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Back to Basics: How do I offer repentance daily?

February 5, 2020

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; One God, Amen. What is daily repentance and how do I offer it? My beloved, we have heard many times over in our life of the importance of repentance and confession. We here at Coptic Orthodox Answers have even done several videos explaining the mystery of Repentance and Confession and we urge you to watch those videos if you want to take a deeper look. However, for today, we want to address the significance of daily repentance and how its an critical building block of the Christian life. Essentially, we want to understand what it means to offer daily repentance and how we can practically do this.

 

First, let’s briefly remind ourselves of what repentance means. The word for repentance in Greek is “Metanoia” – meaning a change in mind. This change doesn’t simply happen at the level of our thoughts, but rather it signifies a change at the level of what Scripture calls the “Heart” – or often referred to within Orthodox Spirituality as the “Nous”. This Nous is the faculty of the soul that allows us to see and feel God the Holy Spirit. Its the heart, the mind, and the eyes of the human soul. To have a change in this is to redirect ourselves constantly towards God. You see, its not enough to face God (stand in his direction) but rather to move towards Him. This is repentance – the movement of the soul towards her Creator in a sincere attempt to be united to Him. Now that we have a brief idea of what that means, lets look at practically what this would translate into if we were to practice this daily.   

 

Earlier on in this video, we briefly said that repentance is not so much a destination as much as it is a journey. And indeed, it’s a journey of a lifetime. And just like any journey, it takes a daily and consistent effort if ever we want to complete this journey with success. Now the daily journey of repentance is one where the Christian is constantly benchmarking themselves in asking where have I missed the mark today – and notice how this idea of missing the mark is precisely what sin means. Where have I fallen short, where do I need to correct myself, where can I be better and improve…” Now let me take a moment a say something here. Many may listen to this and think “this is so typical, Christianity is all about guilt and motivating change through self-shaming, etc.” My beloved, I can’t begin to express how wrong this kind of talk is. Self-improvement is impossible without self-criticism. To avoid criticism because of how it makes me feel is to say I wont go see a doctor because ill be sad if he says I’m sick! So you would rather remain sick and not be treated, rather than dealing with the feelings of knowing you’re sick while pursuing healing? Needless to say, Christianity takes spiritual illnesses just as seriously, if not even more seriously, than bodily sickness. So please, lets address this properly and agree that pursuing spiritual health is an absolute must for any serious Christian.  

 

That being said, how do I even begin to make this assessment. For this, let me propose a very simple process. We need to commit to doing three crucial things (one that is daily, one that is weekly, and another monthly).  

 

On a daily basis, I need to self-assess and take note of those things that I want to improve on in my life. I need to learn to forgive, I need to control my tongue and watch my words, I need to be more caring with my family, I need to spend more time in prayer, and so on… Daily self-reflection and even journal keeping if it helps the person stay committed. And also daily, turn to God in prayer asking for His love and mercy.  

 

On a weekly basis, I need to approach the altar with reverence in pursuit of God’s grace and mercy and partake of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Body and the Precious Blood of Christ truly are the medicine of immortality that give me life! Whatever is dead within me is restored back through my partaking of Him who is life! And so I must approach the mysteries in pursuit of this healing and restoration. It is the Eucharist that will fuel my desire to continue in my journey to repentance.  

 

And finally, the one thing monthly, which is to humbly and persistently pursue the grace of the Absolution that is granted to me in the mystery of confession. This is where I present myself to God in the presence of His priest and confess my sins that I have been daily reviewing. In doing so, I ask God to take away and carry for me what I have realized that I cannot carry. I ask Him to blot out my sins and loosen the bonds that are enslaving me.  

 

Daily assessment and prayer. Weekly participation of the Eucharist. And Monthly Confession.  

 

My beloved, the Church in her wisdom, has handed down to us many teachings that inform us of how we ought to pursue this kind of repentance. We see in scripture the importance of humbly approaching our creator and placing before him all that we are. And in so doing, we are taught that He will restore us.  

 

For instance, in the book of Sirach, we hear the wise teachings that say the following:  

 

24 […] To those who repent he grants a return, 

    and he encourages those whose endurance is failing. 

25 Turn to the Lord and forsake your sins; 

    pray in his presence and lessen your offenses. 

26 Return to the Most High and turn away from iniquity, 

    and hate abominations intensely.” (Sirach 17:24-26)  

 

 These words describe perfectly the actions that happen within us when we offer daily repentance: “return, endurance, turn away, hate sin…” this is what we are taught to do daily in order to remain on the life-long path towards repentance.  

 

Now St Cyril of Alexandria, goes on further to explain that when the penitent Christian pursues this kind of repentance, he will begin to bear fruit – or said differently, will begin to see changes in his life. And this change specifically, will be the manifestation of true faith and Godly actions! Listen to what St Cyril says:  

 

Moreover, the fruit of repentance is, in the highest degree, faith in Christ: and next to it, the evangelic mode of life, and in general terms the works of righteousness in contradistinction to sin, which the penitent must bring forth as fruits worthy of repentance.”  

 

Ultimately, this daily offering to God, where I turn back to him through the process of identifying sin, rejecting it, and choosing to return to God, is precisely the actions that will lead to my union with Him. Now all this being said, we will always encourage that every person share their ideas and intentions with their own Fathers of Confession and Spiritual guides in order for them to be properly counselled as to how to apply these rules in their own lives. So please, make sure to always turn to your Spiritual guides before jumping in headfirst 

 

But in general, and for the sake of this video, we note that the Church has taught us, that if we as Christians, keep these simple rules, and apply them daily, we will condition the soul to always identify what is sinful and hurtful to her, and in the process instill in her the constant pursuit of God through daily repentance

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