgiveness? Forgiveness cannot be understood without understanding the nature of sin and it's effects. St. Matthew (22: 37-40) records the words of Jesus: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." Sin is a breaking of God's Laws to love Him and to love our neighbor, despite and in the face of His infinite Love for us.<br />
  39. 39. What Forgiveness Does Not Mean<br />Forgiveness does not mean we forget, excuse, condone or demand some payback. Forgiveness does not mean we have 'warm fuzzy' feelings toward someone who may have offended us. It also does not mean we automatically 'trust' anyone to act appropriately. Trust is a process and has to be earned in time by experience. It also does not mean that the perpetrator of for offenses shown by scientific research that may to have no cure or have a high recidivism rate should be 're-established' in the community in the same status, (occupation, style of life, etc.) the offender had before the offense. We have heard the expression 'hate the sin but love the sinner.' Actual Scriptural quote: “Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Rev 2: 6)<br />
  40. 40. Condemn an Action, Not a Person<br />St. Dorotheos of Gaza [Wheeler, E.P. (1977). (ed., trans.), Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.]is able to describe this beautifully: "Condemning a man is saying: 'he is a wicked liar, or he is an angry man, or he is a fornicator. For in this way he judges the condition of his soul and draws a conclusion about his whole life, saying it is of such a kind and condemns him as such. This is a very serious thing.. For it is one thing to say, 'He got mad', and another thing to say 'He is bad tempered ... .." [emphasis mine]. He 'got' mad, is a problem to be and issue to be addressed. He 'is' bad tempered is a label of and condemnation of his being.<br />
  41. 41. Aids to Forgiveness<br />The words of Christ on the cross are very telling in this matter. Our Lord said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Jesus was able to put himself in the mind of those calling for His death and actually crucifying Him. Each had their own reasons for participating in His death. Our Lord was able to take the perspective of his killers: they knew "not what they do." <br />
  42. 42.
  43. 43. Taking The Perspective of the Other<br />Enright (2001) reports on research indicating taking the perspective of the persons who have offended has been shown to be a significant aid in leading to forgiveness. He recommends his patients to reflect on such questions as: "what life was like for him or her when growing up; what life was like for him or her at the time of the offense; what he or she is like when you ... (see) him or her in a spiritual, religious sense." This process which Enright calls taking perspective is similar to the psychological process of empathy, which may be defined as "thinking and feeling what the other is thinking and feeling."Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness is a Choice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.<br />
  44. 44. EMPATHY & ATTENUATED AGGRESSION<br />Research by Hoffman, 1988; Eisenberg & Mussen 1989; and Greenberg, Kusche, Cook, & Quamma 1995; has linked increase in empathy to attenuated aggression. Cunningham (1985) has reported on successful application of empathy to 'forgiveness' in a pastoral setting. Cunningham, B.B. (1985). The Will to Forgive: A Pastoral Theological View of Forgiving. Journal of Pastoral Care. 39:141-149;Hoffman, M.L. (1988). Moral Development. In M.H. Bornstein & M.E. Lamb (Eds.), Developmental Psychology: An Advanced Textbook. (2nd ed., pp. 497-548). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum; Eisenberg, N., & Mussen, P.H. (1989). The Roots of Prosocial Behavior in Children. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; Greenberg, M.T., Iusche, C.A., Cook, E.T. & Quamma, J.P. (1995). Promoting Emotional Competence in School-Aged Children: The Effects of the PATHS Curriculum. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 117-136.<br />
  45. 45. Love of God-Love of Neighbor <br />Love of God, means to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul. Love of neighbor plain and simple means to use all our heart mind and soul to desire and work for the good and welfare of our neighbor. <br />
  46. 46. Reconciliation Leads to Love<br />We are reminded of the wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian (Brock, 1997): "Just because the terms 'wrath', 'anger', 'hatred' and the rest are used of the Creator in the Bible, we should not imagine that He actually does anything in anger, hatred or zeal. Many figurative terms are used of God in the Scriptures, terms which are far removed from His true nature. Among all God's actions there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and end of His dealing with us." May I add this should be the beginning and end of our relationships with all mankind in which we are all made in God's image. Those who have offended most egregiously and performed the most horrific of offenses are to be loved the most. In this same spirit we have to be reconciled in love to those whom we have offended.<br />
  47. 47. What Love is Not<br />Love is not a feeling. Love does not mean we condone or excuse or minimize evil acts. Love does not mean we have to be blind to the brokenness and sinful predilections of mankind. Did not Our Lord Himself tell his disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10: 16). We have to use our intelligence and be wise.<br />
  48. 48. Examples of ‘What Love is not’<br />As indicated above in discussing what forgiveness does not mean, applying even the simple wisdom of our God given intelligence and experience, love (and forgiveness-reconciliation) does not mean for example, allowing an alcoholic to go back to his former occupation as a bartender, or a pedophile to be a child caretaker. This can be applied to many examples of inclinations that humans have that through modern scientific research have been found can be of potential harm to self and others: abuse, use of drugs, sexual problems, etc.<br />
  49. 49. What Does it Mean for Us to Forgive?<br />Forgiveness does mean we make sure the offending individual, who has repented and shown sorrow for their sin or offense towards us is given physical, mental, and spiritual care. Even if some offender has not shown repentance and sorrow we are required to give them basic physical, spiritual and an even greater abundance of spiritual care. All are to be looked on as sons and daughters of God. All are given respect and courtesy. They are to be prayed for and approached by us in an attempt to reconcile. Repentant offenders, are given the Holy Mysteries of the Church so they can grow in grace and be in union with all the blessed in paradise. All at the very least are to be prayed for with all our heart, mind and soul that all who offended us can reach paradise<br />
  50. 50. Indirect Ways Of Asking Forgiveness<br />It is crystal clear that humans do not start their physical, psychological or spiritual lives in a "perfect state." The scientific study of human development suggests psychological growth occurs in stages and involves gradual bio-social-behavioral shifts and growth Cole, M., Cole, S. & Lightfoot, C. (2005). The Development of Children. NY: Worth.<br />The writings of the Church Fathers reveal that spiritual growth also takes place in steps or stages. The title of one of the classics of Eastern Orthodox spiritual wisdom, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent" by St. John of the Ladder (579-649) bears out that spiritual development takes places as in Jacob's dream: "And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!" (Genesis 28:12).<br />
  51. 51. Shaping<br />Behavioral psychologists use a technique called "shaping" to bring about appropriate behavior. It involves rewarding small increments in desirable behaviors that are similar and lead to the correct appropriate behavioral goal [Morelli, G. (2005a, September 17). Smart Parenting Part 1. Morelli, G. (2005b, October 14). The Beast of Anger.]<br />It is important to start out with the level a person is capable of performing then rewarding the next step. For example, the parent of a child who tosses all their clothing on the floor might reward their child for picking up one clothing item, followed by another reward when the child picks up two items, until an entire messy room was cleaned up. The same principle holds true in both asking for, and giving, forgiveness. Not everyone will be able to start out with the desirable straight talking described above and must approach the process incrementally.<br />
  52. 52. Different Starting Points <br />Some example of include: restarting friendly communication; doing something nice that unexpected by the other; offering to help on a problem; telling a humorous story; or suggesting resuming a previously halted activity. When someone reaches out even indirectly and is ignored, it usually is perceived as aversive by the person who has initiated the imperfect but desirable reaching out action. This decreases the likelihood the person will continue to grow and develop into either asking or giving forgiveness (Morelli, 2005a). For example, after some disagreement but before actual forgiveness is asked, one of the individuals may suggest going out for a walk. No doubt the ideal is straight talking. Yet, most people cannot jump to the top rung of the ladder. It is psychologically sound, and more importantly Christ-like to go along with our brothers and sisters in Christ - as well as all mankind (i.e. Jews, Moslems, atheists, etc.) -- who are climbing the ladder one step at a time.<br />
  53. 53. Application To Nations & Groups<br />The example above is based on one to one personal or family interaction. However political parties and nations themselves often act in similar ways. We see examples of nations that took years, decades, even centuries to either straight talk wrongs committed by themselves or to forgive the repenting nations. Many times small steps are taken even before this goal is reached such as increased trade, debt alleviation, medical or food supply help, disaster aid, etc. Other important first steps may be groups solving common problems [Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R. & Sherif, C.R. (1961). Intergroup Cooperation and Competition: The Robbers Cave] Experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.and dissemination of favorable information about the groups to each other [Worschel, S, (1986). The Role of Cooperation in Reducing Intergroup Conflict. In S. Worschel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.] These may be small, but significant steps in the forgiveness process. For a Christian viewing all mankind, despite intra-national or international group affiliation, as "children of God, made in His image and called to be like Him" is the most favorable information that could be received.<br />
  54. 54. The Good Samaritan<br />
  55. 55. God's Tolerance Is Eternal<br />God tolerates sinners eternally because he is waiting for them to return to His eternal love. Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev Alfeyev, Archbishop Hilarion (2009). Christ the Conqueror of Hell: The Descent to Hades from an Orthodox Perspective. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. references a verse from the 6th Ode of the Holy Saturday Orthros (Lamentation) Service. In the Antiochian Orthodox usage the verse reads:<br />Verily, Hades ruled the race of man, but not forever; for thou, O mighty One, when thou wast placed in the grave didst demolish the locks of death with the palm of thy hand, O Element of Life, proclaiming to those sitting yonder from the ages a true salvation, having become, O Savior, the Firstborn of the dead. . . .<br />He then goes on to explain how the verse proclaims the boundless eternal mercy of God as understood by St. Gregory of Nyssa (and, by implication, St. Issac of Syria; Alfeyev, Bishop Hilarion (2000). The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications.<br />
  56. 56. The Purpose of Tolerance<br />The short answer is that God is waiting for us to love Him in response to His Love for us. The longer answer is given by St. Isaac of Syria:<br />So then, let us not attribute to God's actions and His dealings with us any idea of requital. Rather we should speak of Fatherly provision, a wise dispensation, a perfect will which is concerned with our good, and complete love. If it is a case of love, then it is not one of requital; and if it is a case of requital, then it is not one of love. Love.... looks to what is most advantageous in the future: it examines what is to come, and not things of the past. (quoted by Alfeyev, 2000)<br />
  57. 57. Expulsion from Paradise<br />We are called to interiorize God's eternal readiness to forgive in our own lives.<br />At the very least praying for the good and welfare of all who have wounded us, or those whom we love and cherish is the first and  minimum step we can take in forgiveness. [Morelli, G. (2007a,  February 4) The Spiritual Roots of Altruism: The Good Samaritan.; Morelli, G. (2007b, April 03). The Psycho-Spirituality of Forgiving People and Nations.]The icon of Forgiveness Sunday depicts Adam and Eve's expulsion from Paradise, by God, because of their disobedience and pride. But it also depicts God's readiness to forgive them.<br />
  58. 58. Harvest of Forgiveness: Theosis<br />St. Silouan has pointed out that, "those who dislike and reject their fellow-man are impoverished in their being. They do not know the true God, who is all-embracing love." St. Peter in his second epistle tells us what God has given us: "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness ... and become partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4). We know this is not participation or becoming God in His Being or Essence but sharing in the warmth and light of His "Divine Energy" Staniloae, D. (2003). Orthodox Spirituality: A Practical Guide For The Faithful And A Definitive Manual For The Scholar. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press<br />
  59. 59. CHRIST: The Prince of Peace<br />
  61. 61. CHRIST: The Prince of Forgiveness<br />