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Repentance in the Eastern Orthodox Faith is a Way of Life

By Nicholas Damascus

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins [repentance]; and you shall receive the gift from the Holy Spirit.”—Acts 2:38, NKJV

In the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC), the Holy Mystery of Confession is a means whereby one can confess their sins and have them absolved. It is available for its members to participate in the healing and cleansing of one’s heart (or “nous,” the center of consciousness), where the presence of the Holy Spirit of God dwells. It is there, in the heart, one experiences the fruit of the Holy Spirit of God as in joy that is eternal, love that is unconditional, peace that is beyond all understanding, and much more.

Through this sacrament/mystery, the EOC member experiences an about-face, a reorientation of the whole of one’s life, refocused toward God as it was in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. Christ teaches us that years are not needed for true repentance, and not even days, but only an instant! In the Holy Mystery of Confession, after one has confessed to Christ in the presence of the priest, the prayer of absolution is read over the penitent, and then priest pronounces God’s absolution, and one’s sins are forgiven.

John 20:23 If you [ordained priest] forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When walking the Christian path, one should be vigilant in seeking the remission of their sins with a repentant heart and mind throughout each and every day. When Christ says to repent, it is not just a onetime event, but a continual and constant renewal of the commitment of baptism, which is a dying to the world and rising and living in a life in Christ.

Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross ‘daily’, and follow Me.

Sin produces spiritual death, and the weight of one’s sin on their soul can become unbearable. This is why Christ’s first major important message for all mankind is repent. Repentance is a process that opens the door to the Kingdom of God within you. If this door is closed by a prideful heart and mind, none can enter and experience the Kingdom of God. (See Matthew 3:2 and Luke 17:21).

For example, knowing that I have sinned today, and I will sin tomorrow, I shall do my best to sin less! If I have sinned 96 times today, let’s say tomorrow I shall strive to sin less, perhaps only 85 times, and each day thereafter to sin even less.

It is understood that the expression “the devil made me sin” is a cop-out, for the Bible teaches man knows when he has sinned in Genesis 3:22, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to ‘know’ good and evil.”

According to the EOC, sin can be defined as anything that separates one from God and his fellow man. If the condition of one’s heart is right and seeking the truth, then one would acknowledge and address their sinful ways.

“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation,” said the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10. Salvation in the EOC is theosis, the evolving of the whole person, turning from a sinful life, and transforming through God’s grace and mercy into the image and likeness of Christ, partakers of the divine nature. (see Romans 12:2 and 2 Peter 1:4).

Saint Peter of Damascus writes about repentance, “It is not just the recognition that things have gone wrong, but a realization that through Christ, they can be put right. ‘You fell,’ it is written, ‘now arise’ (Proverbs 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens.”

Sin is the wound; repentance is the medicine. Sin can be simply be defined as anything that comes between or separates you from your fellow man and God. I have witnessed in my own life if sin is not dealt with and confessed, the more distorted and perverted my perception of reality becomes.

I, like others, have been plagued by issues. What one should be aware of is that one’s inherent problems may be a lifetime of struggle and repentance. Not to give the excuse of recommitting the sin; however, we all have a responsibility to be a participant in our sanctification. An issue in one’s life may never be totally resolved, but one must keep in mind it’s not always the destination, but more so the struggle to stay focused and on course in your journey in Christ.   

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