The title of this article does certainly not thrill anyone and that is only for a single reason: because of the exhortation:”Repent!”. After the 1990’s there have been many Christian groups (churches) in our country, that had one purpose in corrupting of a large number of followers. Those who had been in these churches discovered a very strict regime of life: no drinking, no secular music, no TV, no radio, with head-kerchiefs, no jokes, no laughter, no parties, no restaurants, no bars, as humble and quiet as possible etc.
People have noticed their behavior in society and have called them “penitents”. Rooted in the everyday language, the term “penitent” means a strange man who lives out of time. In the Romanian consciousness is a person who doesn’t want to integrate in society, a man who show faith by extreme behavior and gestures, actually a well indoctrinated man. The “penitent” appellation means in the first place: a man of another religion than the Orthodox faith, and hence all the prejudices that accompany that status, in our people consciousness.
To cut a long story short, if someone told you that you are a penitent then well, you’re already in a strange area in his mind and he will try to avoid you. This is the first great obstacle over which we, Romanians, should pass to understand what exactly the repentance is. Other Orthodox people do not have this problem.
In the Orthodox Church repentance means changing your mind, changing the way of perceiving things at sensory, rational and spiritual level. Perhaps you’ve wondered: “Why as soon as we go into fasting we talk about repentance? Why do not talk about it throughout the year? Why should I repent once the fasting begins? Actually, what does it means to repent?”
Maybe some of us believe that repentance means lamenting ourselves before God and telling Him what sinners we are, although sometimes we don’t feel it. Maybe sometimes we must think like Saint Paul the Apostle did; He said: “I am the chief of sinners”, but do we really belive that?
That is not repentance. The man must remember his sins not only in fasting but day by day, hour by hour, asking God’s forgiveness second by second: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” What does repentance means for us, Christians?
To repent is to acknowledge that the vision that I have about the world it’s not true and complete, but it is a subjectively perception in my limited and fragile mind. Although I think I know the truth (the reality) and everything that happens around me, yet the decisions that I take which are based on my perception, are really built on untruth, lack of information, on lies. Therefore I perceive the reality around me in a distorted manner, often wrong, based on my life experience and on what others have said, not knowing what really happened and which were the motivations of each event.
Wrongly perceiving reality (at least distorted), as being free, I still take wrong decisions and I make those around me suffer. So, wrong perceptions will influence me and I will form a wrong perception about the world and people around. So my actions will have negative and more significant consequences to my neighbor and to me. When I see that actions and choices in my life bring suffering around me, I notice that that is the first warning of conscience:
What happens? Why do I suffer? Why doesn’t anything good ever happen to me? Why don’t I do things right?Where am I going wrong here?
All these questions can help you realize your limitations and infirmities. Looking at yourself , you will see many passionate habits and sins into your soul that have mastered you for so long.
The Holy Fathers say that only God and His saints perceive the world as it actually is, without any prejudice.
To repent means to ask God to illuminate your mind to perceive the world truely as it is. To repent means to have greater confidence in the words of God than in your own thoughts when you need to make a decision, and that it is because He has all the information and you only have a very small part of it.
To repent means a humble confession that you are sinful man and that only God through His grace can rise you above your sins in order to see the world as it really is. Seeing reality as it is, the decisions you will take will be without sin, having positive effects on others.
Mantzaridis Georgios said:
“Repentance is necessary not only to receive the divine grace, but also to keep it or to regain it, because man sins every day, he is bound to repent daily. No matter how spiritually advanced he is, it requires repentance. This is not exhausted in certain facts, not limited to certain periods of time. Its work never ends. Repentance is the work of Christian life, and its exercise is the only way to keep himself member of the Body of Christ.
The more man repents, the fuller knowns himself, he is aware of his nothingness, he deplores his affliction and trust in God’s mercy. So the repentance becomes the path of self knowledge, but the knowledge of God too, because it approaches man to God and makes him more receptive to His grace. Moreover, this process of repentance already is not only something human, but also the fruit of the gift of God’s work.
Located in the state of spiritual death, man dosn’t feel his sin, nor can’t see inside of him. Feeling or, more precisely, “seeing” the sin is an important gift from God. Christian life is a life of repentance, that it means awareness of sin and God’s grace full custody. Therefore it is accompanied by crying and tears. This crying is not a sterile or negative condition , but creative and it brings joy. And this tears do not express emotional sensitivity, but deep existential changes, caused by human repentance and the grace of God. Crying rises joy .
Insisting on repentance is not a tacit acceptance or tolerance of the sinful life, but it is the awareness of the sinful state we are in.
Repentance is not a moral act, but existential. It belongs not to the psychology level or to the social behavior, but to the spiritual life. As the sin does not lay in breaking of moral commandments, but in removing from the source of life, of God, so the repentance lays not so easy in straighten morals, but in returning to God and inside of your spiritual life. Repentance breaks the mind of sin and it sticks on the remembrance of God, it takes it to the grace and to the union with God, which it is accomplished mysteriously in the human heart, on the “throne of grace”, and it unifies God and man.”
Translated by Blendea Elena