My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassion blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know mine iniquity, and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee only have I sinned and done this evil before Thee, that Thou mightiest be justified in Thy words, and prevail when Thou art judged. For behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me. For behold, Thou hast loved truth; the hidden and secret things of Thy wisdom hast Thou made manifest unto me. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be made clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow. Thou shall make me to hear joy and gladness; the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice. Turn Thy face away from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and with Thy governing Spirit establish me. I shall teach transgressors Thy ways, and the ungodly shall turn back unto Thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; my tongue shall rejoice in Thy righteousness. O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. For if Thou hadst desired sacrifice, I had given it; with whole-burnt offerings Thou shalt not be pleased. A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a heart that is broken and humbled, God will not despise. Do good, O Lord, in Thy good pleasure unto Sion, and let the walls of Jerusalem be build. Then shalt Thou be pleased with a sacrifice or righteousness, with oblation and whole-burnt offerings. Then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar.
REPENTANCE: JOYFUL MOURNING
By Geronda (Elder) Ephraim of St. Antony's Greek Orthodox Monastery in Arizona (Source: The Art of Salvation. The Holy Monastery of Saint Nektarios, Roscoe, New York)
God commands us through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah, "Wash yourselves, and make yourselves clean. Put away the evils from your souls before My eyes. Cease from your evils. Learn to do good" (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Repentance presupposes sin. Whoever has not sinned does not need to repent. All of us, and I first, sense our sinfulness. Sin is an injury and a wound. It injures the soul, wounds our conscience, and induces severe pain. It injures the body of Christ: the Church to which we as members belong. Sin serves as a nail in the body of Christ and in His recrucifixion.
Who has not been wounded by sin? Who has not sinned with words, thoughts, or actions? Who has not been struck right in the chest by the pangs of the conscience? Whoever alleges that he has not sinned has uttered the biggest lie possible. All they who suffer from ignorance and lack self-knowledge lie and claim that they have no sins.
The great and irrefutable truth is that, without exception, we have all been wounded by the arrows of sin. Nonetheless, if sin has wounded us, repentance is our medicine.
Repentance! What a magnificent and blessed gift from God to man! Do you realize what it means to obligate God, at any hour and moment you desire, to wipe clean your criminal record? Imagine that there is a certain criminal with a heavy criminal record. Imagine that this person, who has committed an endless series of crimes, suddenly make an appeal that compels the judge to pardon him and expunge his offenses. This appeal is repentance. God confirms this truth through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah: "Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. And even if your sins are like crimson, I shall make them white like show" (Isaiah 1:18).
Many Christians have the reverent desire to be baptized in the Jordan River. However, no matter how many times we enter the Jordan River, and no matter how many bottles of holy water we drink, if we do not repent we will not be saved. The Jordan River is close by; it is next to us. It flows in the Church. It is sweet repentance and confession. If we wash ourselves with repentance, all our sins are extinguished.
The bath of repentance constitutes a second baptism. One does not unknowingly undergo this divine baptismal bath, which is termed repentance, as is the case with infant baptism; rather, it takes place consciously and decisively. I wash myself with the intention of not becoming dirty again, regardless of whether or not I accomplish this. I wash myself fully determined not to defile the robe of my soul again.
Repentance is a response to God's mercy; more precisely, God's mercy is the response to man's repentance. After Christ's advent and arrival, repentance is not merely regret and confession of sin. It is remission, forgiveness, effacement, and complete obliteration of sin.
Repentance is a lamentation that leads to joy. It is joyful mourning. Repentance is sowing that takes place with tears, and subsequently leads to a liberating harvest. We cry for many things here in the world; however, our tears cannot bring back the things we have lost. We have lost valuable items. No matter how much we cry, we do not regain them. For example, we lose our family members when they die. No matter how many tears we shed, they will not come back to life.
Sin deprives our conscience of peace. When we repent and cry for our sins, these are the only tears that restore the peace we have lost. When we sin, we lose the most precious of objects: our soul. The soul dies when it sins. If we cry when a friend or a loved one dies physically, we must cry a thousand times more when our soul (or another person's soul) dies. If we cry for our sins, our soul will be resurrected; whereas, no matter how much we cry over the casket of a deceased family member, their body will not come back to life again.
We must cry for our sins like David who would soak his pillow with his tears (cf. Psalm 6:7).
Let us weep like the harlot whose tears became more fragrant than myrrh as they set the feet of Christ (cf. St. Luke 7:38). Let us cry as the Apostle Peter did after he denied his Teacher (cf. St. Matthew 26:75). Let us cry as the Apostle Paul did whenever he remembered that he had persecuted the Church of Christ. Let us cry like the great sinners who subsequently became holy. Let us cry not only for our own sins, but also for the sins of others.
Has someone else sinned? Do not judge him; that is, do not criticize and condemn him. Cry for his mistake as if it was your own fall. We are "each others members" (cf. Roman 12:5). The other person is a member of and belongs to the same body as you: he is a member of the Body of Christ.
You should cry for this person just as the Apostle Paul would cry for others: "I did not cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). Cry for your child who transgressed; for the Christian who slipped and fell.
Sin is like fire. The droplets that extinguish this fire are the droplets of repentance. If the house next door to you catches fire, won't you run to help put out the fire? If you remain indifferent, the fire will spread to your home as well. Similarly, you cannot remain indifferent when someone else is being burned by the inferno of sin. Shed tears in order to put out the fire. If you remain indifferent, you will also be at fault; you will also have a sin. If, however, you not only remain indifferent but also make fun of, criticize, and openly ridicule the other person's sin, then God will permit you to fall as well, and the fire of your sin may turn out to be your initiation into Hell, according to Saint John Chrysostom.
The venerable Chrysostom insists that we must lament for the sins of others, if we truly love them. If the other person is about to be devoured by a wolf, will we allow him to perish? If another person is in danger of drowning, will we let him sink?
Repentance erases all sins!
Two realities exist. The first is God's compassion and the second is man's sinfulness. I will ask you: Which of the two is greater? No matter how many sins we have, they are a specific and finite amount. God's compassion, however, is infinite and immeasurable.
Saint John Chrysostom uses the example of charcoal, in order to console sinful people. A lit charcoal will burn you. If, however, you throw this lit charcoal into the sea, which will prevail? The sea or the charcoal? The sea, of course. As soon as the charcoal hits the water, it is extinguished and disappears.
Sin is a charcoal that scorches and burns our insides. What excruciating pain! Don't allow this condition to persist. Take hold of if during the life-saving moment of confession and throw it into the sea of God's compassion. Your charcoal of sin will immediately be extinguished and disappear. If you tell me that you have not only one charcoal but many sins that are burning you, I will respond that God's mercy is not just a sea: it is an entire ocean. Actually, it is something infinitely larger. The sea and the oceans have a certain limit, boundary, and end. God's compassion, however, is incalculable, limitless and endless.
The venerable Saint John Chrysostom continues to assure us that when we repent and weep, we should be certain that the sponge of God's love erases all our sins. "The Blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). And the love of God wipes away all sins--not even a trace remains.
(To be continued)
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR ALL THINGS!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God