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Penitence and confession

Penitence is aided by conscience, memory, imagination, feeling, will. Just as we sin with all the powers of our soul, so must our repentance be all-encompassing. Repentance which is expressed only in words, without intention to reform and without any feeling of remorse is called hypocritical. If the realization of ones sins is becoming dampened it must be revived; if ones emotions are becoming blunted they must be awakened; if the will for reform is weakening it must be sharpened: the Heavenly Kingdom is seized by force. Confession must be sincere, deep, full.

Whoever becomes accustomed to accounting for his life during confession here, will not fear to answer at the dread Judgment of Christ. For this reason a brief court of penitence has been established here on earth, so that we cleansed and rectified through earthly repentance would be able to give a blameless answer at Christs Last Judgment. This is the first motivation for sincere and regular repentance. The longer we do not repent, the worse off we are, the more tangled becomes the web of our sins, the harder it is to answer for them. The second motivation is tranquility: the sincerer our confession, the more tranquil will be our soul. Sins are like hidden snakes, eating away at a persons heart and his entire being; they do not give him any peace, they constantly gnaw at his heart; since are like prickly thorns, continuously wounding the soul; sins are spiritual darkness. All penitents must bear the fruits of repentance.

Dear brothers and sisters communicants! Let us dread the petrified insensitivity of our sins; let us fear the pride in our hearts which says: I do not need to be absolved of sin, I am not guilty, I am not a sinner; or my sins are human, very light, as though sins need to be demonic; or I dont mind living with my sins! This is satanic pride, and Satan repeats the same words within our heart. Let us profoundly feel deep within our heart our numerous iniquities, let us sigh over them from the bottom of our soul, let us shed tears of spiritual tenderness and mollify our ired Master. Let us avoid self-justification, for it is said that in Gods sight shall no man living be justified, and it is only through sincere repentance of our sins that we can propitiate the Lord. Let us eschew indifference and coldness, and let us serve the Lord with fervent zeal; let us not forget that we have now come to atone before the Master of our life and our righteous Judge for a long period of iniquitous life. Is there any place here for indifference and coldness? Should not our whole soul turn into a spiritual flame and burst out in tears of sincere repentance? O God, our God! Our iniquities have truly multiplied as the hairs on our head, as the grains of sand in the sea, and we do not comprehend them, we are indifferent to them, we do not even stop loving them. Grant to all of us, O Lord, a contrite spirit and a humble heart, that we may bring Thee our true repentance. Amen.

From the spiritual diary of St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ.

Homily on Repentance

Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

With these profound and sacred words the Son of God the Word incarnate began His preaching to fallen mankind. A seemingly simple teaching! However, it must be experienced by ones entire life: only then will it be revealed to us that these brief words comprise the entire teaching of the Gospel. Even the holy Apostle Paul, speaking of the teaching which he had spread over the entire then known world, said that he had testified to both the Jews and the Greeks repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Brethren! In order to come to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ we need repentance; in order to remain in this saving faith we need repentance; in order to succeed in it we need repentance; in order to inherit the Heavenly Kingdom we need repentance.

Saint Ignatius Bryanchaninov
Saint Ignatius

But even the one who has come to believe in Christ, who has decided to constantly prove his faith by means of actions and conduct is again in need of repentance. What do you think, dear brethren, is the first fruit of living faith? What is the first fruit of fulfilling Christs commandments? I borrow the answer from Saint Simeon the New Theologian, who drew upon his own holy experiences to gain knowledge of the truth. He said: A thorough fulfillment of Christs commandments teaches a man his weakness. Exactly so! No sooner does a new convert to Christ begin living according to the Gospel than his fallen nature is suddenly revealed to him . This revelation of his own self engenders in the Christian a blessed humility of the spirit, causes conscious spiritual lamentation, develops a contrite and humble heart which God will not despise. Living according to the Gospel gives rise to a feeling of repentance that is naturally induced by the Gospel. Thus repentance is necessary not only to come to believe in Christ: it is necessary to stand fast in faith, to succeed in Christ; it is necessary to have a living faith in Christ. Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

It remains to be explained why in these words of the Lord the summons to repentance and the announcement of the imminence of the Heavenly Kingdom are so closely related? Why is there no intermediate spiritual labor placed between them, no intermediate circumstance? The reason is that our Lord Jesus Christ has done everything for our salvation: He has reconciled us to God, He has acquired the prepared the Heavenly Kingdom for us. There remains only one task for us humans to perform in the matter of our salvation: the task of accepting the salvation granted to us by God, the task of penitence. The Heavenly Kingdom and the Heavenly King are incredibly close to us much closer than we think. Behold, I stand at the door of the human heart, declares this King . and I knock at it with My all-holy and all-powerful Word: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. It is repentance which opens the doors of the heart to this Heavenly King.

Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Amen.


Saint Ignatius Bryanchaninov

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