“…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned…and from that time Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand…”
Wherever the Kingdom of Heaven is – there is repentance. We cannot have the one without the other. Never. Consider its importance – of all the words, thoughts and ideas that our Lord could have shared with us in his first sermon on earth – The WORD uses His very first words to clearly teach us the most important reality of our faith: Repent. Return. The basic idea of “repent” is fairly simple. It means turn around, change your mind, heart, spirit, and actions. Herein lies the struggle; although its meaning may be simple the attainment of it is not. Repentance is necessary, simple and difficult… all at the same time. It is good and right only eight days into this new civic year, on the Sunday after Theophany, at the beginning of twelve long months of life, living and activity that the Church gives us a needed reminder – a precious gift today – a resolution truly worthy of making and keeping – Christ gives us the KEY that unlocks everything, the only door that opens to us the gates of paradise , the one essential necessity to experience the fullness of faith, and true joy – today we are given the way, the truth and the life in one simple command: repent.
Today I’d like to share three short reflections on repentance; but first a very important disclosure and confession: of what I am about to speak – I fail miserably. I am no expert; neither am I an example or model, for I’m a sinful man and struggle mightily about the very thing of which I am about to speak to you today – but like you; we all can flee to the feet of holy and pious elders who do repent well who can enlighten us and encourage us – and together we can listen and learn and see the path the saints have walked and we can tread in those same footprints – and as Father reminds us: we are damned on our own in isolation, but saved in community…so we turn to holy saints who show us the way… especially Elder Ephraim
So here are the Three variations on One theme – all essential – each one a tremendous gift and blessing to us: First, Repentance is non-negotiable… second Repentance is endless… finally Repentance is a gift… in fact it is ‘the’ gift – best of all gifts. So… non-negotiable, necessary… essential.
“To fall and be injured is human, since – even if a man’s life lasted for only one day – his mind is inclined to evil from his youth. But to fall and remain fallen is not human. Repentance recreates man; it was given to us to cure the soul after baptism. If it did not exist, rarely would a person be saved. That is why, the virtue of repentance is unending as long as man is alive, for only the perfect do not err. Every time you see your thoughts reproaching you for some sin, immediately take the medicine: repent, weep, confess and behold, you return to your former & better state…
Repentance is absolutely essential. Why? Because it restores the separation that we create between us and our Father. Repentance is necessary for who among us is without sin? Who among us never thinks an ill thought, or commits a hurtful act, or loves God with all of our mind, heart, body and soul? Who? There is none – none who are righteous and yet – God in his foreknowledge and tender Fatherly goodness has made a way for us to reunion, to restoration, to redemption… today His Son, Jesus says clearly “Do you want to experience the Kingdom of Heaven, right here, right now…in all of its fullness? Then come to Me … repent.