Forgiveness Sunday ushered in the Great Fast for Byzantine Catholics last weekend. A beautiful tradition unfolded before me during Vespers after the Divine Liturgy.
First, we each approached our priest. "Forgive me, a sinner," we requested of him.
"May God forgive you," he responded. "Forgive me, a sinner."
"May God forgive you," we each responded. Then, he kissed each of our shoulders and we followed down the line, repeating this process with the altar servers.
As each person made it to the end of the line, that person would take his or her position at the end so that, by the time everyone had finished, we had each exchanged this greeting with the rest of the congregation--making eye contact, begging for the forgiveness of our shortcomings, extending that grace to others, and embracing.
How joyous to enter the rigors of Lent in a state of unity with our brothers and sisters. While we are certainly unified in Christ through the Holy Eucharist, taking the time to greet each other and intentionally love and forgive each other characterizes the discipline...and joy...of Lent.
Source: The Devout Life (Blogspot)
Used with permission.