The Path of Repentance

“Next it is necessary to discover what a ‘path of repentance’ actually means. The English word ‘repentance’ has a rather sorry history. Although it is often used to translate the Greek word metanoia, it carries some negative connotations that the Greek word does not, including mental images of people wallowing in the guilt and self-torment that seem favored by certain Western writers. The Greek word, on the other hand, is a very positive one, and denotes a progressive and positive change of attitude on the part of the person concerned. It implies a change of mind, or a change of outlook, and its impetus is entirely forward looking. In this sense, repentance may (but need not) include the dimension of sadness over past sins, but when it does so, it is in the context of reforming one’s outlook in order to avoid making the same mistakes again in the future. Taking steps in a different direction, seeing the world with new eyes, starting over….these are important features of repentance.

[…]Since everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God, repentance is one of the few genuine offerings that a person can make. Each person is free to make an offering of repentance to God, and in return He agrees to participate in the transformation of that person. It hardly needs to be said that in repentance it is the aim to change oneself, not to change the rest of the world or to change the mind of God.

In the Twelve Steps there is an implicit awareness that in any given situation in which there is a need for change, the person attempts to solve the problem by changing himself, not the rest of the world. It is not possible to repent on behalf of another person. Naturally, this makes the process very different from the expected behavior of individuals or groups of individuals (up to and including entire nations) that tend to set about solving problems by changing the rest of the world first. This distinction may mark one of the most important features of Twelve-Step living. It is God, not the individual, who is in charge. It is the individual, not God, who needs to change.” 

(Father Meletios Webber, Steps of Transformation, pp 93-94)

Repentance: Movement more than Emotion

Prodigal Son and the Forgiving Father

Repentance must not be mistaken for remorse, it does not consist in feeling terribly sorry that things went wrong in the past; it is an active, positive attitude which consists in moving in the right direction. It is made very clear in the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28) who were commanded by their father to go to work at his vineyard. The one said, ‘I am going’, but did not go. The other said, ‘I am not going’, and then felt ashamed and went to work. This was real repentance, and we should never lure ourselves into imagining that to lament one’s past is an act of repentance.  It is part of it, of course, but repentance remains unreal and barren as long as it has not led us to doing the will of the Father. We have a tendency to think that it should result in fine emotions and we are quite often satisfied with emotions instead of real, deep changes.”     (Metropolitan Anthony, The Modern Spirituality Series, pg.42)

Zacchaeus: A Contagious Change of Heart?

The Gospel lesson of Luke 19:1-10 is a parable which is wonderfully adaptable to many lesson regrading discipleship and the Christian life.  The Gospel parable speaks to us not only about the change which must occur within our hearts for us to follow Christ, but suggests to us that the change of heart also changes our relationships with everyone else.

“It’s an epiphany for him, and in a funny, upside-down way, he is singled out by Jesus much as Jesus was singled out by God at his own baptism. Jesus, at his baptism, is identified as the son of God, and beloved; so Zacchaeus is called on by name, a name which means ‘innocent’ or ‘clean’ – not at all how he is perceived by those around him – and clearly, he gets the message that he is beloved. From that sense of beloved-ness comes his change of heart, his metanoia. It is left for us to imagine what comes from that change. But I can only think that it will ultimately change the heart of the rest of Jericho, as well. That this change of personal fiscal policy on the part of the chief tax collector is going to change the attitudes of those around him.” (Sister Katrina – Nun of New Skete, GOSPEL REFLECTIONS, pg. 46)

See also Zacchaeus – A Change of Heart

We Repent Because We have Been Forgiven

Archbishop Job’s letter to Mark Stokoe on OCANews.org and admission is a good reminder that forgiveness is not granted because it is deserved.  Forgiveness and reconciliation are grace, freely given.
 
St. Paul reminds us of this truth in Romans 5:6-10  –  “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…. But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
 
We by our lives and deeds are/were weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. Christ died for us anyway.  He didn’t wait for our metanoia, change of heart, repentance.  We are not forgiven by God because we deserve it.  God’s love toward us is His action toward us not His reaction to us.
 
Knowing we are forgiven, makes it possible and inviting for us to repent.  The failure to repent, to confess one’s sin and fault, to ask forgiveness, stems from a lack of faith in God’s forgiveness and mercy, as well as from an unwillingness to humble one’s self and be a disciple of the Savior.  A failure to repent stems from a failure to accept God’s forgiveness and a refusal to believe in efficacy of the Savior’s crucifixion. 
 
Archbishop Job’s humbling repentance and seeking forgiveness shows him to be a disciple of the Crucified Lord, and worthy of the office of bishop, a rule of faith as we sing in the tropar for a holy bishop – a model for us to emulate.
 
Our forgiveness is offered to the repentant Archbishop, not because he deserves to receive it, but because He admits to being weak, a sinner, ungodly and an enemy of God, and seeks our forgiveness.  He repents not to manipulate us into doing something, but only to humble himself and set the record straight.  And we who have experienced the free gift of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross, know we are to love a repentant father and brother, because we were loved while we were yet sinners, and as our Lord has loved us (John 13:34, 15:12).