The Process of Repentance
Written By: Bobby Hershey
Grade: 9th Grade
Teacher: Fr. Noah Bushelli
Class: Catechism Level Vl
Issue: Set to Appear in the March Issue of the Newsletter
In the Orthodox church, the way to repent sins is to go to confession. The process of repentance is difficult, but taking it one step at a time will ease the process. Preparation before confession, confession, and the physical act after confession are the steps to help along this difficult journey.
Going to confession is sometimes scary, but preparing before going to confession can help relieve any anxiety. Preparing during Great Lent is a key part of repentance because it is typically a tough time. Lent is a time to give up food and time. However, Lent is not only about giving up food and time, it is about repentance. According to St. John Climacus, “Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care. Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair. A penitent is an undisgraced convict. Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins. Repentance is purification of conscience. Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.” (The Ladder of Divine Ascent 97) Repentance is so important that we start Lent with Forgiveness Sunday. To be able to forgive others, you need to be able to see your own sins. To see your own sins, you need to pray, fast, and give alms. During Lent, going to church more, enables us to see why repentance is necessary. Helping others out is also a good way to see what people have that we do not have. The things that could be lacking are love, peace, kindness, humbleness, and meekness. Before you repent you need to prepare like you must prepare your food before you can eat it. In order to prepare, you need to spend time alone in peace. This time for self-reflection is vital before going to confession.
After preparing for confession is the time to partake in the sacrament of confession. In James 5:16 it says to “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (Orthodox Study Bible 1680) Therefore, this is why we go to a priest for confession. Going to confession is something a layman should do several times a year. Confession is the cleaning of one’s conscience. The spiritual father then can give guidance on how to change. The confession stage of repentance is the rebirthing of one’s self and the putting on of new clothes.
Partaking in the body and blood of Christ through Communion is the next step of repentance. As we say in church every Sunday, “And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting.” After confession and Communion, we should continue to work on eliminating our sins. If the sin is a big sin, then a more severe measure is taken. If you are a monastic, then the prison may be needed. The prison is where brothers go when they have committed a large sin, and they feel they need a severe punishment. If you are not a monastic, then a less severe punishment is needed. This could be not going to Communion for a while. In addition, doing good deeds for others helps us focus on good thoughts. The next step is to start the process over with preparation.
The process of repentance is difficult and tiresome, but it is a struggle that every Christian should undergo. Preparation before confession, confession, and the physical act after confession are all difficult and necessary steps to help use get closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.