|JULY 2010||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
REPENTANCE AND DEDICATION
The doctrine of repentance and perseverance are very inveterate and perennial in the spiritual growth of the believer for its enrichment. Repentance and dedication occupies a prominent position in the formulation and composition of the Eastern Liturgical Practice and Worship. As a penitential entreaty, Psalm 51 is one of the most frequently used psalms in the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the patterns and content of all sacraments, public liturgical services, personal daily prayers, divine services of canonical hours and various services of the Daily Office are characterized to commence with reciting Psalm 51. This should be the way a believer should approach God to worship with penitence and the body, mind and spirit are presented as living sacrifices to His honor. This was the tradition which were taught and being taught by the Holy Church.
Repentance is choosing to turn to God and to eradicate and extinguish the barrier which hinders personal devotions and faith with full heart. The Greek root word 'Metanoia' which is translated as repentance in the New Testament, has a wider meaning. It means 'to think differently after'. Metanoia is therefore primarily a change of mind, heart and way of thinking. The idea of repentance also implies the deliverance from the punishment of God and damnation, emancipation from the inevitable consequence of disciplinary action etc.
The references of repentance debated in the Old Testament are intensive premonitions for repentance which lead individuals or nations to repent of their sins and are spared from God's judgment. The King Zedekiah, who had turned to the god of gentiles hear the strong prophetic words of Jeremiah: "They will not give you over. Please obey the Lord in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live." [Jeremiah 38:20] The design of it was plainly to bring men to repent and turn to God while they continue impenitent. If one would comply with the will of God herein, the thing what they feared should not come upon them.
When a believer seed a sincere effort to explore the failures of life and resolve to live according to will of God, the repentance commences to take shape in his mind. Our Lord Jesus Christ had emphasized two distinct perceptions by the word repentance. The first is that the repentance is the need and requisite of a repenting sinner. Jesus exhorted that deliverance from the desire of the world and deceitfulness is essential for the manifestation of repentance. Secondly, repentance is the response to the Kingdom of God. This idea is conveyed by Jesus as His public ministry commenced with a call to repentance according to Gospel of St. Mark. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." [St. Mark 1:15]
The repentance and conversion of sinners on earth are matter of joy and rejoicing in heaven. The delight of heaven about the sinner who repented and returned is recorded in Gospel according to St. Luke. "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost! I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." [St. Luke 15:7-8]
The worship should become a medium to beckon people and bring people towards repentance. We should stand to worship with a heart which totally rejects the expression of self. This is the spiritual responsibility of the believer. The loftiness of the eastern worshipping pattern for all time is its penitent nature. When we stand in the presence of God, with the consciousness that I am a sinner, God extol the provenance of our heart and our thoughts.
Bible talk about the penitent submission which the prodigal son made to his father: He said unto him, Father, I have sinned to you and heaven and not worthy to be called as your son. The splendid provision which this kind father made for the returning prodigal is revealed in the verse: "quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet." With this wide meaning of repentance, the Pharisee who approached God with proud justification, was rejected by heaven for his plea. The penitent, broken-hearted and humiliated publican went to his house justified.
With this background, we should evaluate the diverse cotemporary widespread changes in worship practices which reflect the fragmented nature of modern neo-theologies that emphasize on the lofty self assumptions, expressions and exchanges which gave way for the traditional penitent worshipping practices. Here the spirituality is turned out as celebrations and its inadequacy of deformed, incomplete and crippled worship practice, cause to exhibit series of achievements and gains. These classes of worshippers conveniently forget the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Alleviating the significance of the fruits of spirit like love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control and embracing the new philosophies of vision and excitements will eventually deflate the value of worship, which is to be taken as a dangerous and devastating phenomenon.
When the cells of our body are growing uniformly, we call it healthy. But if some cells are growing more than other, that is abnormal. They are cancerous cells and those cells lead the person into danger. In the modern world, the ultimate aim of spirituality is achievements and gains, for many believers. But the believing community should realize that the ultimate expression of spirituality is dedication. Our dedicated prayer should be for a pure heart devoid of vein and wicked thoughts. This type of a penitent prayer is not acceptable for the new generation. While they are busy in preparing the great lists of gains and yields out of their spiritual practice, they forget the importance of contrition and regrets. As a bottom line the penitence and perseverance is the commission of worship.
Today’s Biz Lesson is about product packaging. The Globalization had introduced a sale tactic that package is important than the product. This logo gives emphasis for the presentation than the quality of product. This approach had infringed in arena of spirituality also. Discourses on majestic platforms of gospel crusades with over-usage of modern technicalities and block worship methods launch new imagination and shape for the composition of Christianity. The tradition of assimilation of penitence through worship is being outdated. Modern generation is dreaming of the ephemeral spiritual excitement short-lived only for hours. But the real worshiper should think of the ever existing delight and grace of each speck of life.
We should nurture a spiritual culture which inspire and persuade individuals for penitence than artificial and contrived repentant escapes. Exposure and manifestation of gains and achievement are not spiritual, that is only a worldview. The worldview and spirituality can be distinguished as that which gains and heap is human and that which concedes and submits is divine. The nobility of the life of St. Mary, the Mother of God, is a paradigm for the submission. Without thinking of self, St. Mary could submit her life for the life of others. For a moment, if she was thinking of her own life, Mary would have failed to take a decision in front of God. By her acquiescence in the will of God concerning her, she owned herself to the divine authority: "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Lord, I am at thy service, at thy disposal, to do what thou command me." She objects not the danger of spoiling her life, and blemishing her reputation, but leaves the issue with God, and submits entirely to His will and contented and desired that it may be so. With her later life also we uphold that Mary's life is the epitome of submission and surrender.
The submission of the disciples of Jesus also was expressive of great commitment of self-negation. The exposed vocal repentance for attainments can no wise bring to this self-denying frame of similar penitence into being. An expectant believer should submit beyond conditions. The submission should not be subjected on the merits of gain and loss in life. On the contrary, it must be evidenced by a diligent conscientious, penitence and obedience to all God’s commandments.
The gesture of St. Stephen, while walking through the valley of the shadow of death, looking to the heaven and got strengthened reveals fervency of submissiveness. He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, thus he directed his sufferings to the glory of God, went cheerfully through death, and saw the glory of God and heavens opened and saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God. This incident is a great inspiration for all expectant believers.
The expressive nature intruded into spiritual world is an impediment for true penitence and submission. The modern spiritual revolution filled with banners, cutouts and advertisements is a challenge indeed for the Christian vision of up-keeping its divinity and mysticism. Eastern Christian fathers desired to exemplify the mystical nature of Eucharist which is the cornerstone in Christian worship. Let God bless us all to implant an unblemished heart and to enrich our life by committing to offer ourselves entirely as a living sacrifice sweet smelling and pleasing to God.
[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Kallooppara Convention 2009
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]
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