Orthodox Study Journal Youth Issue 6/Feb-Mar 2019
In the parable of the “Prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-32); the prodigal son went to a far country and there spent all that he had. A far country! This is the unique definition of our human condition today and from the time of our fall. A man who has never felt that he is exiled from God and from ‘real life’ will never understand what Christianity is about.
“After our falling away from God the perturbation occurred that was bound to happen throughout the entire human composition —
- having been separated from God, the spirit lost its strength and submitted to the soul,
- and the soul, having not been elevated by the spirit, obeyed the body.”
In other words, man’s goal in this world is to strive towards eternity by obeying God’s commandments. “Man’s home” is the Kingdom of God. This is “The Reality”.
But man considers that he is perfectly “at home” in this world and its life. He has forgotten to desire God and His Kingdom; and strives towards the cares of life in this world. In this strife, he forgets to strive towards perfecting himself in virtue and only grows more passionate with the desire towards; and attachments and fancies of this world. Thus a man who has never been wounded/suffered/suffers in the desire for God and His Kingdom will not understand what repentance is.
Many understand repentance as an “objective” enumeration of sins and transgressions; as an act of “pleading guilty” to a legal indictment. Confession and absolution are seen as being of juridical nature.
In this definition of Repentance, confession and absolution “something” very essential is overlooked. This “something” is precisely the feeling of alienation from God, from the joy of communion with Him, the real life as created and given by God. Without this neither confession nor absolution has any real meaning or power.
It is easy indeed to confess that I have not fasted on prescribed days, or missed my prayers or become angry. It is quite a different thing to realize that I have defiled and lost my spiritual beauty (spiritual beauty as created by God before the fall), that I am far away from my real home (real home is the Kingdom of God), my real life (i.e. life in Christ), and that something precious and pure and beautiful has been hopelessly broken in the very texture of my existence (existence on earth after the fall). Yet this and only this, is repentance and therefore it is also a deep desire to return, to go back, and to recover that lost home.
To do this, God has even provided us with wonderful riches:
- First of all life and the possibility to enjoy it, to fill it with meaning, love and knowledge.
- In Baptism— the new life of Christ himself, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the peace and joy of the eternal Kingdom.
- The knowledge of God and in Him the knowledge of everything else and the power to be a son of God.
But all this we have lost and are losing all the time due to the deviation of our love from God.
Thus repentance is not only feeling guilty/wrong for the particular “sins” and “transgressions” as we have mentioned earlier like becoming angry, or not keeping up our fasts etc, but for all that, which is done in the sin of all sins: “deviation of our love from God,” preferring the “far country” to the beautiful home of the Father.
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