Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Forgiveness and Repentance

There is a difference we shall all do well to keep in mind between seeking repentance and merely seeking forgiveness. Merely seeking forgiveness is a self-serving attempt to assuage guilt feelings, while repentance involves a certain generosity of changing course. To repent means trying to bring forth the fruits of repentance, for the sake of Christ.

If you seek only forgiveness, just say you are sorry and receive absolution, you may achieve your objective of feeling emotionally better, but only for a short while. Your conscience, by no means deceived, will still know you have not changed your intentions; and very shortly, when the initial relief wears off, you will become aware, again, that your conscience is still paining you.

Repentance, by contrast, really works. Repentance is the only cure.


Anonymous said...

Your thoughts have borne this fruit, Anastasia:

A sermon on God's love and the meaning of wrath.

“God is love,” St. John tells us. From all eternity,
the Father begat the Son from his own essence,
pouring out on him all that he is,
except for his being Father.
From all eternity,
the Father sent forth the Holy Spirit from his own essence,
Lord and life-giver,
and revealed him in the Son.

When we confess with St. John that God is love,
we speak of God as he is in himself,
and not just of how he relates to us.

When we confess with St. John that God is love,
we don’t mean a warm gushy feeling,
or loneliness that makes him need us.

From all eternity,
the Holy Trinity is complete in himself,
And he made us not because he is lonely,
but because he is love.

God’s love is a holy love, a constant fire
a love that purifies all that is unclean
a love that illumines whatever is dark
a love that perfects what is purified and illumined.

But what of God’s wrath?
The Scriptures are plain that he has it:
“the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
And there is hell, for Truth himself says,
“Depart from me, O accursed, into the eternal fire
prepared for the devil and his angels.”
And when the Truth cried out, “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?” he was not lying.

Yet God is not wrath; he is love, holy love.
Wrath is how hardened sinners experience that holy love,
that constant fire.
Wrath is God’s making our cisterns leak,
so that we might turn to him for living water.

And what of hell? St. Isaac the Syrian says,
“Love is given to all. But the power of love works two ways:
It torments sinners . . .
But it becomes a source of joy
for those who have observed its duties.
The torment of gehenna is bitter regret;
but love inebriates the souls of the sons of heaven
by its delectability.”

In his love for us, God the Son became man.
He did not become man to make bad men good;
He became man to make dead men live.
In his love for us, he took on what was ours,
in all its fullness, except for sin.
And even that, he bore: our sin, our weakness, our death,
so that in him we might live:
not for ourselves and our whims;
but for him who died and rose for us.

He even went to hell itself,
and shattered its gates,
and freed all who were there.

So let us love one another, beloved, as he has loved us;
Let us imitate God, as beloved children,
and walk in love, as Christ loved us.
Let us cover each other’s weaknesses,
and bear each others’ faults.

Let us not so much seek forgiveness as repentance;
for forgiveness without repentance would profit nothing,
and repentance always brings forgiveness and life.

Let us give thanks at all times and places,
especially when we suffer;
for when we are conformed to Christ in his death,
we will be conformed to him in his resurrection,
and share life with him in his Kingdom, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

AWESOME, Fr. Gregory! Thank you for posting this.

Yes, God's wrath is His chastisement for our correction and also His actively working at cross-purposes to people's wickedness.

It can also be spoken of as His uncompromising, eternal opposition to evil -- understanding this more as something God IS than something He DOES...He IS the opposite of evil, and His very Goodness banishes it, the way light scatters darkness, just by being there.