Orthodox America

  Fruits of Repentance

Once again the Church is clad in robes of black. Once again mourning songs resound--the time has come "when the Bridegroom shall he taken away" (Luke 5:35), and the time for annual fasting has come for Her true children. Great Lent is here]

In performing this spiritual tithe, making this tenth part of the year a time of special sacrifice, as our fathers have done since Apostolic times in the uninterrupted continuity of the Orthodox Church, we are in living union with the saints of old as well as the righteous of our own days. And we are at peace, Sighing for the lost paradise, preparing for the heaven to come if we bring forth fruits of repentance.

Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance.  {Matt. 3:8}

Great Lent was intended by the Holy Fathers as a special time for repentance, and it begins with forgiveness. The rite of forgiveness on the eve of Great Lent, when we bow down before each other and beg forgiveness, expresses our desire to be reconciled to all with whom we may not be at peace. But in order to make this mutual forgiveness deep and God-pleasing, the sources of hostility must be uprooted. Self-pity, the keeping of grudges, the lurking presence of condemnation of others--if not "surgically" uprooted, will go deeper into the soul and become a part of one's character and personality, and like a cancer will eat away at man's union with God and make one a spiritual invalid who is incapable of producing fruits of repentance.

Another reason for fruitlessness in Christians is the unfortunately widespread opinion that repentance is a private affair, at most involving only two quarreling individuals who become reconciled. But on the contrary, in Orthodoxy repentance is the common task of every individual, and his deep repentance contributes to the whole commonwealth of Christians and makes it fruit-bearing.

Church history commemorates and the liturgical services glorify those innumerable individuals who repented and changed their life in order to acquire everlasting worth. These were the saints, known and unknown, who set for us an example of many kinds of God-pleasing life for us to choose from. Every noble aspect of human activity produced saints who made repentance their life's concern: apostles, monks and nuns, physicians, writers, cave diggers, and a numberless variety of others. Their labors were the labors of repentance.

But the fruit of repentance ripens under no other warmth than God's. It is a result of the inspiration of the creative spirit in a man who has turned his free will towards God and who does with it what He wills. The process of spiritual Growth is not predictable, but it is so invigorating that a man' s soul becomes filled with unutterable joy Over the forthcoming fruit, and in this process his faith in God also grows. Then there is no limit to what man, in his creativity blessed by God, can do to glorify his Creator!

Having told the people to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, St. John the Baptist heard them ask: "What shall we do?" And he gave them a minimum standard, based on their station in life (Luke 3:8-14). Today, however, our atmosphere is charged with the infernal fruits of anti-Christianity, and Christians daily are partaking of them, and even thinking themselves "born again" they perish, their fruits of repentance being insufficient to save them.

Orthodox Christians themselves so often discourage faith in their midst, waste precious time and God-given freedom, fail to conduct warfare against self-pity, self-justification, and self-satisfaction, and are even embarrassed to act boldly as fulfillers of God's law and order here upon earth, going contrary to the dictates of the still audible voice of their conscience. They do not bother to store up God's blessings at the times when these are showered upon them, not to mention multiplying this treasure ....Alas, woe to us!

When will we repent?

The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.(Matt 21.43)

Christian soldier! Wherever! and whoever you are, make a large sign of the Cross over yourself and realize that by doing this you are to crucify yourself to the world and carry your Cross, following Christ. Salvation is given us through the Cross, the Lifegiving Cross! Bear it!

Above you is God's Providence. He sees you and will not allow struggles beyond your capability. Trust Him ! He wants your heart; search within yourself for inward strength to trust Him alone.

Be inspired with God-pleasing ways to spread His truth! And God, Who is love incarnate, seeing your sweat and labor, will send down to help you hosts of heavenly beings--your guardian angel, and numberless armies of godly men and women, His apostles and saints, who day and night will protect and inspire you to do His holy will. Listen to the music of God's call in your heart, as reflected in the profound hymnography of the Lenten singing, in anticipation of the rapidly approaching Divine Pascha. May the dawning radiance of our eternal Pascha soothe your lamenting and repenting soul in your fruit-bearing labors! Amen.

Abbot Herman St. Herman of Alaska Monastery
Platina, California

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