Repentance and the Kingdom


…In the words of St. John Climacus, “Repentance is the daughter of hope and the denial of despair.” It is not despondency but eager expectation; it is not to feel that one has reached an impasse, but to take the way out. It is not self-hatred but the affirmation of my true self as made in God’s image. To repent is to look, not downward at my own shortcomings, but upward at God’s love; not backward with self-reproach, but forward with trustfulness. It is to see, not what I have failed to be, but what by the grace of Christ I can yet become.

When interpreted in this positive sense, repentance is seen to be not just a single act but a continuing attitude. In the personal experience of each person there are decisive moments of conversion, but throughout this present life the work of repenting remains always incomplete. The turning or recentering must be constantly renewed; up to the moment of death, as Abba Sisoes realized, the “change of mind” must become always more radical, the “great understanding” always more profound. In the words of St. Theophan the Recluse, “Repentance is the starting point and foundation stone of our new life in Christ; and it must be present not only at the beginning but throughout our growth in this life, increasing as we advance.

From The Inner Kingdom by Bishop Kallistos Ware

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.





7 responses to “Repentance and the Kingdom”

  1. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    To quote an old spiritual:
    “There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
    There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul;
    Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work’s in vain;
    But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again;
    There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole;
    There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul”

  2. rebekkah Avatar

    wow. that was beautiful. thank you.

  3. kh.kathryn Avatar

    Fr. Papa, if that’s your real name…

    I am frequently curious at this icon. I understand the resurrectional motif and its relevance to Theophany…at least in some small way… but I’m always wondering about the little old men riding around on the fishies. Seems almost whimsical! Is it death riding around? Someone’s soul? I’m assuming its a visual metaphor for death because of the axe caught in the tree. Thoughts, oh great master of blog?

    (grateful spawn)

  4. Fr Stephen Avatar
    Fr Stephen

    My most honored Khouria and dearest grateful spawn,

    The axe and the tree is a reference to John the Baptist who said, “The axe is laid to the root” prophesying the passing of Old Israel and the rise of the New.

    I’ll have to do some checking on the fish rider guys. I do like them.

    Fr. Papa

  5. Fr Stephen Avatar
    Fr Stephen

    Actually, my dear, I think they may simply be demons – riding on Leviathan (whose head is to be crushed – representing the dragon, etc.). But they are rather whimsical.

  6. kh.kathryn Avatar

    Fr. Pappy,

    I found this tool this morning:

    It explains the tree/axe as a reference to the tree which bears no fruit and is cut. So who knows? But its a neat little tool.

    I think I like the little demon dudes too… a little weird to say that, but there you go.

    Love you,

  7. Roland Avatar

    I consulted my library this morning to see what I could learn about the fish riders. Ouspensky and Lossky (p. 165) have a long paragraph on them – too long to re-type here. Paul Evdokimov (pp. 296-7) has a shorter, denser paragraph. To summarize, the male figure is an allegory of the Jordan River, which was reversed by Elisha: “The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back” (Ps. 114:3). Similarly, the female figure is an allegory of the Red Sea, through which Israel passed in the Exodus. In both events, passing through the waters prefigures baptism, and the turning back of the waters corresponds to repentance.

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