Saturday, April 16, 2016

Repentance according to the Orthodox Church

Ideas and words like sin and repentance are used by all of us. But, do we truly understand them? Do we comprehend their deeper meaning and what they mean for us Christians? Many of these ideas are related, giving birth to one another. Sin is followed by repentance. But what does it truly mean to repent? How can we come closer to God? Christos Yannaras in The Freedom of Morality gives an explanation of this term:

‘. . . μετάνοια. This word in Greek means “change of mind,” in other words a change in man’s whole attitude – in his existential stance, not simply in his behaviour. Repentance is the recognition that man’s self-sufficiency is inadequate; it is a search for the life which is realised in personal relationship with God, a thirst for personal communion with Him. . .

Repentance does not mean simply the “improvement” or even “perfection” of individual behaviour and individual psychological feelings, or the strengthening of the individual will. All these can come about while a man still remains a prisoner in his autonomous individuality, unable to love or to participate in the communion of love which is true life. Repentance is the change in our mode of existence: man ceases to trust in his own individuality. He realises that existing as an individual, even a virtuous individual, does not save him from corruption and death, from his agonising existential thirst for life. This is why he takes refuge in the Church, where he exists as someone loving and loved. He is loved by the saints, who give him a “name” of personal distinctiveness and take him into the communion of their love despite his sinfulness; and he himself strives to love others despite their sinfulness, to live free from the necessities of his mortal nature. He struggles to overcome his individual resistances, his individual wishes and autonomous impulses, not in order to “improve himself” individually, but in order to measure up to the “frenzied love” of Christ and the saints, to the preconditions required for personal life as opposed to natural survival.’ (pp. 40-42).

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