We Orthodox Christians are approaching Great Lent, the season of repentance. Repentance means both a change of heart and mind – redirecting ourselves to get back on the road to the Kingdom of God. Our goal is to change our hearts – going back to the purity of our heart at baptism. To get there we take time to reflect on our lives as well as our hearts and minds – to measure the degree to which we conform to the Gospel teachings of our Lord. We aim to root out all of those thoughts and feelings which are not in line with the teachings of Christ to love God and neighbor. We take time to uproot those thoughts and feelings which prevent us from obeying Christ in everything.
Socrates said long before Christ taught us to repent: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life (who believe life is worth living) also know from Christ that we must examine our lives, our thoughts, our words and actions to know whether we are moving towards God and His Kingdom or whether we are in fact moving away from them.
When we examine our lives we also come to measure whether we are grateful, thankful humans or whether we have become so self-absorbed as to have forgotten the gifts we have received and the Giver of every good and perfect gift. In confession we admit both to the wrongs we have done and the good things we have failed to do even though they were in our power to accomplish.
One of the tools for examining our lives is confession. Take time to prepare yourself for confession, making whatever notes you need, and come to the life-giving sacrament to receive the forgiveness of your sins and the healing of our soul. God promises to forgive our sins when we repent, but He doesn’t promise us a tomorrow on which to do it.
Great Lent is the season for us to renew our spiritual sojourn, to abandon all of the side roads and detours we have taken during the past year and to get our lives on that one way to the Kingdom. We can be distracted in life by the many things, or we can choose the better and needed way (Luke 10:41-42).
“Repentance is not a destination; repentance is a journey, and a journey has to start somewhere. This particular journey starts here, at the door, three weeks before the start of Lent. With this prayer, each member of the Church is invited to consider himself standing at the beginning of Lent looking ahead at the path of repentance. For those who are fortunate enough to devote the following ten weeks to the full observation of the Church’s prayers, that path is obvious, and although challenging, it is available to all and well-trodden by the saints of every age. Along the path, prayers, fasting, and almsgiving are punctuated by the immediate interventions of God in the holy Sacraments, particularly in confession, anointing, and in Holy Communion, providing each person with the needed support and encouragement to continue. The Lenten journey of repentance starts with an awareness that change is necessary, and ends with the transformation that outshines all transformations: the Resurrection of Our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Father Meletios Webber, Steps of Transformation: An Orthodox Priest Explores the Twelve Steps, pgs. 90-91)