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.
CONCERNING REPENTANCE AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE
By Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov)
The whole of our earthly life, from birth to our last breath, in its final conclusion will appear as a single act without duration in time. Its content and quality will be seen at a glance. Imagine an absolutely clear glass filled with water. One look will tell whether the water is clean or not and if dirty, how dirty. So will it be with us when we cross into the other world. Every impulse, however transient, of our heat, every thought, leaves its mark on the general sum of our life. Suppose that just once during the whole course of my earthly existence an evil thought crossed my mind - murder, for instance (cf., St. Matthew 15:19). This single thought will leave a black spot on the body of my life unless it be wiped out by repentant self-condemnation. Nothing can be hidden. "There is nothing covered, that shall not be known" (St. Luke 12:2-3). We often reassure ourselves with the thought that nobody saw us, no one knows what we think or do. But when we begin to strive our utmost to prepare for eternity, everything is different and we year to be rid of all that is soiled within us.
"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9). Through sincere repentance and vigorous self-conviction before God and our fellows the inner man is cleansed - the water in the glass passed through the spiritual filter of repentance, becomes pure again. Hence, when I confess, I charge myself with every evil, since I cannot find any sin in the whole world that I have not committed, if only by permitting it to flash through my mind. The very possibility of such an impulse of my spirit shows my sinful state. And who can be quite sure that he is beyond the reach of wicked ideas? And where is the guarantee that the moment when a bad thought (logismos) comes to me will not be transmuted into eternity?
So long as we have life there is the possibility of reformation; but what happens to us after we depart hence, we do not yet know. On the material plane a mass, given a sufficiently powerful thrust, can theoretically, once it has left the sphere of gravity, fly at great speed forever in infinite cosmic space. Will it not be thus with the soul? Drawn by love for God, having left the body, the soul will go to God; or, contrariwise -- having discarded God, she will be "cast out into outer darkness" (St. Matthew 8:12), into the never-ending torment which is the opposite of a state of love. Therefore, in so far as we are able to see ourselves, we must thoroughly confess our sins lest we carry them with us after we die.
Direct resistance to evil or vain thoughts is not always the best way of combating them. It is often wiser to think on the Father's mighty, pre-eternal design for us. To know that even before the foundation of the world we were chosen to be perfect (cf., St. Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 2:10; and 1:4-5) is vital if we are to live as we should. To minimize God's initial idea for us is not just an error but a really black sin. Those who do not see in themselves and, worse, do not see in their brethren any permanent worth become like wild beasts in their mutual relations, and readily take to slaughtering each other. Oh, what a paradoxical mixture is man -- on the one hand, he inspires delight and wonder; on the other, sad bewilderment at his cruelty and savagery. The soul decides to pray for the world but such prayer never attains its ultimate purpose, since no one and nothing can deprive people of the freedom to yield to evil, to prefer darkness to light.
Prayer offered to God in veritable and proper fashion, "in spirit and in truth" (St. John 4:23) is an imperishable, inviolable reality. Psychologically we may forget about it in the bustle of daily life but is preserved forever by God Himself (cf. St. Luke 10:42). On the day of resurrection and judgment all that we have done of good in the course of our life will stand at our side, to justify us; and, vice versa, all the bad will convict us if we have not repented in due fashion. Ugly deeds and unkind words can be wiped clean by tears of repentance, however odd and logically impossible this may seem. The negative consequences to ourselves of our sins are healed; the bad effects of our behavior towards our neighbors are effaced; fullness of life is reconstructed by Divine power -- not, though, through the one-sided intervention of God but always in conjunction with repentance and a right disposition, since God performs nothing with man without man's co-operation...
"The Gospel ('Evaggelion' or 'glad tidings') both begins and ends with a call to repentance. And the teaching of the holy Ascetics and the holy Fathers of the Church is permeated with the consciousness that every time may pray to God not as a sinner, his prayer fails to reach the Divine Throne since the Son of God did not come to call to repentance those who think themselves righteous and so stand outside the truth (cf. 1 John 1:8) but those who acknowledge themselves to be sinners (cf. St. Matthew 9:13).
The foul sea that lies between us and our image of Paradise, we can cross only in the boat of repentance rowed by the oars of fear. And if the boat of repentance in which we cross the sea of this world to God is not rowed by the oars of fear, then we drown in the fowl sea...Repentance is the boat, fear is the navigator, and love the divine harbor...into this harbor come all the labor and are burdened with repentance, and when we reach (the harbor of) love, e have reached God' (Saint Isaac of Syria). (Source: We shall see Him as He is)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostomos
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God