Author Topic: Working Towards Repentance  (Read 1150 times)

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Offline Asteriktos

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Working Towards Repentance
« on: August 08, 2013, 01:50:33 AM »
It is often said, as an interpretation of the passage in the Gospels, that the only unforgiveable sin is refusing to repent and/or accept forgiveness. Essentially, it doesn't matter how evil you've been, what you've done, what you've thought--forgiveness is always available if you are willing to repent and humble yourself and such.

What of people who have done things that are very evil, or are still capable of great evil, and who want to repent, but haven't got there yet. Such people might know intellectually or logically that this or that is very wrong, they might agree, but nonetheless they can't seem to muster much remorse or heart-felt repentance.

What should such a person do? Attempt to live a Christian life insofar as they can, I would assume. But what does this mean? What about confession, for example? They might full well confess some things, believe them to be wrong, and resolve to not do them again. They might even feel bad about them on some level. Nonetheless, perhaps their repentance or whatever does not come close to matching the act or thought. There seems to be a disconnect. Perhaps they get mad or show real emotion, compassion, repentance, or whatever over something small and trivial, yet show little to nothing over something monstrous. Is such a confession making a mockery of the sacrament? Or it is enough that they are doing the best that they can?

Yet they are sincere. It's not that they don't want to repent, they just haven't seemed to be able to in a way that most would say is best/healthy/whatever. Maybe they feel sad or bad, but in a sort of distanced or cold way. How does such a person cultivate true repentance? How do you feel it deep in your soul without it being a merely emotional response?

(As for why I'm asking this, I mentioned in another thread about people who have problems experiencing things like love. Others have trouble building mature and consistent relationships with others. Still others seem controlled by anger, or anxiety, or guilt, or in this case a lack of repentance. I'm curious about how we can deal with such people. What would we tell them? And maybe in the process of thinking about such extreme cases we might also consider what our answers mean for our own problems...)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 01:52:16 AM by Asteriktos »

Offline J Michael

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Re: Working Towards Repentance
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2013, 10:51:05 AM »
Aren't we ALL working towards repentance to a greater or lesser degree?  I remember hearing a story about a desert Father who was on his deathbed.  By all accounts the man was a saint, shown by both his works and his faith and the depth of his repentance.  Those gathered around him as he was dying were hoping for some wise last words from him.  Instead, he said something to the effect of "Lord, forgive me, I have not even begun to repent!", at which point he fell asleep in the Lord.

I know that doesn't answer all your questions (ha! like I could, anyway  :o ;D!), but maybe it's a start.
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Offline WPM

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Re: Working Towards Repentance
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2013, 12:29:12 PM »
Well, you have to have something to repent for ... and if you're in place where you don't regret anything then its all good. (No negative feelings)
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 12:30:47 PM by WPM »
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Offline J Michael

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Re: Working Towards Repentance
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2013, 01:42:32 PM »
Well, you have to have something to repent for ... and if you're in place where you don't regret anything then its all good. (No negative feelings)

Who of us has nothing at all to repent of?  Maybe the last time I was in that enviable position was immediately after my baptism (as an adult)--probably for all of 3-5 minutes.  If that.

Repentance and regret are not synonymous.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2013, 01:43:28 PM by J Michael »
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Offline Shanghaiski

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Re: Working Towards Repentance
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2013, 05:06:43 PM »
Of course, everyone has sinned, but not everyone comes to the realization of this.

While we are yet in this life, we always have a chance to repent. Our repentance is not going to be perfect. Even our virtue is fouled by our sins and passions and even our motives aren't pure. But, as St. John Chrysostom says in his Paschal homily, God honors the intention along with the deed. He accepts the imperfect because He alone is perfect. He blesses and fulfills what is offered.

The saints themselves were never satisfied with the repentance they offered. One of the desert fathers begged the Lord who came for his soul for more time to repent. Now here is a marvel. The Lord Jesus Christ is there to take the saint's soul to paradise and the holy father begs Him for more time to repent of his sins.

The thread title "working towards repentance" holds the answer, I think. In this life, in our cooperation with the grace of God, we are working on repentance. We are making a beginning. We are starting something, oftentimes over and over again. Fr. Matthew the Poor says, "What is repentance but a fall into the hands of God?" We turn to God and keep walking toward Him. Maybe we're carrying extra junk with us that we don't need. Gradually, we get rid of this on our way. Maybe we're not going in a straight line. Maybe we take one step forward and three steps back, but the important thing is to keep moving. St. Sebastian of Optina likened it to climbing Mt. Tabor. Some make it all the way to the top, some only get one step, but God takes these to Himself even so. As Fr. Matthew the Poor said again, "If Christ came to save us, the He must save us. It is impossible that He might not save us, for our salvation is the work of Christ, and it is impossible that Christ should abide within us and not work within us...for we maintain that Christ came to save sinners. And since we confess that we are chief among sinners, it is inevitable that we are to be the firstfruits of redeemed penitents. When we thus repent before Him every day, we repent not as the mighty and righteous, but as the ungodly and weak. He came to ask for that which is already destroyed, and here we are, the destroyed, demanding Him and as dead clinging to His life."
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Offline J Michael

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Re: Working Towards Repentance
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2013, 12:09:45 PM »
Of course, everyone has sinned, but not everyone comes to the realization of this.

While we are yet in this life, we always have a chance to repent. Our repentance is not going to be perfect. Even our virtue is fouled by our sins and passions and even our motives aren't pure. But, as St. John Chrysostom says in his Paschal homily, God honors the intention along with the deed. He accepts the imperfect because He alone is perfect. He blesses and fulfills what is offered.

The saints themselves were never satisfied with the repentance they offered. One of the desert fathers begged the Lord who came for his soul for more time to repent. Now here is a marvel. The Lord Jesus Christ is there to take the saint's soul to paradise and the holy father begs Him for more time to repent of his sins.

The thread title "working towards repentance" holds the answer, I think. In this life, in our cooperation with the grace of God, we are working on repentance. We are making a beginning. We are starting something, oftentimes over and over again. Fr. Matthew the Poor says, "What is repentance but a fall into the hands of God?" We turn to God and keep walking toward Him. Maybe we're carrying extra junk with us that we don't need. Gradually, we get rid of this on our way. Maybe we're not going in a straight line. Maybe we take one step forward and three steps back, but the important thing is to keep moving. St. Sebastian of Optina likened it to climbing Mt. Tabor. Some make it all the way to the top, some only get one step, but God takes these to Himself even so. As Fr. Matthew the Poor said again, "If Christ came to save us, the He must save us. It is impossible that He might not save us, for our salvation is the work of Christ, and it is impossible that Christ should abide within us and not work within us...for we maintain that Christ came to save sinners. And since we confess that we are chief among sinners, it is inevitable that we are to be the firstfruits of redeemed penitents. When we thus repent before Him every day, we repent not as the mighty and righteous, but as the ungodly and weak. He came to ask for that which is already destroyed, and here we are, the destroyed, demanding Him and as dead clinging to His life."
^Nice!
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