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.
ON REPENTANCE (Part II)
by Saint John of Kronstadt
Concerning Penitence. Penitence should be sincere, perfectly free, and not in any way forced by any particular time and habit, or by the person before whom the sinner confesses. Otherwise it would not be true penitence.
Consciousness, memory, imagination, feeling, and will are help to penitence. As we sin with all the power of our soul, so penitence must be from our whole soul. Penitence in word only, without the intention of amendment and without the feeling of contrition, may be CALLED hypocritical.
What God-fearing man does not know what sorrow and oppression strike his soul, what torturing, burning fire rages in his breast when he has sinned? But besides binding and destroying the soul as it does temporarily, sin also destroys it eternally if we do not repent here of our sins and our iniquities from our whole heart. Here is also a proof by experience that sin destroys the soul temporarily and eternally. If it happens to any God-fearing person to go to sleep without having repented of the sin, or the sins, he has committed during the day, and which have tormented his soul, these torments will accompany him the whole night, until he has heartily repented of his sin, and washed his heart with tears (this is also from experience). The torments of sin will wake him up from sweet sleep, because his soul will be oppressed, bound of prisoner by sin. Now, suppose that the man who has gone to sleep in any sin and is tormented by it, is overtaken during the night by death: is it not clear that his soul will go into the other life in torment, and that as after death there is no place for repentance, he will be tormented there according to the measure of his sins? The Holy Scripture also testify to this (St. Matthew 25:46).
Take the trouble to spend only one single day according to God's Commandments, and you will see yourself, you will feel by your own heart, how good it is to fulfill God's will (and God's will in relation to us is our life, our eternal blessedness). Love God with all your heart at least as much as you love your father, your mother, and your benefactors; value with all your strength His love and His benefits to you (go over them mentally in your heart, think how He gave you existence and with it all good things, how endlessly long He bears with your sins, how endlessly He forgives you them; for the sake of your hearty repentance, by virtue of the suffering and death upon the Cross of His Only-begotten Son, what blessedness He has promised you in eternity, if you are faithful to Him); enumerate besides His mercies, which are endlessly great and manifold.
Let us fear hardened insensibility to our sins; let us fear the pride of our hearts, which says: "I do not need any forgiveness of sins; I am not guilty, I am not sinful"; or else: "My sins are trifling, they are only human ones" as though it were necessary that they should be diabolical; or: "I do not feel amiss living in my sins." This is the pride of Satan, and it is Satan himself speaking these words in our hearts. Let us feel deeply, deeply, with our whole heart, our innumerable iniquities; let us sigh for them from the very depths of our soul; let us shed tears of contrition for them, in order to propitiate to mercy the Master, Whom we have angered. Let us not in the least justify ourselves like the Pharisees, the hypocrites: "For in Thy sight," it is said, "shall no man living be justified;" and we can only propitiate God to be merciful unto us by sincere repentance for our sins. Let us put aside indifference and coldness; let us labour unto the Lord with a fervent spirit. Do not let us forget that we have now come to propitiate the Master of our lives and our righteous Judge for a long period of our sinful lives. Is this, therefore, a time for any coldness and indifference, which are not approved of even in social intercourse, in our relations with our fellow-men? Ought not our soul, on the contrary, to be turned into a spiritual fire, and pour itself forth in tears of most heartfelt repentance? O, my God, my God! Our iniquities have literally increased beyond the number of the hairs of our heads, above the number of the sand of the sea, and yet do not feel them, we are indifferent to them; we even do not cease to love them. "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Grant, Lord, unto us all a contrite spirit and a humble heart, so that we may offer Thee true repentanct. Amen.
How can the Kingdom of God come to a man during his present life? Through hearty repentance. "Repent ye; for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand". Let the impious man then give up his godless opinions, the mercenary his love of money, the deceiver his deceitfulness, the drunkard his drinking, the glutton his gluttony, the dissolute his dissipation, the proud his pride, the vain his vanity, the envious, the insatiable, his envy and his insatiableness, the impatient and murmurer his impatience and murmuring, and let everyone learn to do the acts of Christ love, and especially "to bear the infirmities of the weak."
Our Lord is mightier than the Devil. If the Devil still lives and works in our hearts through our attachments to earthly things, then how shall not Christ enter into our heart, through faith and repentance, when it was created to be the temple of God?
Pronounce the words of the prayer with heartfelt firmness. When praying in the evening, do not forget to confess in prayer to the Holy Spirit with all sincerity and contrition, those sins into which you have fallen during the past day. A few moments of fervent repentance, and you will be cleansed by the Holy Spirit from every impurity; you will be whiter than snow, and tears, purifying the heart will flow from your eyes; you will be covered with the garment of Christ's righteousness and united to Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
What would it have been if God's preventive grace had not been bestowed upon us? If it did not unexpectedly, suddenly embrace all of our being after we have sinned, and incline our hearts to repentance and tears? How accursed would we men then have been! Few, very few, could have been delivered from the burden of their sins, for our nature is slothful in exerting itself to effort, especially in the spiritual life; and without help, without powerful facility and the delights of spiritual labours, it would have abandoned them, and would have thrown aside the work of its salvation. But now God, the Most Wise and Merciful Father, sometimes lightens and sweetens our spiritual burden, sometimes makes it heavier for our trial, to teach us patience, and to weaken our crafty, destructive flesh, wisely changing the one by the other; and the work of our salvation, thank God, is thus always made possible--not too difficult and very often pleasant to us.
This present life is a life of exile: "The Lord God," it is said, "sent him forth from the garden of Eden;" and we, all of us, must earnestly strive to regain our country through repentance and works meet for repentance. Lord, "the desired fatherland give Thou me, a citizen of Paradise making me once again." The present life is the narrow what, the way of afflictions, privations and maladies. The narrower the way, the more convincing, the surer it is, that we are going the right, true way; the wider, the more certain it is that we are nigh to destruction. The present life is a daily, cruel, most bitter struggle against the enemies of our salvation, especially against the invisible, sub-celestial spirits of evil, who do not leave us in peace for a single day, but constantly make use of their craft and subtlety against us, kindling various passions within us, and wounding us in the most acute manner by their shafts. Remember, therefore, that an incessant war is waged against us; that there is no time to rest, to enjoy, and amuse ourselves in this life, which is given us for our preparation for the future one; neither when we are tried by misfortunes; nor even then, when it seems to us we are perfectly easy and happy, as, for instance, when we give ourselves to pleasure at theatres or soiree's, when we display ourselves in festive attire and ornaments, when we give ourselves up to the pleasures of the table, when we turn round in the gay dance, drive in fire equipages, etc. Amidst all your worldly pleasures, man, the greatest misfortune hangs over you. You are a sinner; you are God's enemy; you are in great danger of losing eternal life, especially if you live negligently, if you do not do works meet for repentance. The wrath of God hangs over you, especially if you do not appease the God Whom you have offended by your prayers, penitence, and amendment. Thus, this is no time for you for pleasures, but rather for tears; your pleasures should be rare, and principally such as are afforded you by faith - in spiritual festivals [in the feasts of the Church.]
(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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God