2148 Michelson Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

Fifth week of Great Lent: the Sacrament of Penitence


It is easy to go to con­fes­sion. When we stand before the priest, there is usu­al­ly a list of sins avail­able. We can look at it and be remind­ed of our sins. An expe­ri­enced priest will be able to help us by sug­gest­ing pos­si­ble sins that we may have com­mit­ted. At the end of con­fes­sion the priest asks us: do we repent of our sins? Note the ques­tion, dear brethren! We are not asked: have you con­fessed your sins? But — do you repent of your sins?
Fr Ros­tislav She­niloff | 03 April 2009

And so, dear brethren, we have reached the fifth Sun­day of the Great Lent. Today the Holy Church offers us St. Mary of Egypt as a supreme exam­ple of repen­tance. Not every­one is able to under­stand why, pre­cise­ly, the Church has cho­sen her. “She led a most sin­ful life,” – they say, – “she was a ter­ri­ble sin­ner.” But such words can be said only by those who have not yet come to under­stand the sacra­ment of pen­i­tence.

Let us care­ful­ly con­sid­er this extra­or­di­nary sacra­ment. Let us first look at how it is revealed to us in the exam­ple of the ven­er­a­ble Mary. St. Mary of Egypt led a dis­solute way of life. Arriv­ing in Jerusalem, even there she con­tin­ued to engage in debauch­ery. But when she want­ed to go into the church and ven­er­ate the Lord’s pre­cious Cross, she was barred from enter­ing. Grad­u­al­ly she under­stood why that was hap­pen­ing and began weep­ing bit­ter­ly. Catch­ing sight of an icon of the Moth­er of God, she prayed to it, repent­ed her way of life and vowed, under the guid­ance of the Holy Vir­gin, to reform her life.

At first glance it may seem an easy thing to do. How­ev­er, let us think, dear brethren: how many of us have tru­ly repent­ed our sins? The Church calls us to pen­i­tence and com­mu­nion. And so we go, and we con­fess our sins, and we par­take of the Holy Mys­ter­ies. But… dur­ing con­fes­sion, do we tru­ly repent? or do we only list our sins?

It is easy to go to con­fes­sion. When we stand before the priest, there is usu­al­ly a list of sins avail­able. We can look at it and be remind­ed of our sins. An expe­ri­enced priest will be able to help us by sug­gest­ing pos­si­ble sins that we may have com­mit­ted. At the end of con­fes­sion the priest asks us: do we repent of our sins? Note the ques­tion, dear brethren! We are not asked: have you con­fessed your sins? But – do you repent of your sins? And when we answer: yes, I repent, – we must feel com­plete remorse in our hearts and tru­ly repent, repent in the same way that Mary of Egypt repent­ed her sin­ful life.

At least once in our life­time we receive encour­age­ment towards pen­i­tence. Mary of Egypt was barred from enter­ing the church. She under­stood the rea­son and spent the fol­low­ing 47 years in pen­i­tence. For us the doors of the church are not closed; how­ev­er, we close them our­selves. “How is that?” – you may well ask. – “I go to church, I con­fess, I take com­mu­nion.” Dear brethren! If we, know­ing that a ser­vice is going on in church, go out to amuse our­selves instead, or sit around the house in idle­ness, or if we, hav­ing tak­en com­mu­nion, imme­di­ate­ly begin to pass judg­ment on oth­ers and com­mit anew the sins that we have just con­fessed, – we close the doors of the church upon our­selves. Even if we enter the church phys­i­cal­ly, our con­stant and unre­pent­ed sins bar from our souls the grace, the puri­ty, the com­fort which we expect to receive in church.

We must under­stand the sacra­ment of pen­i­tence and immerse our-selves ful­ly in it. After St. Mary of Egypt real­ized her sins and her guilt, the Holy Vir­gin led her out of soci­ety into the desert, where she became com­plete­ly immersed in repen­tance and spent many years in this spir­i­tu­al labor. For her absolute repen­tance, her soul was total­ly healed and she ascend­ed to a lev­el of absolute sanc­ti­ty. When the ven­er­a­ble Zosi­mas found her in the desert, she was wait­ing for him. She had become like the angels.

St. Mary actu­al­ly con­fessed only three times in her life: the first time – before the icon of the Moth­er of God, when she became aware of her sins; the sec­ond time – in church before her depar­ture for the desert; and the last time – to the elder Zosi­mas, when she recount­ed her life to him. But she repent­ed for 47 years. Through her pen­i­tence she so puri­fied her soul, returned both her soul and her body to such a par­adis­al state, that she lay dead in the desert for a whole year, untouched by cor­rup­tion, or beasts, or the burn­ing sun, or the windswept sands, and when the elder Zosi­mas found her, a lion came out of the desert and helped bury her. Thus the Lord Him­self glo­ri­fied her and gave her to us as an exam­ple of supreme repen­tance.

Five weeks of the Great Lent have passed already, dear brethren. Let us ask our­selves: have I begun to repent as Mary of Egypt once repent­ed? Have I become aware of my sins? Have I tru­ly under­stood them and have I repent­ed of them with a sin­cere inten­tion of reform­ing myself? Let us not come to con­fes­sion sim­ply to list our sins, dear brethren, but let us come and repent of them in all earnest­ness, let us puri­fy our hearts, so that we could tru­ly sing: “The angels sing in the heav­ens of Thy Res­ur­rec­tion, O Christ our Sav­iour, and may we on earth glo­ri­fy Thee with a pure heart.” Amen.

Source:
http://www.pravmir.com/fifth-week-of-great-lent-the-sacrament-of-penitence/