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 III)
by Saint John of Kronstadt
It is only necessary to represent to yourself and firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is everywhere, in every place; that He is an incomplex Being, that in Him all heaven is near us, as upon the palm of the hand, with all its Angels and Saints, so that we have only to call upon the Lord, or upon the Virgin Mother of God, or any Saint from the depth of the heart, with clear-sighted faith, with heartfelt repentance for the sins by which we are bound by the enemy or by which we have bound voluntarily ourselves--and our salvation will immediately shine forth. Marvelous is the saving power of Our Lady; it flows into the heart like a healing balsam, or like fragrant, life-giving air, or like calming water. Only look on Her with the eyes of your heart, trusting in Her mercy and help.
I thank Thee, my Lord, my Master, and my Judge, for teaching me how to pray simply to Thee, for hearing my calling upon Thee, for saving me from my sins and sorrows, and for rightly directing my ways. I called upon Thee (in the sin of my wickedness) in the words of the Church prayer: "O, Lord, Our God, Who grants forgiveness unto men through repentance..." And as soon as I finished this prayer, peace and lightness established themselves in my soul.
Sins are secret serpents, gnawing at the heart of a man and all his being; they do not let him rest, they continually suck his heart; sins are prickly thorns, constantly goring the soul; sins are spiritual darkness. Those who repent must bring forth the fruits of repentance.
I love to pray in God's temple, especially within the holy altar, before the Holy Table or the Prothesis (Table of Oblation where the priest prepares the holy Gifts), for by God's grace I become wonderfully changed in the temple. During the prayer of repentance and devotion the thorns, the bonds of the passions, fall from my soul, and I feel so light; all the spell, all the enticement of the passions vanish, and I seem to die to the world, and the world, with all its blessings, dies for me. I live in God and for God, for God alone. I am wholly penetrated by Him, and am one spirit with Him. I become like a child soothed on its mother's knee. Then my heart is full of most heavenly, sweet peace. My soul is enlightened by the Light of Heaven. At such times we see everything clearly; we look upon everything rightly; we feel friendship and love towards everyone, even towards our enemies, readily excusing and forgiving everyone. O, how blessed is the soul when it is with God! Truly the Church is earthly paradise.
If you experience a feeling of hunger or thirst, and wish to eat and drink, think of the hunger or thirst of the soul (it thirsts after righteousness, for justification, for Christ, for sanctification), which, if you do not satisfy, your soul may die from hunger, crushed by the passions, weakened and exhausted; and in satisfying your bodily hunger, by conversing with God, by heart-felt repentance for your sins, by reading the story and precepts of the Gospel, and especially by the communion of the Divine Mysteries (Sacraments) of the Body and Blood of Christ. If you are fond of dressing elegantly, or when you put on your clothes, think of the incorruptible garment of righteousness, in which our souls be arrayed, or of Jesus Christ Who is our spiritual raiment, as it said: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." A passion for dress often entirely thrusts out of the heart the very thought of the incorruptible raiment of the soul, and turns the whole life into vain care about elegance in dress.
Nothing in the world is more important than the salvation of human souls, and there is no subject more worthy of unceasing and perpetual remembrance than the redemption of the world by the Son of God from sin, the curse and eternal death. The Holy Church has engraved in her Divine services, by means of eternally indelible letters, by images and rites, the whole ordering of our salvation, in order that men-- so inclined to forget God, and the salvation of their souls, and all that God has done for their salvation, eternal joy and bliss--should constantly have, so to say, before their eyes, and as though within their reach, all God's most wise and good deeds concerning them, and that they may continually be urged to repentance, amendment, and salvation, and shun the vanities of this corrupt and fleeting world. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
Do not forget yourself in looking upon the bodily face--look more attentively with your inward vision upon the face of your soul, what aspect it wears: is it not disfigured by the passions? And if so, destroy this disfigurement by prayer and tearful repentance. Do not forget yourself in looking upon beautiful raiment: it is corruption; but consider the incorruptible raiment of your soul, in what state it is: Is it not hideous and impure, owing to frequent transgression, both secret and evident; and strive to clothe your soul in the imperishable beauty of meekness, humility, chastity, and purity, mercy and righteousness.
Afflictions are a great teacher; afflictions show us our weaknesses, passions and the need of repentance; afflictions cleanse the soul, they make it sober, as from drunkenness, they bring down grace into the soul, they soften the heart, they inspire us with a loathing for sin, and strengthen us in faith, hope, and virtue.
(To be continued)
Please note: As Orthodox Christians reading the Lives of the Saints and the writings of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church, we come to understand that there is so much more to our Faith. For too many years, Orthodox Christians, have felt wrongly, that one had to simply be baptized and chrismated in the Church without a personal commitment, without responsibilities, without a prayer life, without a virtuous life, without obedience to the Commandments of Christ and His Church, without a sacramental life, without a life of charity, without even, a life of faith.
The prevailing attitude has been to attend a Divine Liturgy once a while and to receive Holy Communion without any spiritual preparation, i.e., no fasting, no Confession, no repentance, no reconciliation with one's enemies, etc. The feeling and attitude has been of entitlement! The word "entitlement" is the defined in The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, "a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group." There are those people who simply believe that because they are of Greek, Russian, American, Polish, Serbian, Rumanian, Bulgarian origin or other, that they have inherited the Orthodox Christian Faith, by simply, belonging to one of these ethnic groups of people, just as they have inherited all other, cultural customs, and traditions. Or, simply because their parents, were among all those others, who were instrumental of the founding of the local parish. Or, because, they support the local parish financially, etc. etc.
No one is entitled! The true and genuine attitude within our Holy Orthodox Church is that which the celebrant the priest says at the Divine Liturgy as he lifts up the Precious Gifts (bread and wine) in the sign of the a cross, signifying that the Sacrifice of the Altar is substantially the same as the Sacrifice of the Cross, "Τά Σά εκ των Σών Σοί προσφέρομεν κατά πάντα και διά πάντα."
("Thine own of Thine own we offer to Thee, in all (time) and for all (kindness to us). Everything that we posses is God's, even that, which we offer, to be consecrated by the Holy Spirit, i.e., bread and wine, is not ours to give, but His.
My dear friends, and syndiakonoi, we must never allow ourselves to be proud, egotistical, or arrogant; instead, let us always be meek, humble, and thankful for everything that we are given by Our Creator and Savior Jesus Christ. We must always approach the Holy Eucharist with a sense of unworthiness.
Remember! "With fear of God, with faith and love draw near." ("Μετά φόβου Θεού, πίστεως και αγάπης προσέλθετε.")
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!"
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God