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
However, 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 ......... and 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
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
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 mothers,
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
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. May the Lord bless struggle for
the glory of His Name.