On Repentance

St. Nicholas, Equal of the Apostles and Archbishop of Japan

St. Nicholas, Equal of the Apostles and Archbishop of Japan

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint John Kronstadt

"If you fall, rise and you shall be saved." You are a sinner, you continually fall, learn also how to rise; be careful to acquire this wisdom. This is what the wisdom consists in: learn by hearing the psalm, "Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness," inspired by the Holy Spirit to the king and prophet David, and say it with sincere faith and trust, with a contrite and humble heart. After your sincere repentance, expressed in the words of King David, the forgiveness of your sins shall immediately shine upon you from the Lord, and your spiritual powers will be at peace. The most important thing in life is to be zealous for mutual love, and not to judge anyone. Everybody shall answer for himself to God, and you must look to yourself. Beware of malice.

Remember the abyss of the Savior's mercy and love for mankind. The Devil will represent the Lord's face to you as terrible and unmerciful, rejecting your prayer and repentance; but remember the Savior's words, full of every hope and boldness for us: "Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out;" and "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden"--with sins and iniquities, and the wiles and calumnies of the Devil--"I will give you rest."

To repent means to feel in our hearts the falsehood, the madness, the guilt of our sins, it means to acknowledge that we have offended, by them, our Creator, our Lord, our Father and Benefactor, Who is infinitely holy, and infinitely abhors sin, it means, to desire, with the whole soul, to amend and to expiate our sins.

Why does not the sinful soul obtain remission of its sins before it feels all their foolishness, all their destructiveness, and all their falsity from the whole heart? Because the heart is our soul; as it committed the sins, finding them at the time pleasant and plausible, therefore it must now repent of them and recognize them as leading to destruction and entirely wrong. This repentance is accomplished painfully in the heart, as the desire to sin is also usually in the heart.

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 aids to penitence. As we sin with all the powers of our soul, so penitence must be from our whole soul. Penitence in words only, without the intention of amendment and without the feeling of contrition, may be called hypocritical."

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica says, "We need repentance. You see, repentance is not only going to a priest and confessing. We must free ourselves from the obsession of thoughts. We fall many times during our life, and it is absolutely necessary to reveal everything [in Confession] before a priest who is a witness to our repentance.

Repentance is the renewal of life. This means we must free ourselves of all our negative traits and turn toward absolute good. No sin is unforgivable except the sin of unrepentance.

There are many kinds of tears. Some people cry out of rage, some to spite another person, others because they have been offended. Some cry because they have lost a loved one. There are many kinds of tears. There are also tears of repentance, when a person's conscience tells him that he has committed many sins. When he realizes his sinfulness, he weeps. That is an act of God's grace--a soul repents, and the sin is washed away by tears. These tears are tears of repentance, and they are a gift of God.

All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall. In reality, we fall into traps set by the demons. The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, "It is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking toward God." Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking toward God without looking back. What has happened--it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God.

Remembering a sin we have committed does not mean that the sin has not been forgiven. This remembrance of our sins is only a warning to us lest we become proud and sin again. In fact, we--not God--are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot forgive ourselves because of our pride. A genuine sign that a sin has been forgiven is the fact that it has not been repeated, and we are at peace. It is also important how we spend the last years of our lives. A God-pleasing life in old age blots out the sins of youth."

"Confession has taken on a double character of sacramental absolution and spiritual counseling. Confession, therefore, should not be seen purely in terms of confessing sins and receiving forgiveness, but also in terms of spiritual development. We often find ourselves committing and confessing the same sins again and again, and so we need help to overcome our sins and passions, as well as advice in regards to dealing with spiritual and moral dilemmas and other difficult situations erected by our modern life-styles."

Saint Cyprian stresses that the sinner is received back into the ecclesiastical community, namely in the Mystery (Sacrament) of the Divine Eucharist, "through the placing on of the hands of the Bishop and of the clergy" having previously confessed".

Saint Basil the Great refers to confession in the Apostolic Church (Acts 19:18) and concludes that "it is necessary that we confess our sins to those entrusted with the care-taking of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1) since even the first Christians "were confessing to the Apostles, who also baptized everyone".

Saint John Chrysostom says about priests: "While still inhabiting and walk upon the earth, they have assumed the management of heavenly affairs with authority that God did not give to the Angels or even to the Archangels. He did not in fact tell the Angels "whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in the heavens..." However, the bond of the priest touches the soul itself and extends to the heavens, and whatever the priests do down on earth is confirmed by God in the heavens. The Master approves the decision of His servants. Did He not fully given them the heavenly authority? He told them, "whoever's sins you uphold, they shall be upheld also in heaven: (St. John Chrysostom, On Priesthood, homily 3, 5).

The Orthodox Christian Church therefore continues this early Christian Tradition of Confession before a confessor."


Please note: I am truly elated, that more and more of you, are now participating in the Mysterion (Sacrament) of Repentance and Confession. I pray that those who have not ever participated in this most neglected Sacrament do so throughout Holy and Great Lent and hopefully, throughout you life here on earth. As with all the Sacraments, it is all about healing and reconciliation with the Almighty God and heavenly Father. As all of you must know that there is no repentance or reconciliation after death. Confession is therefore necessary for us to continuously rediscover our true identity as Orthodox Christians.



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

+Father George