Today’s post is another great reflection by Fr. Michael Schleupner. Let’s read his thoughts, the first in a series about repentance, as we begin this sacred season of Lent.

Repentance – 1

Dear Friends,Ash Wednesday, Lent
A few days ago we observed Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season for repentance. What is repentance? Often, we have been led to see this as focusing almost solely on myself, as doing a serious examination of conscience and seeking God’s forgiveness. The emphasis has been on my faults, my dark sides, my sins. That’s how I was led to think about repentance. Many of us have been given and maybe are still being given this understanding.

I now believe that this understanding is incomplete and maybe even distorted. Why? Because it places “me” so much at the center of it all. This understanding and practice of repentance can become deceptively self-centered.

I recommend that repentance needs to start with God and opening ourselves to God. We need first to look to the One in whose image we are made and in whose likeness we are to grow. “Repentance… means, not self-pity or remorse, but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity….To repent is to open our eyes to the light.”

So, we are to look first at the love of God, of Christ. This is why I usually begin the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass with words like: “Let us open our minds and hearts to the love of God.” That needs to be the first step, and yes, it will lead to an awareness of my sinfulness.
But that comes second and that, in turn, will lead me back to the love and forgiveness of God as the third step in this process of repentance.

With this approach, repentance becomes less of a self-centered and negative experience, as many have experienced it. It becomes much more of a God-centered and positive experience. I will continue these thoughts next week.

~Father Michael Schleupner

[Quotation above from: The Orthodox Way by Kallistos Ware.]

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