The Characteristics of Acceptable Repentance
You are doubtless aware that repentance is the key to the kingdom, the proof being that the Lord says: "Unless you all repent, you will all likewise perish" (Lk. 13: 3). It is also the movement of the heart towards the loving God, a remorseful turning back from the past, a looking forward to a share in the eternal glory. The Fathers have praised it profusely; St. John Saba said: ‘O Repentance, You have created virgins out of adulterers!’
man is sometimes confused and does not know whether he is on the right path to
repentance or not. If he stumbles, he thinks he is not a son. If he
goes through a period of dryness, he imagines that he has fallen back.
‘What exactly is expected of me?’; this is the
question asked by those who are perplexed about this matter.
What are the characteristics of an acceptable repentance? Our repentance has to be:
Just as one flees from imminent danger, or a stifling atmosphere, or a burning fire, so must our repentance be. It is a quick and arrow-like escape from the land of sin and a quick and arrow-like running to the bosom of God.
Just as launching a rocket with astounding speed is the only way it can get away from the force of gravity and conquer space, so is the launching of the soul towards the bosom of Christ, with speed, and without hesitation or bargaining, the only way to get rid of the attraction of sin and the flesh.
The speed at which a rocket is launched is our repentance: "I will arise and go to my father ......... amd he arose and came to his father’s house" (Lk. 15: 18). "Follow me.... and he left all, rose, and followed Him " (Lk. 5: 27, 28). As for those who look behind or hesitate to forsake the death of sin, their repentance will be difficult until they have a firm intention and are totally persuaded to forsake sin completely.
Just as repentance has to be quick, "redeeming the time for the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16), so should it be comprehensive, embracing all the human being.
I have to offer my thoughts and all the attitudes in my life to Christ, withholding nothing from Him.
I must put before Him my habits so He sanctifies them and replaces them with better ones.
I must offer Him my emotions also, giving up any that may hinder my spiritual growth and forsaking any evil tendency, envy, or jealousy..
Above all, I should give Him my senses and my ‘self’ on the altar of consecration where He completes its sacrifice, for it is the most deceitful of all and is capable of changing color like the chameleon, so that it appears holy, while in reality it is centered around itself and is hatefully egoistic.
Would that I would now pray:
‘O Lord Jesus Christ, here is my life which I lay before You as an open page, full of many tendencies, habits, emotions, and wrong attitudes. My heart cries, O Lord, here is my life which I now consecrate to You. Work in it, in all its corners; I will not withhold anything in it from You."
Repentance in the Orthodox concept, is life accompanied by strong, spiritual, and serious emotions and an awakening of the conscious to sin. It is a way of life and a constant, profound, and continuous attitude.
The apostle said: "My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin (this is the intention of the children of God and the goal of their daily struggle). And if anyone should sin, we have an advocate with the father" (this is evidence of the continuity of repentance and renewal by putting off the old and putting on the new) (1 Jn. 2: 1).
Two fundamental pivots
in the life of repentance are:
a. The intention not to commit sin and a serious fight to achieve this aim.
b. A speedy rising after any fall and transforming it into an occasion for prayer, humility, and for experiencing God’s glorious action.
Therefore, it is necessary to overcome our weaknesses daily and move forward. The most dangerous thing a person may fall into is to stop wrestling with sin, and the best thing he should do is to always move forward "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" (Phil. 3: 13).
Repentance is not a human device to worship an idol called ‘self’, but it is the continuous gift from a heart that has the humility of the poor to Christ who is able to save to the utttermost (Heb. 7:25).
Hence, the concentration of young people on themselves and on their weaknesses and constant morbid groaning at sin does not serve the cause of repentance as much as fleeing to Christ in love, to the Bible in fulfillment, and to the Church in incorporation. The negatives are superseded by the positives.
This is the last characteristic of acceptable repentance. Its fruitfulness is in a life of holiness, and in love and service to others. It is impossible to claim that our repentance is true if it is still barren and an outcome of selfishness and a prisoner of the ‘self’. The soul’s knowledge of Christ will drive it quickly forward towards other souls: "Come, see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ:" (Jn. 4: 29).
True repentance is fruitful and effective with others, and is able to attract souls to the fold in three ways:
a. an example that is not a stumbling block
b. intercessory prayer
c. a spiritual and rational call
These are the ways of service that we should practice.
Dear fathers and
You are responsible for your children in a society that is quick to change for the worst. Your bowing heads before the priests and your prayers at home are the best guidance to your sons.
And you, dear young man,
You are responsible for your younger brothers and sisters, for they will behave exactly as you do. You will have to give an account of them. Do not stray in the path of sin for your siblings will follow in your footsteps without your being aware of it and you will bear the burden of their sin on the day of judgment.
Dearly beloved, let us repent from all our hearts, quickly, comprehensively, and continuously, so that are repentance may be effective in attracting souls to Christ.
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