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Father George's Message
My Beloved Spiritual Children,
I pray that my message finds all of you spiritually rejuvenated and physically robust as we prepare to travel together on our Lenten Journey commencing on March 3rd, Clean Monday, and culminating with the triumphant and Life-giving Feast of Pascha, on April 20th. Indeed, what a special time of year Holy and Great Lent is, a time when we look inward in retrospection and upward in humility and longing. It is a period when we must take an honest inventory of ourselves, our actions, our thoughts – our whole being. The Church stands ready to assist us in our mission to forgive others, our desire to cleanse ourselves and lifelong goal to reach theosis.
As the Feast of Feasts, the Resurrection of our Lord, approaches, it is imperative that we use this time to prepare ourselves, through repentance and confession, so that we might “come and receive the Light from the unwaning Light” with a pure conscience and a soul undefiled. Repentance is an act of reconciliation, of reintegration into the Body of Christ, which has been torn asunder by sin. It is a new beginning, an invitation to new life, an opening up of new horizons, the gaining of a new vision – indeed, an act in which the entire Church Community participates, where both prodigal and saint are “repenting sinners.”
The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, denotes a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook, of man’s vision of the world and of himself, and a new way of loving others and God. For in repentance, it is man’s total limitation and insufficiency that is placed before God, not simply particular wrongdoings or transgressions. Through the act of repentance and the subsequent sacrament of confession, we experience a Pascha from death to life – for we bury our sinful state in the abyss of our weakness and resurrect one in the presence of God’s abundant mercy and love. For St. John Chrysostom exhorts us to “enter into the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed again to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent.”
Confession is thus a necessary sacrament in which our genuine repentance bears fruit and we are reconciled to the love of God. “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) In the Orthodox Church, it is customary that we make our confession before God to a Priest, who is seen as a witness of repentance, not a recipient of secrets or a detective of specific misdeeds. The senses of the Priest are dissolved in the sacramental mystery as the loving tenderness and infinite justice and mercy of our Lord take over. Through the forgiveness of sins in confession, the past is no longer an intolerable burden but rather an encouragement for what lies ahead. Life acquires an attitude of expectation, not of despondency; and confession becomes the way out of the impasse caused by sin. God Himself is revealed before us and walks in front of us.
Praying that His loving kindness cascade over our very being and that He will strengthen us on our Lenten Journey, I Remain,
With Love in Christ,
† Archimandrite George Nikas
† Archimandrite George Nikas