Forgive – and eat cheese

Cheesecake square. Source:  kattebelletje / Flickr

Cheesecake square. Source: kattebelletje / Flickr

The last day before Great Lent serves as both the end of butter week and the beginning of the fast.

Cheesecake square. Source: kattebelletje / Flickr

The Sunday that ends Maslenitsa and bridges that week to the beginning of Great Lent is called Forgiveness Sunday.

This Sunday is also known as Cheesefare Sunday because it is the last day that believers will be able to eat dairy products until Easter, which is observed by Orthodox Christians on April 12 this year.

The scripture readings for the day focus on fasting. The Old Testament lesson is the story of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:16). In one sermon I read, this story is tied into the fasting theme by saying that Adam and Eve did not obey God’s instruction to fast from the fruit of the apple tree, which resulted in their punishment. I personally find this interpretation a bit of a stretch. It also seems to go against the overall theme of the day of forgiveness.

The Gospel reading, from the Gospel of Matthew, is more direct on both counts:



Expulsion from Eden

“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14)

When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18).

In a sermon written for the Forgiveness Sunday Vespers, the evening service that begins Great Lent for many believers, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, the influential Orthodox priest and writer, explored the connection between Lent and Forgiveness.

Schmemann calls on believers to ask for forgiveness for their indifference to others. “The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong,” he writes.

You can hear the echo of his words in Pope Francis’s Message for Lent 2015.

The purpose of the Great Lent is not to fast and pray for those things alone, but in the service of spiritual renewal. And the first step on this path to renewal is forgiveness.

And, in honor of Cheesefare Sunday, a recipe you’ll need to beg forgiveness from your scale for.

Cheesecake squares


Package of graham crackers or other cookies; 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 50 grams butter, melted; 

For the Cheesecake: 450 g cream cheese ( or tvorog, for you Russian residents); 2 eggs; 1/2 cup sour cream; 1/2 cup sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla 

Line a 9x13” pan with foil. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius (350 Farenheit).

Make the Crust:

Grind up cookies in a food processor or crush them until they are fine crumbs. Place in a bowl and stir in cinnamon and melted butter. Press into baking pan. Bake for 8 minutes. 

Make the filling:

Beat cream cheese, eggs, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla with a mixer. Pour cream cheese mixture over hot crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.            Cool to room temperature and then put in refrigerator at least three hours or overnight before cutting.


Read more in RBTH blog: Unorthodox Lent: A modern guide to the ancient fast>>>

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