26 February 2009

Need for Repentance

Yesterday I had the privilege of being interviewed on Issues, Etc. on the topic of Ash Wednesday and Lent. We discussed all kinds of Ash Wednesday matters, from ashes being applied in the shape of a cross to figuring the date of Easter and the counting of 40 days excluding Sundays. At the end of the interview we talked briefly - far too briefly, I'm afraid - on the matter of why we need repentance. Some might say, "Why do we need repentance? That's such a downer. We should be happy and joyful and upbeat."

As soon as it's available on the Issues, Etc. website, I plan to embed the interview here so that you can hear my response in full. Essentially, I said that we need repentance now because we are sinners who are trapped in our sin and death. We need God's help; we need His work of freeing us from sin and death. And if we are looking for "joy" and "happiness" and "upbeatness" in life, we will be sorely disappointed. You see, this life is not all cheer and roses. Our sin and death and the many fruits thereof constantly plague us and haunt us.

Besides all that, Lent teaches us that the journey of the Christian life is best lived in the footsteps of Christ. That is, He humbled Himself. He endured suffering, shame, rejection, and death. Only then did He enter the glory of the resurrection. We too walk the same path. Now we live in the time of humility, repentance, and confessing our sins. Then, by God's pure and boundless grace, we will enter the joys of life with Him in eternity, in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Lent teaches us that we can indeed wait for the pure joy, the true happiness, and, yes, the genuine "upbeatness" of eternity with out loving Triune God.

With that final thought from yesterday's interview still in mind, though, I was delighted to come across this quote from St. Gregory the Great in his Book of Pastoral Rule. Why do we need repentance, especially as we embark on another season of Lent with one of its main themes being repentance? While not using the specific vocable "repentance," St. Gregory surely describes repentance and its purpose as he says:

"God does not enjoy our torments. Instead, he heals the diseases of our sins with medicinal antidotes so that we who have departed from him through the pleasures of sin might return to him by the tears of bitterness, and we who have fallen by losing ourselves in sin may rise by controlling in ourselves even that which is lawful. For the heart that is flooded by irrational delights must be cleansed with beneficial sorrow, and the wounds caused by pride can only be cured by the subjugation of the humble life." (The Book of Pastoral Rule, III, 30)

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